The 19th edition of the Bluebook is out! We expect to receive our new copies at Zief any day now. In the meantime, if you're just dying to know what has changed from the 18th edition to the 19th edition, check out Pace Law Library's list of the 19th edition changes (PDF).
I was on the fence about getting a Kindle a year ago, but my husband surprised me with one last fall, and I'm glad that he did. I was doing a lot of traveling between California and the East Coast, and the Kindle is truly a godsend for those unfortunate enough to be spending a lot of time in airports and on planes. I've read about 15 books on the Kindle, and I don't experience any eye fatigue from the screen. I've changed the text size to be slightly larger than the standard text size, and while that means that I have to click to turn pages more frequently, it seems to keep eye fatigue at bay. You can read the Kindle in a variety of light settings, including bright, bright sunlight.
The Kindle is pretty hardy. I've dropped it a few times, and it's survived. But my fears of hitting myself in the face with the Kindle when I fall asleep reading have been realized. I have bonked myself in the nose with the Kindle several times when I fell asleep reading, and yes, it hurts worse than having an open book fall on your face.
The battery life is amazing. If I turn the wireless off, I can read for several hours a day for over a week without having to recharge.
Browsing and buying in the Kindle store is extremely easy and fast. For example, I purchased and downloaded Wolf Hall and Matterhorn, two huge tomes, in less than 45 seconds. And there is a ton of classic literature available for free on the Kindle. I have the complete works of Charles Dickens on my Kindle now.
I do miss the ability to easily refer back to earlier pages. Professor James O'Donnell describes the Kindle reading experience perfectly in this Chronicle of Higher Ed article: "The Kindle is great for reading the way ancient Greeks read, on papyrus
scrolls, beginning at the beginning, proceeding linearly, getting to the
end, absorbed in one book, following the author's lead. That makes it
just fine for lots of fiction for entertainment or diversion." But when you're reading a more complex text, it can be really annoying to be unable to flip back quickly to an earlier chapter that contains important reference information. I still can't imagine using the Kindle or any other e-reader when I'm engaged in a complex research project. But would I recommend the Kindle for voracious readers who do a lot of traveling? Absolutely.
[Links to items discussed in this post are all gathered at
the end, for reasons mentioned in the post itself.]
This week the zeitgeist has delivered to ZiefBrief a lot of
musing about how our digital life may be affecting the ways we think. There's this
week's front-page New York Times story "Hooked on Gadgets and Paying a
Mental Price." There are any number of reviews of Nicholas Carr's new
book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. And there are
blog posts and ensuing debates about the practice of
"delinkification." (This is putting links at the end of a post or
article, rather than embedding them in the text. The aim is to minimize
distractions for readers who'd prefer to read the document as a whole. That's
what ZiefBrief is trying right now.)
The concern the Times reports on and Carr frets over is that
the more we flit from link to link to link, and the more we succumb to the
distraction of the latest email message or text or tweet or Facebook update,
the less able we are to concentrate on complex ideas for long stretches of
If that's so, ZiefBrief is concerned about the lawyers-to-be
at USF and other law schools. We observe that at least some law students seem to find it hard to engage in depth with long documents. But despite all the technological changes of the last decades, the law is still embodied in long, difficult texts, and success as a
lawyer depends on close, detailed reading, analysis and synthesis of these
texts so as to exploit them to craft creative solutions to clients' problems.
(Though ZiefBrief is hardly one to talk. We left law and became a librarian in
part because we have the attention span of a gnat and would much rather help
others find relevant cases than read them ourselves!)
No one wants to lose the benefits of our digital world, but
no one seems to know exactly how best to retain our ability to sustain
concentration and engage in deep thinking in the face of all of the
Which brings us at last to the latest version of Apple's
Safari browser. If Safari calculates that you are reading an article, a blog
post, or other long-ish stretch of prose, it will offer you, via a button in
the address bar, the option of invoking the "Reader" function. The
Reader function displays the text prominently while minimizing the surrounding
graphics, ads, and other chaff.
So, if you invoke the "Reader" function while
reading Berghuis v. Thompkins, the Supreme Court's recent decision on how suspects must invoke
their right to remain silent, you'll see this:
… instead of this more typical view:
Oddly soothing, we think, and one way to reclaim your attention.
The Library of Congress announced some important improvements to THOMAS, the LOC's legislative information website. You can find federal legislation, committee reports, records of floor debates (from the Congressional Record), Congressional committee information, and treaty information on THOMAS. You can now subscribe to web pages so that you can receive updates via RSS. There are also more bookmarking and sharing widgets on THOMAS pages. Most importantly, the website now displays the years for each session of Congress or provides links so that you can readily access this information. The lack of a Congress-to-year conversion table on THOMAS used to drive me crazy, so I'm glad that they fixed this omission.
Bury the bad cases -- the ones that go against your client's position. If you've found a case that goes against your argument, don't mention it. Let your adversary find it. . . . Let the law clerks do some research. They get paid to do your research.
Citations are for the lame and the weak. Miscite your authorities. Get the volume of the reporter right, but forget page numbers. Close enough is good enough.
Nor should you cite much legal authority. Judges are busy skeptics. It's fun to make them and their law clerks research from scratch.
Don't cite binding cases from your jurisdiction. Cite oral decisions. Cite and quote only from dissenting and concurring opinions. Don't cite constitutions, statutes, or other laws.
This article just might become required reading for my class, Advanced Legal Research!