RIPS Executive Board Fall Update

Hello RIPS members,

Greetings from the Executive Board! Our fall has been a busy one, as we’ve undertaken a few large projects for this year. I wanted to give you all some news on what we’ve been up to, and make a few announcements.

1) Leadership Academy applications are open for one more week! Ashley Ahlbrand, your Vice Chair/Chair-Elect, and I both attended the last Leadership Academy and I found it to be a wonderful experience. If you’re looking for a group of other librarians who are excited about our profession, look no further than the Leadership Academy fellows. I left Chicago inspired and energized about our profession!

RIPS-SIS will be offering grants for Leadership Academy 2018, so if you’re thinking about going, keep an eye out for our grant application, which is scheduled to be distributed November 1st.

2) RIPS-SIS’s Strategic Planning Committee has been hard at work, starting with revising RIPS-SIS’s vision and mission statements. I look forward to sharing more about the committee’s work in a blog post next month.

3) All of our committees have been equally hard at work. Each committee submitted an action plan at the start of the semester and is making strides in meeting its goals. This spring, we should see the fruit of all their labors, in the forms of webinars and other new resources for our members!

4) The Executive Board has implemented a project to help improve our SIS’s institutional knowledge, to ensure that Board and committee leadership transitions work as smoothly as possible.

5) The Executive Board is also working on ways to share our members’ achievements with the SIS as a whole. If you’ve got a new publication or other news to share, please don’t hesitate to share it with a member of the Executive Board, so we can make sure that information gets out!

Happy Halloween!
Alyson Drake
RIPS Chair

Posted in RIPS Committees, RIPS events, RIPS Member Achievements, RIPS-SIS Reports, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Helping ADD Students Succeed at Legal Research

by Lora Johns

Lawyers have a split reputation. On the one hand, there’s Dr. Jekyll, Esq. He’s organized; he’s focused; he can write a motion to dismiss and record his billable hours down to the 6-minute increment with impeccable accuracy. Then there’s Mr. Hyde, Of Counsel. He procrastinates and misses deadlines; he can’t even find the bottles of whiskey in his office, hidden amongst the dunes of scattered paperwork.

Dissonant as they are, these traits can coexist inside one brain. For some people, they are the manifestations of high-functioning Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In honor of ADHD Awareness Month, let’s break down the stigma and learn how librarians and instructors can support law students whose learning styles may be different as a result of ADHD and the related Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

First, let’s clear up some misinformation: ADD and ADHD are real, genetically hard-wired, brain-based medical phenomena. They’re not just something students fabricate to get their hands on stimulant medications. In the case of ADHD, over 4% of U.S. adults meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, but a large percentage do not receive a proper diagnosis. For ADD, the numbers are similar: between 5% and 8% of Americans have it – that’s roughly 10 million people – but only 15% have been diagnosed and treated.

In adults, the “H” isn’t usually the big symptom. Instead, the biggest problems include forgetfulness, distractability, procrastination, and impulsivity. It is common to self-medicate with caffeine, alcohol, and risky behaviors. Untreated, these disorders lead to rates of addiction, ER visits, and even suicide that far exceed the average. Yet because of the stigma surrounding mental health – especially in the legal profession – many people will not seek the help that they need.

While librarians and instructors can’t take the place of psychiatrists and therapists, we can foster a learning environment that sets students up to succeed whether they have an attention disorder or not. See Robin A. Boyle, Law Students With Attention Deficit Disorder: How to Reach Them, How to Teach Them, 39 J. Marshall L. Rev. 349 (2006).

Fortunately, people with these disorders respond well to a variety of teaching techniques. What’s more, people with ADD and ADHD often report having positive traits, like intense interest and creativity, which — when channeled effectively — only serve to enhance their lives.

Here are some ideas for incorporating ADD- and ADHD-friendly teaching into legal research classes:

Using visual aids

Principles of Universal Design apply to teaching methods as much as to physical facilities. Presenting the same information in diverse ways helps more students to grasp the skills being taught. See Meredith George & Wendy Newby, Inclusive Instruction: Blurring Diversity and Disability in Law School Classrooms Through Universal Design, 69 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 475 (2008). Graphic aids like flowcharts or PowerPoint presentations can supplement more traditional outlines and articles to play to the strengths of students with ADD, who often prefer to learn visually.

Different research tools may be more advantageous to different types of students. For instance, a student who learns best by reading might prefer Westlaw for case research, but a visual learner might prefer Lexis Advance, which offers color-coded representations of search terms and graphical Shepard’s. Teaching students multiple paths to the same destination could make a world of difference to a student with ADD.

Breaking up monotonous lectures

If we’re honest with ourselves, it is probably difficult even for a non-ADD person to sustain focus for much longer than 20 minutes or so in law school. The average student (and instructor) is overcaffeinated, underslept, and stressed out. People with attention disorders must contend with yet another obstacle to concentration.

To help compensate for flagging attention spans, after 20 minutes of lecturing or demonstrating a research tool, instructors can give students the opportunity to try out a similar research task on their own or in groups. This breaks up the monotony and, as a bonus, incorporates multiple learning styles into the class. For ideas on how to incorporate different kinds of activities into a class, see Robin A. Boyle & Rita Dunn, Teaching Law Students Through Individual Learning Styles, 62 Alb. L. Rev. 213 (1998).

Organize the course clearly and provide structure

Structure and organization are paramount for students with attention disorders. It’s not that they don’t understand the importance of tasks and deadlines; they just find it more difficult to stick to them. A syllabus without clear organization, amorphous assignments, and ever-shifting due dates don’t help matters.

To that end, educators have found it helpful to have clear deadlines in the syllabus, to reiterate them orally in class, and to post them clearly on the course website. Structuring the course materials with programmed learning sequences and contract activity packages have been shown in at least one study to be highly effective for teaching legal research to first-year law students with and without learning disabilities. See Robin A Boyle & Lynne Dolle, Providing Structure to Law Students — Introducing the Programmed Learning Sequence as an Instructional Tool, 8 Legal Writing: J. Legal Writing 60 (2002).

Breaking up larger research projects into smaller, more manageable tasks helps students learn how to attack seemingly unwieldy projects and practice imposing order on amorphous research problems. That’s a valuable skill to learn whether or not you have ADD.

Providing models — like assignments that proceed stepwise through a research problem, instructing the student on how to proceed at every turn — can also provide much-needed structure. When teaching legislative history, for example, the assignment could be broken down into discrete groups of resources — Westlaw and Lexis, HeinOnline, ProQuest — each with a block of logically ordered questions to answer. This gives the student clear signals about when it is time to finish one task and start another, something which ADD makes difficult to do on one’s own, and also helps teach the logic of the research trail.

While helping students with attention disorders succeed is reward enough, these non-traditional instructional strategies have the bonus value of engaging non-ADD students with diverse learning styles that benefit from a wider variety of teaching techniques.

Posted in Legal Research Instruction, Teaching (general) | Leave a comment

First Things First: Basic Legal Research for the Newly Minted

by Bret Christensen


As a Librarian in the public services arena, I help lots of different people who have lots of different problems to solve. We get transactional attorneys who only want forms. We get litigation attorneys who only want trial practice materials. We get ambulance chasers who only want money (not that that’s a bad thing and someone’s gotta do it). We get pro se litigants who want everything (because they don’t really know what they want when they first start). Then we get the newly minted attorneys who just passed the bar and don’t have a clue how to actually practice law and make money. They just knew that they had to pass this thing called a “bar exam” aaaaannd that’s about as far as they took it.

The thing is that I really dig these new attorneys. Most are scared out of their minds, what, with having just taken on their first case, accepting their first check(s) as a retainer, and then realizing that they don’t know where to start. I mean, they all look great in their tailored suits, but it’s the practical skills they lack – although now they’re motivated to learn. In law school, students weren’t really paying attention (which is surprising given that most 4-unit classes cost upwards of $2,100 a pop). After they pass the bar, it’s a whole new ball game. So, the other day, a newly minted lawyer came to me saying he passed the bar, got his first case representing a client, took the client’s money and didn’t know what to do next.

I said to Newly Minted, “Well, first things first. What do you know about law and legal research?” “Nothing. Didn’t pay attention in school, ” he responded. (No surprise there). “Then let’s start with the basics. First, there’s primary authority.” Newly Minted says, “What is primary authority?” Having taught countless pro se litigants, attorneys, paralegals, a few judges and even a couple elected public servants, I confidently said, “Primary authority is that which is handed down by a governing body.”

Newly Minted counters saying, “What’s a governing body?”

“Well, a governing body hands down rules and laws that govern their area of influence. For example, how many governing bodies are there at the state level?” Newly Minted said thousands.

“Actually, there are only three: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. That’s it. Oh, there are branches from those three, but that’s basically it. Three governing bodies that govern a state (same with the Federal system). Some easy examples of primary authority include cases (judicial), regulations (executive), and codes and statutes (legislative; for the record, codes and statutes are not the same thing).”

I went on. “Of course, when you dial in to look for individual governing bodies you’ll find county boards of supervisors (that govern a county), city counsels (that govern a city), there’s a governing body for each Home Owners’ Association, you can have a governing body for a neighborhood watch group, even governing bodies for a book club. Each of these governing bodies make rules and regulations for their respective spheres of influence.”

Newly Minted says, “What’s so important about knowing what is primary authority?” I’m thinking, where did this guy go to law school?! But I didn’t say that. Instead, I explained that it is important to know what primary authority is because attorneys use it to write legal documents. Primary authority is mandatory authority, and judges must follow it. They may not want to and sometimes buck the system and go all political and make their own law but basically, that’s why.

“So, what’s all the rest of this stuff on these shelves,” asked Newly Minted waiving his hand around the library. The rest of this “stuff” is called secondary authority. Secondary authorities explain, interpret, and analyze primary authority. Secondary authority puts primary authority in context (helps you see the forest for the trees). More importantly, secondary authority is merely persuasive authority and should NOT be cited in your legal documents. If you do cite to secondary authority, judges can ignore it (and they do; I’ve had countless attorneys complain about motions being dismissed simply because they cited a secondary authority instead of the case or code that authority addressed).

Examples of secondary authority include dictionaries you use to get a definition (like Black’s Law Dictionary). Another great example is the American Law Reports (TR). These tomes of knowledge contain intensive examinations of legal concepts helping researchers get to the real guts of any issue. If you’re looking to work in bankruptcy, two great secondary authorities include Collier’s Bankruptcy Practice Guide (Lexis) and Norton Bankruptcy Law and Practice (TR). Maybe you, like so many pro se litigants, want to sue a bank because they foreclosed on your (or a client’s) house. If so, then might I suggest a looksee at Michie on Banks and Banking (Lexis) or Foreclosures and Mortgage Servicing (NCLC). Maybe you’re looking into representing plaintiffs in personal injury actions. If so, then you’re going to want to look at Am Jur Trials (TR), Personal Injury: actions defenses damages (Lexis), or Lawyers’ Cyclopedia of Medicine (Lexis).

The thing is, for as many primary authorities that exist in legal research land, there are dozens more secondary authorities (because people want to make lots and lots of money so they print lots and lots of books to help the legal researcher provide context to the cases and codes).

And there you have it – these are the basics of practical legal research that I provide to Newly Minted as a reminder of what Newly Minted surely learned in law school. When the researchers know what they’re looking at, they are better prepared to know what they’re looking for. So, when next a Newly Minted comes to you, you may use this blog post or a similar method to help them start their next research project.

Posted in Legal Research, Legal Writing | 5 Comments

Assistance for Libraries, Librarians, (and others) Impacted by Recent Natural Disasters

by Brandon Wright Adler

In the aftermath of Hurricane’s Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and even the current wildfires of Northern California, some of us may be wondering if there is any way that we can assist those in need. Particularly any libraries that may be required to rebuild their collections – or just rebuild in general. Further, we may be wondering what the legal community, at large, has done to assist their patrons, customers, clientele, neighbors, and friends during these devastations. While, of course, I cannot cover everything in a short blog article, I can provide highlights and some much needed information so that those who are so inclined (and able) can assist where needed. This blog post certainly points out how to assist our patrons in this time of need, but it also equally focuses on how to assist each other, fellow librarians, as we cannot excel and remain the cornerstone for access to information needs for our patrons without bettering and assisting one another.

With the high costs of accessing legal databases these days, it is always nice to see some of those companies give back to their clientele. Even more, it is wonderful to see some of those companies give back in a tremendous time of need. For example, for Florida Bar members, Fastcase is offering a full three months of complimentary service to Bar Association members impacted by Hurricane Irma. This service lasts through December 20th and can be accessed from the Florida Bar Association website (the link on “Fastcase” will take patron users to the appropriate page). In addition, CLIO is offering their cloud-based practice management platform free of charge for three months to lawyers affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.[1] Specific to libraries in the disaster recovery areas, EBSCO is offering those libraries six months of free access to their disaster relief reference materials. In particular, there are two databases that they made wholly available to public libraries in impacted states and countries: Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Reference Center and Home Improvement Reference Center.[2]

While reading a wonderful Library Journal article posted online titled, “Libraries from Puerto Rico to Florida Respond to Hurricane Irma,”[3] I found an excellent link created by the Florida Library Association. The Florida Libraries Rebuild Network link contains a two page spreadsheet. The first page is for Florida Libraries who are in need of certain assistance and the second page is for other libraries or businesses (located anywhere in the world) who are able to provide assistance. For either page, it seems that the organization adds all of their own information along with their specific need or their specific offer.[4] If you would like to donate money, the Florida Library Association also has a link to their Florida Libraries Disaster Relief Fund.[5] In addition, the Texas Library Association has set up a number of ways to provide assistance to Texas libraries impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including the Texas Library Disaster Relief Fund, a Texas Library Association coloring book of which the sales go directly to help fellow librarians who benefit from the Texas Library Disaster Relief Fund, or libraries/librarians may apply for a Disaster Relief Grant. Information for all of those resources can be accessed by going to the Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief and Support for Libraries page.[6]

The American Library Association is supporting recovery and rebuilding efforts for libraries impacted by natural disasters in Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and Puerto Rico through their ALA Disaster Relief Fund.[7] The link will take you to their “projects” page where you have an option of “scholarships” or “other.” Click “other” and you will see the disaster relief fund option. In partnership with the American Bar Association and FEMA, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center is the official Disaster legal Hotline for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Through this important hotline, callers impacted by the recent hurricanes can receive answers to legal questions, information on how to apply for and receive aid, and receive referrals to personal attorneys.[8]

Unfortunately, as the wildfires still blaze in Northern California we do not yet know the final extent of the damage of this natural disaster; however, there are still ways to help those in need. Facebook has developed specific “Crisis Response Centers” for the fires. If you want to help, you can let the Crisis Response Center Network know that you want to participate and how you may be able to assist. The Crisis Response Center also allows people to start a new fundraiser or donate to an already established fund. Keep in mind, you may have to search Facebook for the specific area that you are looking to assist, as the Crisis Response Center covers disasters worldwide.[9] Further, as with any of these disasters, if you would like to assist but are incapable of being on site, you can always visit the American Red Cross.[10] Moreover, and sadly, animals also suffer very harshly with any natural disaster, if you would like information on assisting the animals impacted by these disasters you can reach out to the ASPCA.[11]

Please feel free to add further information on how to assist in the comments section!


[1] The Florida Bar News, Hurricane Irma: The Florida Bar Shares Legal Resources and Information, (September 15, 2017).
[2] EBSCOpost, Hurricane Recovery and Libraries – How Information Can Help with Disaster Recovery, (September 25, 2017).
[3] Lisa Peet, Libraries from Puerto Rico to Florida Respond to Hurricane Irma, Library Journal (September 18, 2017).
[4] Florida Libraries Rebuild Network (last visited Oct. 15, 2017).
[5] Florida Library Association, (Last visited Oct. 15, 2017).
[6] Texas Library Association, Disaster Relief and Support for Libraries  (Last visited Oct. 15, 2017).
[7] American Library Association, (Last visited Oct. 15, 2017).
[8] Louisiana Civil Justice Center, Disaster Relief, (Last visited Oct. 15, 2017).
[9] Facebook, Crisis Response, (Last visited Oct. 15, 2017).
[10] American Red Cross,, (Last visited Oct. 15, 2017).
[11] ASPCA, The ASPCA’s Response to Hurricane Maria, (Oct. 10, 2017).
Posted in ABA, Access to Justice, Current Events, Issues in Law Librarianship, Issues in Librarianship (generally), Library Collections, Patron Services, Reference Services, Resources for the non-Academic, Work/Life Balance | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers


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Adventures on the WestPac Local Arrangements Committee

by Emily Siess Donnellan

Shortly after beginning my first librarian job, my new co-worker, Ning Han, told me that I would be on the local arrangements committee for the annual WestPac conference. The conference was going to be in Boise, and every law librarian in the area had been drafted for this committee. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I figured I would probably work a few hours at a registration desk. It wasn’t going to be a lot of work. I was wrong, so wrong.


As I write this, we have only a few, short, days before the conference begins (October 19th). This experience has left me thoroughly amazed by the attention to detail and moving pieces that go into making a conference successful. I confess, I never thought about the logos, pins, and printed maps that often come pre-stuffed for attendees in little tote bags. I now look at each piece of paper as someone’s hard work. I never thought twice about who put together the helpful restaurant guides to the area. I know now, that is the job of the local arrangement committee. They handle the administrative tasks so that attendees can have FUN in the host city.

I also never knew that the local arrangements committee (LAC) is responsible for choosing the food at the opening reception, ordering a cake, planning a nice sit-down meal during the second day of the conference, speaker gifts, scheduling library tours, invitations, arranging special tours that showcase Boise, and giving conference attendees ideas of things to do outside of conference hours. I moved to Boise a year ago this month, and serving on the LAC has helped me become better acquainted with the city. It has also helped me learn Boise’s strong selling points: Basque food, micro-brews, bike culture, and beautiful parks. All of which I’m now taking advantage of. Well, maybe not the biking, I still prefer walking and driving.

Another thing I’ve learned while serving on the LAC, like most committees, is that the work is never done. There is always a last minute detail that needs attending to. For example, right now I’m helping to create programs and donor boards. Luckily, I just learned that Office Depot does same-day pickup so that should be taken care of shortly.


Boise Downtown, ©ConcordiaLaw

By far my favorite thing about serving on the WestPac Local Arrangements Committee, though, has been the amazing team of Boise area law librarians; Alison Perry (Hawley-Troxell), Kim Kaine (Hawley-Troxell, Marketing Director), Stacy Etheredge (Univ. of Idaho), Michael Greenlee (Concordia) and especially our committee leader Ning Han (Concordia).  They have made an experience that could have been tremendously stressful, interesting and exciting instead. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together later this week.

I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished as a committee. I can’t wait for the attendees to arrive in Boise. I know that the weather will be mostly-nice, the food will be amazing, and you can’t beat the company of other law librarians!

Posted in Marketing, Regional meetings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Industrialization of Library Service

by Erik Adams

CC License

In anticipation of the firm’s move to Hudson Yards in 2018, Milbank is transitioning to a team-based legal support staff model, which is in widespread use throughout the industry. (Source: Above the Law, Biglaw Firm’s Move To New Office Means It’s Time For Some Buyouts).

It was recently reported in Above the Law and American Lawyer that the law firm of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy is moving its offices in New York to a new building. As part of the move, the firm is reducing its staff and moving to a “team-based legal support staff model.” The articles I’ve read discussing this change make it sound that it is limited to legal secretaries, and that this is part of an industry-wide shift. There are obvious parallels with law firm libraries, and I wonder if these types of “team-based legal support staff” experiences can provide any insight into our own.

The idea, quite simply, is that rather than having a secretary assigned to one or more attorneys, he or she is part of a pool of secretaries. If an attorney requires secretarial help, they send the request to the pool, and whoever is available performs the work. In theory, this leads to greater efficiency, as you reduce the time a secretary is sitting on their hands while their attorney is in a deposition or otherwise engaged; everyone just takes work as it comes in.

Certain law firm administrative functions moved to that model years ago – technical support or word processing – but I’m not convinced this is an industry trend at the secretarial level. Without question, there has been a change of ratios – rather than just working for one attorney, most secretaries are assigned to three or more, depending on the support needs of the attorneys. I know of one firm that has a 5 to 1 ratio at a few secretarial desks.

I’ve not worked in a firm that used this model for secretarial staff but a friend of mine has. She told me that her firm tried it in one of its locations, and the change wasn’t popular – with the secretaries or attorneys. When I’ve talked about the idea with secretaries I know, most think it wouldn’t work well for one or or more of their attorneys. Some attorneys (mostly younger) would be OK with the “faceless secretarial machine,” but others want more personalized help and bring in enough money to the firm to demand it.

Drawing from trends in law firm libraries, I suspect that “team-based legal support” is the first step toward full blown outsourcing. If secretarial requests can be packaged in such a way that they can be handled by anyone, anywhere, there is no longer a need for the secretarial staff to be onsite, or even employed by the firm.

Which brings me back to libraries. Some law firm libraries have adopted a similar model, with mixed success. I know of one major law firm where research requests are sent to a central email address and are then automatically distributed to a librarian who is available to do the work. The algorithm that is used to assign work does not consider location of the attorney or the librarian, which means someone may be making the request in Los Angeles, but if there is a librarian in New York available to do the work, that’s where it will be done. It also does not consider any existing relationships or past history. The librarians hate it because it reduces the personal relationships they previously had with the attorneys.

I’m curious to read how things go at Milbank. Secretarial support, like library support, has been seen as a very personal and direct work relationship, but that may be changing. Whether we like it or not, there is a desire to see that same shift in law firm libraries.

Posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Legal Research | Tagged | 2 Comments