Internet Betrayal: A Tale of Woe

by Malikah Hall

Last month, I attended the very first Teaching the Teachers Conference in Atlanta. Cassie DuBay’s recent post got me thinking about another highlight from the conference. Caroline Osborne at West Virginia University College of Law gave a presentation titled Lessons Learned – Developing Strategies to Address When You Go from Brilliant to Not in Seconds. During her presentations, she discussed several scenarios that I have coined internet betrayals. I have experienced several such betrayals and thought I’d share how I handled them.

Where’d it go?

The first scenario deals with changes in electronic databases. With constant edits, updates, and corrections, a link may work during your initial run-through but malfunction in front of the class. I trusted you database, and you betrayed me.

This is a great teachable moment for instruction librarians. It shows our students that databases frequently change. These types of changes will continue when the students become lawyers. As students found out this past semester, you may go into break with access to one version of the database, and come back with a totally different version. There is no need to panic (hindsight being 20/20 and all) – you simply need to adjust.

The link may be broken, but the resource may still be available. After an initial deer-in-the-headlights moment, I was able to recover. I walked my students through the research process again, this time using the filters to look at a specific secondary source. It was not my finest hour, but I made it work.

After that class, I learned to map out several possible answers to my hypo. Perhaps the same answer can be found in different legal encyclopedias, treatises, or law review articles. Have the students take a look at those additionally or instead. Maybe the hypo can be altered to look at a specific type of resource instead of a specific resource. For example, instead of directing the student to Strong’s North Carolina Index, you can have the student look at all the secondary sources for North Carolina. You can try multiple pathways to your answer so if a key number changes, you know another path through secondary sources, or a statutes search that will bring you full circle. Another possibility is to have the students present their alternate searches. Anything other than staring off into oblivion would work.

The Dark Night

The second scenario deals with the internet or database going dark. A recent malware issue with a large vendor reminds us how susceptible even the more robust tools are to such invasions. If you have prepared for a live demonstration, access to the internet is your class. Moreover, the unexpected alteration to your plan can leave instructors scrambling for solutions. I trusted you internet, and again, you betrayed me.

My first experience with this betrayal saw my powerpoint also stored in an university box account. If standing in front of student in a full panic while simultaneously attempting to look like it’s no big deal was an olympic sport, I would have won the bronze medal. I was able to run to my office really quickly while starting the students on the fact analysis and search string development portion of hypo. I grabbed my laptop and off we went.

I learned several lessons from this betrayal. The first is to always bring a backup with you. This could be your laptop, a junk drive, storing the powerpoint on the lectern desktop etc. This way you will have access to your presentation. The second is to capture screenshots of your live demonstration. I will usually run my search the night before the class (see previous section on broken links as to why I do this) capturing screenshots along the way. I used to include big red circles and arrows, but for our visual impaired students, the use of red was problematic. I still use the arrows and the circles, but now they are blue.

So if you are ever in front of a class and the internet betrays, fret not my fellow information professionals. With a little preparation, you just might win the silver medal in the keeping your cool olympics.

Posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Legal Research Instruction, Technology | Leave a comment

Teaching the Teachers or Taylor Swift?

by Cassie DuBay

It’s good to be early for things. Snagging tickets to Taylor Swift’s next tour requires diligence and dedication. Trying to attend Teaching the Teachers required the same. It was January 22, 2019, 11:58am, and I had the website prepped. And much like trying to get into the most exclusive event of the year, I stared anxiously at the clock waiting for registration to open. Fortunately, I got into the Teaching the Teachers conference that was just held May 29-31 in Atlanta, GA and it was, indeed, worth all the hype.

For every single one of my fellow law librarians who were not the lucky 40 in attendance, this post is for you. I could not possibly recap the entire conference in one blog post, but I’ll give you the highlights and then I hope you’ll feel compelled to register for the next go-around of TTT.

Highlights of the event included a crafty keynote session, brain science, lecture strategies, teaching and adapting to failure, and instructor improvement. Oh, and I mingled with some really cool people for two whole days!

I love a good arts & craft session and the keynote provided. We kicked off the conference with an out-of-the-box method of understanding learning differences among our students. I was tasked with listening to my partner’s hobbies, how she practices her interests, and what role she sees herself fulfilling in her library. After this learning “interview” with my partner, I created a literal model of an assignment tailored to her learning style.


This is Heather (complete with her long hair) and this is her administrative law assignment. The assignment I created allows Heather to learn the topic the way Heather learns best. If it’s not obvious, the assignment I created for Heather includes interviewing an expert in the field (little white smiley dude in the back) and then summarizing her notes for her classmates (the dots) through a visual presentation of her choice. I know what you’re thinking, I really should have been an arts teacher, but I’ll keep my day job.

Will I interview every one of my students for their learning style? No. Will I make a crafty 3D display of an assignment? No. But what I will do is shake up my assignments for the fall semester. I learned that my current class structure is very stale and accommodates only two or three learning styles at best. Immediately after TTT, I met with my coworker and we shared all. the. notes. about assignment methods, work-products expected, and techniques to enhance learning. The keynote was very powerful for me!

Alyson Drake’s presentation on cognitive learning was another favorite session of mine. She shared bite-sized information about how our students’ brains work in the classroom. I learned about cognitive overload and how to incorporate interactive lessons that not only break up the lecture but engage the students and their learning. Tip: add an activity every 15-20 minutes of lecture. Also if you pre-test students like me, test in small chunks. I usually distribute a course pre-assessment on the first day of class that covers the entire semester, but Alyson suggests assessing in small chunks. Smaller pre-tests increases recall and helps students put the lessons learned in their long-term memory.

As I said, I can’t recap every detail but here’s a list of ideas I plan to incorporate. I encourage you to reach out, collaborate with me, and share more ideas. Email me or reach me on Twitter @cassieraedubay and use #TTT19 to continue the conversation.

  • Redesign PowerPoint slides. I have gravitated towards using quality pictures to convey a concept visually and to reach the visual learners, but perhaps to an extreme. I plan to add just a few more words and use uniform formatting for key concepts like definitions.
  • Incorporate paraphrasing exercises or have students self-explain a concept or research strategy with a partner.
  • Use organization exercises that ask students to categorize universal concepts e.g. publication schedules of primary law.
  • Use pre-test questions to put the learning objectives in focus, instead of just outlining the learning objectives.
  • I’ll rethink my handouts and whether to allow laptops in class.
  • Introduce new topics with a hypo for context.
  • Allow failure or struggle (don’t be so quick to re-route or intervene!) but then immediately meet with the student to correct the mistake.
  • Weave in universally relatable stories (e.g. weather, traffic) to make storytelling more “sticky.”
  • Build off earlier assignments in a more realistic way vs. assignments paired with topics as they are introduced.
  • Heck, I might even play legal research bingo at the end of the semester!

I hear the conference organizers would like to host a TTT21. If this is offered, do yourself a favor and go. Oh, and, register as soon as you can!

Posted in Legal Research, Legal Research Instruction, RIPS events, Teaching (general) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer Associates – Yet Again

by Caren Luckie

Summer associates are a great source/inspiration for blog posts, especially for law firm librarians like me.  It’s not always complaining about them, they can be a help to overworked firm librarians and researchers.

During lunch today with other librarian colleagues (another law firm librarian and an academic librarian), we were discussing the summer associates.  We started by saying that the summer associates should be getting some of the projects that we would have otherwise received.  Which frees us up for other projects, administrative tasks, etc.  I really do appreciate the fact that the summer associates (“Summers”) can take some of the projects.   Yes, there are still quite a few social events for the Summers, but we do expect them to do substantive legal work.   We have both 1L and 2L students from several different law schools.

But, there are some worrisome facets of having the Summers here.   This year, I’ve only had 2 of them ask me questions – each one had one question.  That’s all I’ve seen of them since they arrived in late May.  And that worries me.  And, what should be troubling to any summer associate reading this, it also troubled one of the partners who oversees the Summers.  The library should be one of the first stops/contact points when they’re given an assignment.  We’re not going to do it for them, but we can point them to some resources or help with search strategies, and remind them about some of the cost-effective searching techniques.  We’ve had horror stories in the past where a summer associate (and sometimes a law firm associate, as well) has run up large online research bills, and, while more and more is within contract, our Summers are using firm passwords, not their law school passwords; I don’t want any surprise calls from a billing partner.

One of my Summers came in with a question (yes, one of the two that I’ve had so far) about court opinions.  She had found an appellate court decision that was on point for the facts, but the appellate court went against our position.  So, she wanted to see what the lower court judge had said.  She was very surprised to learn that the trial courts don’t issue opinions similar to appellate decisions.  When this was related at lunch, my law school colleague just shook her head.

Summer associates take note, get to know the librarians both at your summer job and at school.  Take advantage of the law school folks – whether it’s for learning how to use the fancy printer, how to get a study carrel, or for research help.  They’re not going to explain how to use a print reporter, unless it’s in a first year research class, they’ll show you the practical things you need to know to succeed.  If you’re working in a law firm, take advantage of the firm librarian/researcher.  We can make you look really good.

On that note, law students, take advantage of the online services that don’t charge for research.  Students have access to [almost] everything during law school, with far more expansive contracts than the law firms.  Learn which ones charge per search and which ones do not.  Westlaw and Lexis charge per search, and many law firms still try to bill back some of the costs.  Take advantage of the reps both during your summer at a firm and during law school.  Cost-effective searching is extremely important.

Not everything charges for research, many resources are paid for on an annual subscription and there’s no limit to how much they can be used.  Cheetah, Hein, PLI, and Bloomberg do not charge for research (there are some outside docket costs for Bloomberg, but that’s another blog post).  Bar associations offer access to Fastcase and/or Casemaker as part of bar membership.  The large law firms have a multitude of resources, and the county law libraries may offer some free access to different services, for those hanging out their own shingle.  Yes, training will be offered at a firm, but learning it in school gives a student a head start out in the real world.  And, you’ll have a working knowledge of the system in case you can’t attend the training.

How does a law student, or summer associate, know what’s available at their school or firm?  Ask a librarian!

Posted in Information Literacy, Issues in Law Librarianship, Legal Research | 2 Comments

RIPS-SIS Virtual Business Meeting This Thursday, June 13!

The RIPS-SIS Virtual Business Meeting is this weekThursday, June 13th, at 1 p.m. Central, 2 p.m. Eastern time.

This is a great opportunity to hear what all of our fabulous committees have been up to over the past year and what’s in store for RIPS at the Annual Meeting. 

To register for the virtual business meeting, follow this link. I hope to ‘see’ you all there!

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Harness the Melodic Robotic Voices of Our Eventual Overlords Now to Improve Your Proofreading!

by Sarah Gotschall

Maybe a person whose blog post was two weeks late shouldn’t be writing a post about workplace productivity! But then again, perhaps without my productivity breakthrough, I never would’ve signed up to write blog posts in the first place.

As my colleague Leah Sandwell-Weiss can attest, for the first ten years we worked together, I constantly pestered her to proofread stuff for me. Then, several years ago, for reasons lost the time, I added the Speak command to my Quick Access Toolbar in Microsoft Word. By listening to the pleasing robotic voice of Microsoft Word speaking my words back to me, I instantly went from a crazy bad proofreader to a completely adequate one. Now I only ask for Leah’s proofreading help on rare and special occasions!

I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but when I proofread what I wrote, I proofread what I think I wrote rather than the words on the page. With someone (something) else reading, I can easily detect my skipped words, awkward phrasing, excessive wordiness, and general unintelligibility. It doesn’t make me a great writer (obvs!), but it makes me a better one who can finish proofreading about three or four times faster.

How to install this wonder on Microsoft Word!? Currently I have Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016, but the steps were the same for my last version.

In an open Word document:

  1. Click on File
  2. Click on Options
  3. Click on Quick Access ToolbarSpeak Instructions
  4. Under the Choose Commands From dropdown menu, select All Commands
  5. Scroll down and click on Speak
  6. Click Add to add Speak to the right side of the screen
  7. Click Okay

Click here to see a video I made of the above instructions.

Voila! The Speak icon appears on the Quick Access Toolbar. In a Word document, you just highlight the desired text and click the icon to commence the robotic melodiousness of your own words.

Speech and Highlight Words

If these instructions do not work for you, just Google something about “Microsoft Word,” “speak to text,” and your Word version name.

I don’t know if this would be helpful for all bad proofreaders, but it does make my work life, and probably Leah’s, a little bit easier.

If you struggle to get started writing or are an epic procrastinator like me, see my previous blog post on using dictation to speed the writing process.

Posted in Technology, Time Management | Tagged | 1 Comment

What Do We Know About Federal District Judge Appointments?

by Tarica LaBossiere

A while back, I was passed a specific research request from the Dean of our college of law. I was asked to compile (1) shortlists of federal judge candidates since 1980 to the Southern District of Florida Court, and (2) a list of federal JNC members during the same time frame.

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

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Taking on this project, I quickly realized how little I knew about federal district court judge appointments. At the time, the intense debate regarding Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court was still ongoing. The rash of conservative appointments to federal appeals courts by our sitting president was headlining. I watched the debates, and read the articles, feeling comfortable in my knowledge of federal judgeships and its lack of relationship to anything local (dual sovereignty being what it is and all).  It’s unsettling that I had no idea how federal district court judges were selected in my own state. I simply did not think about the relationship between states and their corresponding federal courts. But, no time like the present to learn something new!

In Florida, selection of the Florida Northern, Middle, and Southern District judges is charged to the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission (“JNC”). The JNC is made up of select members of the Florida Bar, appointed by a Presiding or Non-Presiding Florida Senator. According to the JNC’s Rules of Procedure, at the direction of the US President or one of the Florida Senators, the JNC will invite applications for US District Judge positions by providing public notice via the Florida Bar News, Federal Bar Associations for the applicable Federal Judicial Districts, or any other publication of general circulation.

The application deadline is identified by the JNC Chair at least 30 days from the initial invitation. Applicants must submit their Application and all designated materials by the assigned due date. All application materials (subject to limitations on highly sensitive personal information and information provided by a government agency) are made available to the general public for review. The JNC accepts written comments in regard to applicants from interested members of the community. Applicants are ranked, and the highest ranked are invited to interview. Applicant interviews are also open to the public.

four people holding green check signs standing on the field photography

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Within 60 days of the application deadline, JNC District Conference members will identify the finalists to be forwarded in writing to the Florida Senators. Finalists must possess the “professional qualifications, character, integrity, intellect, experience, temperament, professional competence, maturity, capacity for growth, and other characteristics necessary to perform the duties of that office and uphold the public trust.”

A list of finalists’ names, that neither the Presiding Senator nor the Non-Presiding Senator object to, is forwarded to the President for nomination. A confirmation hearing is then held by the US Senate in order to appoint or deny the President’s nominee.  If confirmed by the US Senate, we then have a lifetime appointed Florida Federal District Judge.

So, back to the issue at hand. Where was I going to find a list of never nominated nominees to the Southern District Court and the names of the people who were responsible for nominating them? And, all the way back to 1980!

Whelp, why not follow the process trail? I decided to start by searching for the JNC members first. The Florida Federal JNC is made up of members of the Florida Bar, so I began at the Florida Bar website. Current members were posted on the Florida Federal JNC page. Easy. Past members, however, proved to be a bit trickier.

Luckily, the Florida Bar has extensive Online Journal and News Archives dating as far back as 1976. Unfortunately, the Archives became sparser the further back in time I went, and the generic search tool left little to be desired.  Still, this was a great place to start since members lists were typically published in the journal upon appointment. I did not know every JNC appointment date going back until 1980, but I did know that members were appointed for 2-year terms, and I was able to map out the specific years I needed to find. I found members lists as far back as 2001. This is where it got tricky.

I could no longer find any Florida Federal JNC Members Lists in the Archives. I contacted the Florida Bar, the Statewide Chair of the Florida Federal JNC, and each District Conference Chair. None of which could provide me with any more information than I had found searching through Florida Bar publications. Additionally, the Southern District Conference Chair was unable to provide me with any of the past shortlists of nominees for their district. The Florida Bar and most of the Chairs suggested contacting the Senators’ offices. So, I did.

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I started with Senator Marco Rubio, who, according to Rule 5 of the JNC Rules of Procedure, would be the Presiding Senator for the Florida Federal JNC due to his party affiliation being the same as the sitting President’s. His office was unable to provide any information regarding the Southern District judgeship shortlists, and suggested I contacted the Florida Bar. Dead end.

Senator Bill Nelson, the Florida JNC’s then Non-Presiding Senator, had just been voted out of office in a recent election. With the reorganization of the office for the newly appointed senator taking priority, the office was unable to look into my request.

I forged on. I scavenged local news archives, contacted each district’s Clerk of Courts and Courthouses, searched Google and the Wayback Machine (just in case archived websites may have at one point published this information, even though it was no longer available on the updates site), tried the Florida State Law Library (special thanks to the librarians who were so generous in assisting with this research!), and the Law Library of Congress. I found nothing more on the JNC Members, and only a 2009 shortlist for the Southern District of Florida on an out-of-date, obscure blog site. This was the most outside contact I had ever needed for a research assignment, and it produced such unfulfilling results.

To me, half the requested members lists and only one of the shortlists didn’t seem like much. But I exhausted many of my options, and the deadline to submit to the Dean was drawing near. So, I organized my findings, and forwarded them to my Senior Associate Director, along with the list of places I searched, people I attempted to contact, and the various responses I received. In turn, my Associate Director forwarded the information to our Dean, explaining our research methods, the information found, and the long shot alternative resources we were still exploring. We were thanked graciously for our work, and that was that. I feel that I learned far more information than I provided, and I was reminded why it is exciting to be a law librarian. All the fun is in the never-ending learning experience!

[1] Fed. Judicial Nominating Comm’n of Fla. R. Proc. Rule 5.

[2] Fed. Judicial Nominating Comm’n of Fla. R. Proc. Rule 3.

Posted in elections, Factual & Investigative Research, Faculty services | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Calling New RIPS Bloggers! Submit Materials by June 7

Calling all those interested in blogging!  The RIPS Law Librarian Blog is searching for next year’s cast of contributors (beginning August 2019). The current blogging year has been very successful with many wonderful posts and high readership, but a few of our current bloggers are ready to move on to other projects. 

Blogging is a great way to engage with the profession. In fact, the RIPS Law Librarian Blog was recently named to a list by Vable of “Who to read in the library and information blogosphere.”

We would love to have a mix of new and experienced librarians to contribute thoughts, advice, and ideas on the RIPS Law Librarian BlogWe are looking for new contributing bloggers to contribute roughly one blog post per month.

If you would like to be a regular contributor to the RIPS Law Librarian Blog, please send a brief bio, statement of interest, and a 300-500 word writing sample to Jamie Baker at Applications will be reviewed by the current blog editor and the RIPS-SIS Executive Board. 

Please submit materials by Friday, June 7.

If you have any questions about the blogging or submitting materials, please contact Jamie Baker at

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