What do Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway all have in common? Beyond creativity and writing skills, they all used standing desks.
Wait, the Law Library? Yep, we now have two height adjustable standing desks in the Law Library, located outside of the Klaus Reading Room and on the north end of the reference study area by the windows. Studies show that standing desks help to improve focus and the ability to plow through tasks. Try the standing desks and let us know what you think.
- Micheal Klepper
And then there were two. It has been a fun run up to the Championship, with a competitive field of teams opening the tournament a few weeks ago. Six of those teams have been eliminated from the tournament, but not before securing their spot in the One Shining Moment montage we’ll be showing at the conclusion of today’s championship match.
The Legal Research Championship features the favorite, WestlawNext, backed by West’s decades of experience in legal research, versus the surprise team, Critical Thinking, which has actually been around for much longer than West, but in these days of fancy online databases is often forgotten about as an important research tool.
The Championship will follow the traditional format for these tournaments by requiring the competitors to complete three tasks, with their performance scored by a panel of one objective judge. Without further ado, on to the competition!
Task 1: What is the penalty in Virginia for burglary?
WestlawNext: Ooh! Ooh! I’ll go first! Just type some words into my search box! Go ahead! Quick! Don’t think! Just do it!
Objective Judge: Ok, then: Penalty Burglary Virginia.
WestlawNext: Cool! Ok, filter by Statutes! Ok! Let’s see. Result number one . . . no. Result number two . . . no. Result number three! Annotated Code of Virginia § 18.2-89, “Burglary; How Punished.” Done! Bam!
Objective Judge: Great. So what does it say is the penalty?
WestlawNext: Burglary is “punishable as a Class 3 felony!” Bam!
Objective Judge: Ok, but that’s not an actual penalty.
WestlawNext: Oh! Right! Uh. . .
Objective Judge: Critical Thinking, can you do any better?
Critical Thinking: Yes. Statutes often work this way, requiring you to navigate multiple sections to figure out the law. From prior experience, I know that crimes are often grouped into categories for penalty purposes, so now I just need to find where those categories are explained. Fortunately, WestlawNext is not just a search engine. It also allows for browsing around resources. In this case, since we’re already looking at § 18.2-89, I can just open up the table of contents to Title 18.2 and go to the portion on Classification of Criminal Offenses and Punishment Therefor. In there, § 18.2-10, “Punishment for Conviction of Felony; Penalty,” explains that generally the punishment for a class 3 felony such as burglary in Virginia is 5 to 20 years in prison and a possible fine.
Objective Judge: Thank you. Task 1 goes to Critical Thinking.
Task 2: Find a good case from Virginia discussing when an employer can be held liable for an employee car accident.
WestlawNext: Me! Me! Me! I’ll go! Type! Type! Type! Type!
Objective Judge: Ok. Employer Liable Employee Car Accident.
WestlawNext: Ok! Filter to just Cases! Then filter for jurisdiction to Virginia! Bam! Done! Virginia Supreme Court case from 1903: Norfolk & Western Railway Company v. Cromer’s Administratix!
Objective Judge: A case from 1903? But the car didn’t really come into common use until after the invention of the Model T in 1908.
WestlawNext: No problem! Let’s see. Let’s see. Ok! Result number 3: Virginia Supreme Court case from 1941, Barber v. Textile Machine Works!
Objective Judge: Hmm. Critical Thinking, what do you think?
Critical Thinking: That case actually looks like a pretty good one, appearing to establish how Virginia’s rules on respondeat superior might apply to an employee automobile accident. I might have started with some secondary sources, like Michie’s Jurisprudence maybe, or the ALR or a tort practice manual to get some background. Plus, I’d use this case as a starting point, using the West Headnotes or the Citing References to hyperlink to other Virginia cases on the same topic—to get a broader understanding of how these rules apply in Virginia. This Barber case is a great start though.
Critical Thinking: Is that really necessary? Haven’t you made your point?
Objective Judge: What point? I’m not trying to make points. Just objectively judging an objective competition. No agendas here!
Critical Thinking: Uh-huh. The premise of this whole tournament was to answer the question “If you had to pick just one resource to use for all of your legal research, which one would be the best?” I think everyone knows that in doing research we should always use our critical thinking skills, but really I’m not much use for legal research without having some kind of database or set of books with which to work. This tournament was really about evaluating those databases or books wasn’t it?
Objective Judge: Maybe. . . but this was the perfect set-up to show these newfangled databases are not much help without using them with a critical mind. I had it all thought out!
Critical Thinking: Give people some credit. They know better than to just blindly follow whatever search results WestlawNext or any database puts up without thinking about it. If we get down to it, if I had to choose, at this moment, one resource to use for a legal research project, out of those that started the tournament, it would be WestlawNext. It just works better than the others right now on the whole.
Objective Judge: [Cold stare].
Objective Judge: Fine.
Winner and tournament champion: WestlawNext.
- Ben Doherty
The Law Library invites you to take a few moments to experience the exhibit at the Library's front entrance on the history of the Law School. We hope that both current and prospective students, as well as our many visitors, will gain a better understanding of who we are, where we have been and how we came to be a top ten law school. Some of the items you will find in the display cases include a letter in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, student notebooks from the 1800’s, a once-renowned golden calf trophy from the annual faculty-student softball tournament, the first Virginia Law Weekly, pictures of Barristers Balls and Libel Shows from as early as the 1950's and a mason jar with a special meaning to a couple of students from the Roaring Twenties!
In this exhibit, our history unfolds in photographs, books, buildings, statues and other artifacts. The display is designed to present a decade-by-decade timeline of our history, with law school architecture from all eras serving as the backdrop. Replicas of archival documents and period photographs are mounted in the foreground. A reader-rail running along both sides of the room provides further description of the images. Although the space will not be completely finished until new lighting is installed, most of the display's content is in place.
We appreciate our students' patience while the project was underway and apologize that we had to barricade the entrance several times during the construction period. But now the noisy part of the work has been completed, and we hope that you will feel that the effort was worthwhile. As we were constructing the exhibit, several law students walking through the area contributed very good ideas for content, including the notion that a bust of Jefferson must be present. Your thoughts on items that would be of interest to you and your colleagues are welcomed. Check occasionally for changes, because we plan to rotate items on the walls and in the display cases. Now, you who are a part of our history, go investigate!
- Taylor Fitchett
The Legal Research Tournament continues with the Semifinals! You can review the rules of the Tournament here, or take a look at any of the Round 1 matchups. With only four teams remaining, the favorite WestlawNext is trying to fend off challenges from Bloomberg Law, Books in the Library and Critical Thinking. We continue today with the second semifinal matchup:
This is a more typical matchup than in our other semifinal, featuring general legal research databases—both produced by major companies trying to capture large shares of the legal research market. Unfortunately for Bloomberg Law, WestlawNext is largely able to respond to any of Bloomberg’s challenges with the classic tune Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. Bloomberg Law is essentially trying to butt in on research methods that Westlaw has been refining for years. Bloomberg is doing a good job of it and its database is improving in both content and features, but it has not yet arrived at WestlawNext’s level.
In its current form, Bloomberg Law’s bid to upset WestlawNext is like trying to beat the U.S. women’s hockey team by using only good goaltending. Bloomberg Law does certain things well. As discussed last week, its BNA practice guides and newsletters are great resources for staying on top of developments in a particular legal field. Bloomberg’s federal docket searching is a nice feature, providing more consistent access to the actual documents in the dockets than what you’ll find with WestlawNext. If you want to do basic legal research though—looking up statutes, cases, regulations, law review articles and the other basic building blocks for legal research—Bloomberg Law just does not yet have the overall game to compete with WestlawNext. Bloomberg Law offers no annotated codes, its case searching lacks the refined tools you’ll find with WestlawNext (like hyperlinked headnotes), and its law review collection does not have enough content to make it worth searching when you could search a fully stocked WestlawNext instead. It may be that in a few years Bloomberg will be able to really compete with WestlawNext, especially if Bloomberg can somehow purchase Lexis’s legal content and put it into Bloomberg’s better interface. For now though, use Bloomberg Law for its unique features like the BNA materials and the federal docket access, but use WestlawNext for your general legal research.
Next week: The Championships! WestlawNext vs. Critical Thinking
- Ben Doherty
The Legal Research Tournament continues with the Semifinals! You can review the rules of the Tournament here, or take a look at any of the Round 1 matchups. With only four teams remaining, the favorite WestlawNext is trying to fend off challenges from Bloomberg Law, Books in the Library and Critical Thinking. We’ll start today with the first semifinal matchup:
Raise your hand if you had this matchup in the semifinal round of your bracket. I know! Me neither! That’s what’s so great about this tournament—you never know what you’re going to get. Trying to decide who’s better between Critical Thinking and Books in the Library is tough. Neither one is a database, so it’s hard to use the same analysis I might with other competitors. Better just to put the two in a room and let them talk it out:
Books in the Library: Did you see how I beat out HeinOnline in the last round? Not bad for an old dog!
Critical Thinking: Yes. Congratulations! In hindsight, though, we might have predicted your victory. HeinOnline is not really equipped for this tournament. It’s really focused on preserving authoritative copies of documents and not really a good source for current legal information, which is what most legal researchers really need. Now that I think about it, you and Hein are rather similar.
Books in the Library: Thanks! Wait. . . what do you mean?
Critical Thinking: Most legal researchers, law students included, need to figure out how the current law of a particular place applies to a set of facts. When compared to databases such as WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, Bloomberg Law or Fastcase, neither the books nor Hein are as well suited to quickly finding the most current law on a topic.
Books in the Library: I’m current! Don’t forget to check my pocket parts!
Critical Thinking: Pocket parts. . . slip opinions. . . pamphlets: all a slow, cumbersome way of doing things when the online alternatives are updated almost instantly.
Books in the Library: But you forget: I may be slower, but all online research is based on the system developed in the books!
Critical Thinking: It’s true that the book method forms the roots of legal research, but those roots are in the past. West’s digest system, for example, which is a great tool for using the headnotes of one good case to find other cases on the same topic, may have originated in the books, but it works much more easily and quickly online. Similarly, statutory research usually means looking at both the text of the statute and any cases interpreting the text. With the books, that is a multi-step process involving first using an annotated code and then looking up cases in a separate set of volumes. Online, you can hyperlink directly from the annotated code sections to the most relevant cases all in one place—much easier. I’m sorry, but online legal research has really made the books obsolete, other than for preservation purposes.
Books in the Library: What!?!? Obsolete!?!? What happens if the power goes out? Am I obsolete then? We all know the story of the young lawyer who was frantically working on some last-minute research for a brief due the next day when the lights went out. Fortunately, he knew how to use the books and not just the computers, and was able to save the day with some old-fashioned research.
Critical Thinking: That story is apocryphal. Major power outages happen, but having to complete last-minute legal research when your city is without power? That seems unlikely even in the crazed world of litigation. Basing your main benefit on an imagined emergency is a weak position. Besides, if the lights go out, how is the lawyer supposed to read the books and write the brief?
Books in the Library: Uh . . . well . . . candles!
Critical Thinking: [Blink, blink. Blink, blink].
Books in the Library: Ok, fine. Can you at least give me that sometimes it is easier and cheaper to use a treatise or annotated code in book form, especially if you’ve already got it sitting in your office or firm library?
Critical Thinking: Fair enough.
Winner: Critical Thinking.
- Ben Doherty
Welcome to the last installment of Round 1 of the Legal Research Tournament, where 8 teams (or legal research resources) will begin the competition to answer the question: If you had to pick just one resource to use for all of your legal research, which one would be the best? For a description of the rules of the tournament, the teams competing and the tournament seedings and bracket, please see our previous post, The Legal Research Tournament Begins!
[Opinions expressed during this completely objective competition are solely my own, and not those of the UVA Law Library, UVA Law School, or former and still champion LawDawgs softball team.]
And on to the fourth of this week’s four matchups!:
WestlawNext is by far the most popular choice among UVA Law students; and with good reason. WestlawNext has done a superb job transitioning to the Google-like approach to search by offering a user-friendly interface with different search options that appeal to all types of users. Like the simple Google approach of typing some terms into a box and letting the search engine do the work for you? WestlawNext’s main WestSearch box works surprisingly well, allowing users to do a broad search and then narrow the results by document type, jurisdiction or other facets. Prefer to do more precise, controlled searching? You’re in luck as well. Just browse from the main screen to one of WestlawNext’s many specific databases and click on the word “advanced” next to the search box.
That opens up a user-friendly Advanced Search screen tailored specifically to the database you have selected. There you can use their Fields template to search only selected portions of documents, and be reminded of the different term connectors WestlawNext uses for sophisticated Boolean searching.
Fastcase counters by offering a nice database with many of the same features as WestlawNext, but at NO COST to members of many state bars, including Virginia’s. Ok, the no cost part is no big deal to our law students because they get free access to WestlawNext while in school anyways (plus Fastcase is not actually available at the law school). However, no cost is often a BIG DEAL to practicing attorneys and Fastcase is a good database. It provides advanced case searching for all U.S. federal and state cases and easy access to all current federal and state statutes. Unfortunately for Fastcase in this tournament, WestlawNext does all that plus way more. WestlawNext offers features such as detailed case headnotes and well-edited statutory annotations that Fastcase just cannot match. Keep Fastcase in mind as a nice, no-cost alternative for practicing attorneys on a budget, but here it’s just not able to match up with WestlawNext.
With that, four teams move on and four go home. For those teams ending on a loss: Keep your head up—just making it into our Final Eight was a big accomplishment in itself!
Stay tuned for Round 2: The Semifinals!
- Ben Doherty