Whether researching case law or reading an assigned case, understanding and identifying dicta in a judicial opinion is a must. You probably know that you can’t rely on dicta as binding precedent in a future case, but what is it and how can you be sure to recognize it? If the concept of dicta seems complicated, it is. Experienced attorneys and legal scholars alike struggle to pin down the slippery concept. Here are ten frequently asked questions and answers about dicta to help you to successfully deal with dicta: [Read more…] about Dealing with Dicta: 10 Questions Asked and Answered
While it may not be glamorous, being a research assistant for a professor during law school comes with plenty of benefits. Without leaving campus, you can improve your research skills, build a valuable professional relationship, and start monetizing your newfound legal knowledge. But developing a great working relationship with your professor is not a given. Here are some tips to make the most of your research assistant experience: [Read more…] about 6 Keys to Research Assistant Success
The Bluebook now includes a citation format for social media. A recent Texas Supreme Court opinion spent four pages weighing the validity of a Texas Court of Appeal’s use of a Wikipedia definition. The U.S. Supreme Court archives internet sources cited in its opinions on its website. With authoritative internet sources proliferating and legal blogs gaining in popularity, citing to web-based sources in legal writing is on the rise. Traditional, print authorities still dominate, but the exceptions to that rule continue to grow. If you are considering using a web-based authority in your legal writing, consider these 5 tips: [Read more…] about 5 Tips for Citing Web-Based Sources in Legal Writing
Early in my 1L year, a professor told us that you had to get a copy of Black’s Law Dictionary because every lawyer will have their law-school copy in their office for the rest of their career as some sort of bookshelf trophy. That may be one reason to get a Black’s Law Dictionary, but I have found actually using the dictionary has been very helpful in law school and beyond. Even though it is tempting to Google a legal term of art or Latin legal phrase – requiring a distracting search through two or three webpages – turning to Black’s Law first will give you a concise, authoritative definition every time. Some may prefer a pocket edition or the app, but for me, I still prefer the complete, hardbound, more than 50,000 term edition. Aside from being a great research tool and invaluable reference, there is another benefit to using the 2054 page version – the amazing legal terms you find by accident. Here are my top 10 unexpected legal terms you will find inside the august Black’s Law Dictionary: [Read more…] about Fun with Black’s Law: 10 Unexpected Legal Terms
Legal writing is tough. You have to learn how to do legal research, you have to re-learn how to write, you have to master complex substantive law, and you have to Bluebook your citations. With all of those challenges, signals and citation sentence formatting can easily be overlooked. But the good news is, with a little bit of attention, you can master this aspect of legal writing and stop giving away points on your legal writing assignments. A detailed treatment of signals and citation sentences can be found in The Bluebook at Rule B1.2 and Rule 1.2, but hopefully this post can highlight some signal basics. [Read more…] about What Signals Are Your Signals Sending?
The law library’s studious silence, hardwood furniture, and book-lined shelves appeal to most any aspiring lawyer. As you get familiar on campus, the library may become a favorite study spot, but few law students, at least few 1Ls, appreciate the hidden treasure of the law school library: the law librarian. As any 3L research assistant will tell you, befriending a law librarian can be one of the most beneficial and time-saving decisions of your law school career. Here are a few questions you might not know to ask about your law school’s law librarian. [Read more…] about Law Librarians Explained: Everything a 1L Should Know