Celebrating National Poetry Month with Five Lawyer-Poets

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration created by the Academy of American Poets and co-sponsored by organizations such as the American Library Association. If the words “Law Library” bring to mind shelves of Federal Reporter volumes (à la Law and Order), Walter Brown Hall might not be your first stop for poetry. But in fact, the Law Library maintains a collection of popular reading materials—including poetry—and serves as an access point for all sorts of books held by other UVA libraries.

And besides, who’s to say that lawyers can’t also be poets? To illustrate the poetry resources available to UVA Law students, this post highlights five lawyer-poets whose work you can read this month.

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Before she became a full-time poet, Monica Youn litigated election law issues and directed the Campaign Finance Reform Project at the Brennan Center for Justice. Property law students will appreciate the title of her 2016 collection, Blackacre, which Youn used “in a poetical sense to talk about questions of legacy, landscape and particularly the term ‘devise.’” Her most recent collection, From From: Poems, made numerous “best of 2023lists, including the National Book Award longlist for poetry.

Both Blackacre and From From: Poems are held by libraries on UVA’s main grounds, but law students can have them delivered to the Law Library. Just find the relevant record in Virgo, click on “Request item,” and select “Law Library” as your preferred pick-up location. We’ll send you an email when your item arrives.

Requesting an item in Virgo.

Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and legal scholar who recently published Redaction, a stunning book collaboration with visual artist Titus Kaphar. Redaction uses the eponymous legal technique to create poems out of legal documents. It also includes etched portraits of incarcerated individuals.

After graduating from Yale Law School in 2016, Betts worked in the New Haven public defender’s office. He has written “numerous articles and essays on topics of mass incarceration and the perils of youth behind bars,” including his experiences representing young clients and serving time in prison. (For example, the poem For a Bail Denied is told from the perspective of a public defender.) Betts is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Law at Yale, where his interests include administrative law, criminal law, empirical legal studies, and law and literature.

You can find Redaction, as well as Betts’s collection Felon: Poems in the Klaus Reading Room (just to the left of the circulation desk) with our other popular reading materials. Or use Virgo to request the collection Shaheed Reads His Own Palm from Shannon Library.

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Annie Kim

We can’t let National Poetry Month pass without mentioning that the Law School’s own Annie Kim is an extensively published and prize-winning poet. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and is collected in two volumes, Into the Cyclorama and Eros, Unbroken; Eros, Unbroken won the 2021 Library of Virginia Literary Award in Poetry. Kim directs the Law School’s program in Law and Public Service and practiced for 12 years representing Virginia school districts and local governments.

As of this writing, Into the Cyclorama is available in the the Klaus Reading Room, and Eros, Unbroken is on the way. Looking at the catalog records, you may notice that we also hold copies in Law Special Collections—that’s because we maintain a special archive of UVA Law faculty publications. Learn more about accessing Special Collections materials here.

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Former tenant lawyer Martín Espada won the 2021 National Book Award for poetry for his book Floaters, which, according to its Virgo catalog summary, “bears witness to [Espada’s] confrontation with anti-immigrant bigotry as a tenant lawyer years ago, and now sings the praises of Central American adolescents playing soccer in an internment camp founded on that same bigotry.” (The name of the title poem refers to offensive language used to describe migrants who drowned crossing the Rio Grande.)

Espada is the author of more than twenty books, many of which you can find using the Virgo catalog record for Floaters. Just navigate to the record and scroll down to the “Shelf Browse” section to find out what books would be near it on the shelf. Since literature is shelved by the author’s last name, you’ll see several other collections by Espada.

The Shelf Browse section of a Virgo record.

Lawrence Joseph is an acclaimed poet and retired St. John’s School of Law professor. The breadth of his work is exceptional—Joseph has written a number of poetry collections, as well as publishing extensively on topics such as labor, employment, tort and compensation law, jurisprudence, law and literature, and legal theory; his prose work Lawyerland distills conversations with lawyer acquaintances into a collection of stories. His poem And That Language was published last month in the journal Poetry.

Joseph’s work is available from UVA Library in print and e-book versions. The e-books allow for especially quick access. For example, to read Joseph’s Curriculum Vitae, simply find its Virgo catalog entry and click on the blue button labeled “Library Catalog (Access Online).”  

Accessing an e-book through Virgo.

We hope you’ll enjoy these resources during National Poetry Month!

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Kate Boudouris

Kate Boudouris

Kate is the Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian at Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

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The Law Library’s New(-ish) Leisure Reading Collection

The Law Library has offered leisure reading to students and faculty since 1986, but we recently subscribed to a new book leasing program to give the collection a facelift. The program allows us to provide new titles to our patrons each month. In January, for example, we featured recently published biographies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald, the memoir We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I by Palestinian lawyer Raja Shehadeh, the cookbook Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs & Juice by Toni Tipton-Martin, and the fiction bestsellers Weyward (Emilia Hart) and Roman Stories (Jhumpa Lahiri).

Our librarians have had some fun showcasing new additions to the leisure reading collection through monthly book displays located on the table across from the Circulation Desk. Past themes have included books on artificial intelligence, beach reads, mysteries, and cookbooks. In March, you can explore a selection of books that will be adapted to film and TV in the coming year. We encourage you to peruse the books on display, and also to browse the shelves of the entire collection, located in the Klaus Reading Room adjacent to the Circulation Desk. 

The books in this collection will be retained for a year before they are up for consideration to be returned to the leasing company. Leisure reads can be checked out for thirty days by UVA students, staff, and public patrons, alike. 

Happy reading! 

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

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Special Bulletin: Accessing Law Library Books in a Hybrid Environment

If you’re a law student taking classes on grounds or remotely this semester, you have several options for accessing the Law Library’s print collection:

Visit the stacks. The Law Library stacks are currently open to law students and faculty. If your book is located at the Law Library and marked ‘On Shelf Now’ in Virgo, then you can grab it from our stacks! (Note: This is true even if Virgo displays a message indicating that UVA Libraries stacks are closed.) Make a note of the call number and check where that will be on the map. If you’d like to scan part of the book, you can use one of the Law Library’s two public scanners. Flash drives for saving your scans are available at the circulation desk.

Ask us to pull the book for you. If you prefer to spend less time in the Law Library—even if you’re taking classes on grounds this semester—you can ask us to retrieve the book and hold it at circulation for you. Please use the ‘Request item’ button in Virgo and choose ‘Law’ as your Preferred Pickup Location. You’ll receive an email when the book is available for pickup. (Note: You’ll need to be logged in to Virgo to make a request.)

Ask us to make a scan for you. Whether you’re on grounds or working remotely, we’ll be happy to scan chapters, articles, or pages from any Law Library book. To request a scan, use the “Request a Scan” button in the Virgo catalog. You can use the same procedure to request scans from other UVA libraries. (Note: If you don’t see a “Request a Scan” button, that means your book is available to read on HathiTrust.)

Ask us to send you the book. If you’re working remotely, we’ll gladly mail you any books that you need (except for reference and reserve books). For full books from any UVA Library (including Law), please use this form and UVA Libraries staff will contact you about mailing arrangements or other options for accessing the book.

Questions? Send us an email at refdesk@law.virginia.edu, and we’ll be happy to assist you.

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Kate Boudouris

Kate Boudouris

Kate is the Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian at Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

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Reading About Writing

Below is some of the best reading about writing to inspire your emails and typed chats with classmates and professors while social distancing. These guides will also help with your seminar papers, research project memos, and cover letters. You can access many of these online from wherever you are. The Law Library is here to help you access the others:

Tom Goldstein & Jethro K. Lieberman, The Lawyer’s Guide to Writing Well (3d ed. 2016) – A law professor and journalism professor teamed up to help us over stumbling blocks that level law students, professors, librarians, and lawyers alike, such as overly long sentences. And procrastination. They devote an entire chapter to email. Access the ebook through this Virgo record.

Bryan A. Garner (with Jeff Newman, Tiger Jackson), The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (4th ed. 2018) – Should you capitalize names of the seasons? When is a semicolon appropriate? This well-organized resource puts answers at your fingertips to questions you’ve likely had. Its guidelines are a formula for professional and polished writing. It isn’t available online but the Law Library is – peruse its table of contents here and see this page for ways to contact us.  

Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review (5th ed. 2016) – Consult this one at each step along the way from figuring out what to write about to editing. Contact us for help accessing it.

William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White, The Elements of Style – Strunk and his student White (writer of Charlotte’s Web and for The New Yorker) cover some of the same kinds of things as The Redbook, like when to use “that” or “which.” They’re addressing writers generally, but White’s advice to write with nouns and verbs, avoid wordiness, and revise is essential straight talk for legal writers. HathiTrust is offering UVA students temporary access to the third edition in their Emergency Temporary Access Service – here’s how:

  • Log in: Go to HathiTrust’s site and click the yellow “log in” button to select University of Virginia as your institution. You’ll be prompted to sign in with your Netbadge.
  • Find the book: Type “william strunk white elements of style” in the search box and select to search the catalog (not full text). Choose the first result and click into one of its temporary access options.
  • Check out the book: Click the check out button to view the book for an hour. Your check out will renew automatically if no one else has requested the book.

George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, The New Republic, June 17, 1946, at 872 & June 24, 1946 at 903 – In a handful of pages Orwell explains why clear writing leads to clear thinking plus how to do it, and amuses with examples of pretentious and meaningless words. Find this article and many more in UVA’s Virgo card catalog (link to part 1 of it here, and part 2 of it by navigating to the June 24 New Republic issue from this Virgo record).  

For sheer pleasure of reading great writing about writing, check out horror and fantasy novelist Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity (all three temporarily available in HathiTrust), and poet Mary Oliver’s Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse. To peek at what other people have written to each other during trying times, see if your local public library system has ebooks of collections like My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Vol. 1, 1915-1933 (Sarah Greenough ed.), which includes O’Keeffe’s description of her stint in Charlottesville.

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Kristin Glover

Kristin Glover

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Legal Research in a Nutshell: Lucky Thirteenth Edition

This semester saw the publication of the thirteenth edition of Legal Research in a Nutshell, by our own Kent Olson. (Despite the ominous edition number, Kent assures me that he didn’t experience any bad luck while preparing the text). The Nutshell, which dates back to Morris Cohen’s 1968 original edition, provides a comprehensive but concise guide to legal research. I sat down with Kent to learn more about the new edition and his experience working on this important text.

-Kate Boudouris

Kate: What’s new in the thirteenth edition of the Nutshell?

Kent: There are always small changes, like FDsys (which replaced GPO Access) being replaced by Govinfo, but the biggest change may be the inclusion of Practical Law, the Westlaw feature with checklists and practice notes in more than a dozen major practice areas. I believe it was around when I finished the 12th edition, but I completely missed its significance. It’s not that useful for academic research, but it can be an enormously valuable tool for new lawyers needing a refresher or step-by-step guidance.

A man holds a book and smiles at students.
Kent Olson teaches a legal research class.

In this edition I was also able to include our own library’s UN Human Rights Treaties: Travaux Préparatoires, a searchable collection of documents that Ben Doherty, Loren Moulds, and others worked on for more than two years.

What hasn’t changed is my opinion that strong Boolean search skills continue to give researchers an edge over database algorithms. Anyone can find a few relevant documents using an algorithm, but crafting intelligent searches and figuring out where to go from there is the art of legal research.

Did you consider skipping straight from the twelfth edition of the Nutshell to the fourteenth edition, in the way that elevators sometimes omit the thirteenth floor of a building?

No way. I’d always wondered what happened on that mysterious thirteenth floor that the elevator skipped. And it wouldn’t be fair to other Nutshells to skip a number. Legal Research has been in more editions than any other Nutshell, but it’s not that far ahead of two others in their eleventh editions, International Taxation and Securities Regulation.

Speaking of the fourteenth edition, what developments in legal research might inform the next revision of the Nutshell?

Even a Boolean-based dinosaur can see that artificial intelligence is improving, particularly in resources such as CARA, Casetext’s tool that analyzes a brief or memorandum and identifies relevant cases that it doesn’t cite. I doubt it will take precedence over Boolean search by the fourteenth edition, but we’ll see!

The Nutshell was originally written by Morris Cohen, and the two of you co-authored the text for many years. Are there ways in which Cohen continues to influence your work?

Morris was the librarian at Yale Law School for many years (and before that at Harvard and Penn). He was a very sweet man, but also one of the most inquisitive people I’ve ever known. I like to think that I carry on his interest in new resources and how they fit together to help us make sure we have the best possible information. He also read what we had written very closely, word for word, and I got from him the view that every sentence matters.

A man sits at an early computer. A woman smiles beside a statue.
Top: Joe Wynne ca. 1980, not long after joining the law library. Bottom: Taylor Fitchett upon her retirement in 2018.

This edition is dedicated to two of your colleagues, Taylor Fitchett and Joe Wynne. Can you tell us a little about them?

Taylor and Joe have both gone happily into retirement. As library director for almost twenty years, Taylor kept the place humming and allowed the rest of us to focus on things like teaching and reference services (and Nutshell revision). Joe wore a bunch of hats over thirty-seven years, ending up as our guru of budgets and other systems. They’re great librarians, and friends, who are missed by everyone in the library.

So what’s next?

I’d like to put my feet up, but I have a bigger book, Principles of Legal Research, that hasn’t been revised since 2015 and is sitting on my desk staring at me. So I’ll have another chance to ponder how the world of legal research is constantly changing.

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Kate Boudouris

Kate Boudouris

Kate is the Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian at Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

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Kent Olson

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A New Guide for Legal Historians

Shortly before his death in 2010, Morris Cohen told me about a book he was writing with his Yale colleague John Nann on research in American legal history. I wondered at the time if this was mostly a means of keeping Morris engaged in work and might not amount to much. But lo and behold, eight years later The Yale Law School Guide to Research in American Legal History (Yale University Press, 2018) has landed on my desk. And it’s full of great insights for the legal historian.

Instead of divisions by material type or genre, most of the book’s chapters focus on distinct time periods in American history and highlight research approaches and resources most pertinent to each period. After the chronological chapters, the book closes with several more general chapters. Particularly useful here are the discussion in Chapter Eight on doing archival research and the treatment in Chapter Ten of historical legal dictionaries.

A very useful bibliography of additional readings accompanies each chapter, and the book has a thorough and precise index. The authors provide helpful tips throughout on finding material in online catalogs, a nice touch as new catalog interfaces make subject searching less accessible and intuitive.

Chapter 2, English Foundations of American Law, 1500s-1776, does a great job of setting us in the world of an early modern English lawyer, finding case law with abridgments rather than Lexis or Westlaw. Lord Coke’s list of the fifteen sources of the law, printed at pages 50-51, is a wonderful time capsule – I didn’t know that “the Law and priviledge of the Stanneries” was a distinct source of law, let along what a stannary was. And it is interesting to learn that the abridgements of the 17th century (Sheppard, Hughes, and Rolle) were “considered to be of mediocre to poor quality” especially compared to Brooke’s Graunde Abridgement of the late 16th century. Nann and Cohen’s Guide has great explanations of the role of the Privy Council in governing the colonies and of the Calendar of State Papers. The authors point out the dangers of hastily OCR’d digital resources — unless scanned material is proofread carefully, it’s simply not discoverable through keyword searches.

Chapter 5, The Early Republic, 1790s-1870s, warns that researchers “must be careful to understand what the judiciary looked like in the state and time being researched. They must also understand the appellate process of the time.” And the authors provide good insight as to why historians can often be frustrated finding information in court reports: “Historians will find that it was not uncommon for a historically significant lower court case to go unreported. Once judges gained control of reporting, they chose cases that would become the building blocks of the law and ignored cases that merely repeated well-settled law. Historians will often want to read a case to get insight into the people involved, whereas lawyers care only about the law involved.”

Throughout the book I learned of valuable resources in legal history. These include Neil H. Cogan, The Complete Reconstruction Amendments, a forthcoming six-volume set from Oxford University Press not even on the publisher’s website yet, but also resources I never knew about or had long forgotten. I’d better take another look at American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, which “has been described as ‘magisterial’ and is an extremely important resource that should be among the first stops in a research project touching on this topic.” And I never knew about Clarence S. Bingham’s History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820, “a critically important introduction to early American newspapers.”

At page 149, I read about two microfilm resources that were unknown to me until I had to hunt them both down in recent months:  Dockets of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1790-1950, and Appellate Case Files from the Supreme Court of the United States, 1792-1831. It’s true that finding these and borrowing the microfilm (sadly, we have neither in our library) gave me a sense of accomplishment, but how much easier life would have been if I had Nann & Cohen to help me. (It seems odd in 2018 to be relying on microfilm, particularly for information about Supreme Court cases, and LLMC is currently considering digitization of both of these sets.)

One of the valuable things about the work is that it expresses strong and clear opinions. In the very first chapter, it says that William H. Manz’s Gibson’s New York Legal Research Guide is perhaps the best of the many state legal research guides now published, with its in-depth treatment and coverage of current and historical sources. (Who can argue, when guides for nine states in Carolina Academic Press’s Legal Research Series all begin with the exact same sentence, “The fundamentals of legal research are the same in every American jurisdiction, though the details vary,” and nine more offer paraphrased versions of the same idea? How refreshing to open Hollee Schwartz Temple’s West Virginia Legal Research (2013) in the same series and read its first line, “If you want to stand out in a challenging legal marketplace, develop superior research skills.” Here’s to authors with journalism backgrounds!)

Of course, I don’t agree with all of the authors’ opinions. I don’t know why researchers trying to decipher citations are told that Prince’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations “is the first place they should turn to” and then only to check the online Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations if a citation isn’t in Prince’s. Cardiff’s coverage of American sources is broad and thorough, it includes useful information like the period of coverage and preceding and subsequent titles in a series, and its web version is so convenient. Why not reverse the order of checking these two?

As explained in the guide’s Introduction, the chronological chapters “describe the research tools available to an attorney of the past as well as the tools that a researcher of today will use to find the law of the past.” Thus, Chapter Six, Research Gets Organized, 1880s-1930s, explains the laborious procedure required to use Shepard’s Citations in print, something I thought I might never to have to read about again. I had hoped for less focus on obsolete research approaches and more discussion of modern legal history resources. There is only passing reference to one chapter of the three-volume Cambridge History of Law in America, and Lawrence Friedman’s History of American Law is only cited in one chapter’s bibliography. These books are not just “Further Reading” but great places for legal history students to begin their research and place their ideas in historical context.

The chronological structure of the guide begins to falter in Chapter Five, The Early Republic, 1790s-1870s, when the authors devote nearly a page to explaining PACER, the federal courts’ online docket system. Why in this chapter is there a discussion of a resource that begins its coverage in the late 20th century? Similarly, the chapter on the 1880s-1930s includes coverage of modern tools such as the Current Law Index (1980-date), and Chapter Seven, The Administrative State, 1930s-2010s, discusses several valuable 18th- and 19th-century resources such as Public Documents of the First Fourteen Congresses, 1789-1817 and Documentary History of the Constitution of the United States, 1786-1870. The “Administrative State” chapter focuses on administrative law and government documents, but the dates in its title are misleading.

The authors acknowledge that “research guides, including this one, represent a snapshot in time,” but in this instance the snapshot isn’t always that close to the publication date. Parts of the book show the inherent dangers of working on a project for several years. The bibliographies, while valuable, miss several recent publications, including a 2016 edition of Morris Cohen’s own Legal Research in a Nutshell. The print Foreign Law Guide hasn’t been updated since 2007, and the online Guide to Reference closed down in March 2016. In discussing the Congressional Record, the book asserts that “No easy translation tables exist to take researchers from the ‘daily’ page numbers to the ‘final’ page numbers or vice versa” – yet both HeinOnline and ProQuest Congressional offer daily edition to bound edition cross-reference tools. An unrelated quibble (in which I have a vested interest) is that referring to Specialized Legal Research as “by Penny A. Hazelton” and Guide to Reference Books as “by Robert Balay” does a disservice to the numerous contributors to these edited works.

In sum, The Yale Law School Guide to Research in American Legal History is a welcome addition to the literature of legal research and a valuable trove of insights and tips. It goes a long way to bridging the divide between historians and legal scholars.

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Kent Olson

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UVA Legal Experts Offer Their Picks for Summer Fiction Reading

For many of us, summertime means reading. A lifelong bibliophile, Thomas Jefferson considered fiction to be useful reading for anyone who wanted to understand the law. University of Virginia Law School faculty and staff agree. Here are some of their picks for fiction that helps explain the law.

Daniel Ortiz

Michael J. and Jane R. Horvitz Distinguished Professor of Law
Director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (1596-98)

“In addition to being fantastic literature and containing one of the greatest trial scenes of all time, [The Merchant of Venice] pits justice against mercy and leads the reader to question those who advocate either position to the exclusion of the other. In the end, both sides’ absolutes appear cruel.”  

G. Edward White

David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law

John Galsworthy, In Chancery (1920)

In Chancery “deals with the difficulties of getting divorced in England in the early years of the twentieth century, where virtually the only two ways to obtain a divorce were through cruelty or adultery, and both had to be publicly proven in court. Two of the characters in In Chancery, Soames Forsyte and his sister, Winifred Dartie, who is married to Montague Dartie, would both like to be rid of their spouses, Soames because he wants to remarry and Winifred because her husband has run off to South America with his mistress. Soames’s wife is only too happy to divorce him, but neither he nor she wants to admit in public to having an affair, which would amount to social ostracization for members of their upper-middle class. Winifred is capable of bringing an action against Dartie but wants to avoid public scandal.

“The novel demonstrates the grip of the law on persons in England in its time period. ‘In Chancery’ refers to the fact that divorce proceedings took place in chancery court, whose procedures enforced the adultery and cruelty preconditions for a divorce decree. It also signals that any persons seeking to divorce in England at that time were ‘in the grip’ of those procedures.”

Leslie Kendrick

Vice Dean
Albert Clark Tate, Jr., Professor of Law

Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1852-1853)

The renowned English author’s ninth novel, Bleak House satirizes the English legal system through its exploration of families and wills in Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. Bleak House is a thrilling read that touches on how the law can be–or at least feel–for those who experience it as parties. That is only one minor reason that it is a great book.”

Rip Verkerke

T. Munford Boyd Professor of Law
Director, Program for Employment and Labor Law Studies

Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men (1946)

“The book loosely follows the sordid career of Huey Long. It’s both a gripping narrative and a cautionary tale about corrupt influences in political life. When I recall re-reading the book about five years ago, I can still see, hear, and smell a number of vivid and memorable scenes. Highly recommended.”

Paul Halliday

Julian Bishko Professor of History, University of Virginia
Professor of Law

Jane Austen, Persuasion (1817)

“I don’t think one could do better than look at almost any of Jane Austen’s six novels. I suppose Persuasion is my favorite. The social confines in which the heroine, Anne Elliot, operates were constructed by the ways her family, and most landed families of the Regency period, used the law of property. Contrary to what many think, the property interests of Anne Elliot (or Elizabeth Bennet or Elinor Dashwood) were not undermined by common law. By common law rules, Austen’s protagonists would have inherited their father’s property, though where there were multiple daughters, they would have split the inheritance with their sisters. Instead, it was the use of entails that meant that their father’s property would pass to a distant male relative. Thus the equitable practice of entails was used to defeat a common law practice: the common law rule that land descends to a daughter in the absence of a son and in preference to collateral males. What daughters lost was less a matter of law than of the cultural norms that shaped people’s choices about the use of law.

“As with everything else, Austen handles law more subtly than other authors. Law is not idiotic (think Fielding), nor is it obscure and self-serving (think Dickens). Austen doesn’t bore us with legal details, nor does she dish out easy criticisms of law and lawyers. Instead, law forms a quiet yet critical a backdrop in her novels. Austen knew that her contemporary readers would appreciate how law could function as a synecdoche for what really mattered: the patriarchal norms about women and families that were her real concern.”

Jessica Lowe

Associate Professor of Law

C.J. Sansom’s “Matthew Shardlake Series”: Dissolution (2003); Dark Fire (2004); Sovereign (2006); Revelation (2008); Heartstone (2010); Lamentation (2014)

Sansom’s mystery series feature Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer in King Henry VII’s court. “Sansom is a lawyer as well as a historian, so his books do a great job of portraying the legal practice of the time, while also exploring the moral ambiguities of the Reformation.”

Gordon Hylton

Professor of Law, General Faculty

Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman (2015)

Harper Lee’s second novel was published in 2015, just before her 2016 death. “It is much more subtle and nuanced than To Kill a Mockingbird, and it better illustrates the nature of the power and influence that lawyers traditionally exercised within their communities.”

Kate Boudouris

Law Library Special Collections Metadata Research Team Lead and lawyer

Donald Barthelme, Concerning the Bodyguard (1978)

Concerning the Bodyguard is a short story told almost entirely through questions. For members of a profession that often relies on questions–from discovery to cross-examination–it’s a fascinating meditation on the uses of questions and the challenge of telling a story within formal constraints that preclude a more straightforward narrative. You can hear Salman Rushdie read the story on this New Yorker Fiction Podcast.” The story can also be found in Barthelme’s collection of short stories, Forty Stories.

Kim Forde-Mazrui

Mortimer M. Caplin Professor of Law 
Director, Center for the Study of Race and Law

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

“I’d probably recommend a book that many others have recommended: To Kill a Mockingbird. For me, it reveals that the law is only as good as society is. In the book, a fair trial was conducted but the jury verdict was unjust and based on racism.”

Cale Jaffe

Assistant Professor of Law, General Faculty
Director of the Environment and Regulatory Law Clinic

E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web (1952)

“I re-read Charlotte’s Web with my kids a few years ago, and was blown away by how poetic it is…For aspiring lawyers, it carries two powerful lessons. The first comes from Fern, the young girl who initially saves Wilbur from her father’s axe. Her father announces the ruling that awards Fern custody over Wilbur, reasoning, ‘Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice.’ Every client deserves to have an advocate as zealous as Fern.

“The second comes from Charlotte, who reminds us that great writing (legal or otherwise), often requires the most efficient use of language. ‘Terrific. Radiant. Humble. Some Pig.’ Not a 70-page brief with voluminous footnotes. Just five simple words. That’s all it took for Charlotte and Wilbur. I think most attorneys would benefit from adopting a similarly economical–and thoughtful–approach.”

 

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Melissa Gismondi

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Interview with a Nutshell Author

This semester saw the publication of the twelfth edition of Legal Research in a Nutshell, a compact but venerable text on legal research that dates back to 1968. Its original author was the late Morris Cohen, then Law Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania, but since the fifth edition in 1992 he has been joined as coauthor by our own Kent Olson. Kent has written about the book’s early days (Birth of a Nutshell: Morris Cohen in the 1960s, 104 Law Libr. J. 53 (2012)), but we sat down to ask him about his own role in the book since then.

AJM: How did you get started as a coauthor of Legal Research in a Nutshell?  

Kent Olson
Legal Research in a Nutshell coauthor Kent Olson.

 

Olson: It started when I was a law student, lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was a second-year student at Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley) and working for the Law Library part time. My boss, Bob Berring, had worked at Harvard with Morris Cohen, the author of Legal Research in a Nutshell. Morris put out a call looking for people to revise and update chapters of the Nutshell, and Bob turned two chapters over to me. Morris may have been looking for light edits, but I attacked my chapters with gusto, crossing out huge chunks of obsolete text and inserting several new pages. A lesser man might have been offended or appalled, but Morris liked what he saw and asked me to review the entire manuscript before it went to the publisher. We talked on the phone, but we never met in person until the project was over.

The following year I came to Virginia and became a coauthor with Morris and Bob of their legal research hornbook, How to Find the Law. Morris had no interest in taking on a coauthor on his Nutshell, but in 1991 he found himself a week away from a deadline with no revised manuscript. And I was visiting him in the hospital.

AJM: Morris Cohen was a legend among law librarians. What was it like working with him?

Olson: He was my mentor and nearly thirty years my senior, but he always made me feel like a peer rather than a junior associate. Working with him was one of the great privileges of my life. He knew so much more than I did about legal bibliography (and was probably sorry that I never quite shared his love of rare books), but as legal research turned more and more to online search techniques our roles gradually shifted.

I do remember one disagreement, a friendly one, over how to describe the state of administrative law before the Federal Register and the CFR. Morris wanted to call it a wilderness, and I didn’t understand why until I realized we had very different concepts of “wilderness.” Mine was a pristine roadless area protected by environmental legislation, but he was thinking of a biblical place where people wandered lost and in despair. I think we ended up abandoning the metaphor.

AJM: You’ve now worked on nine editions of the Nutshell. How has the book, and legal research, changed over the years?

Legal Research in a Nutshell, 12th and earlier editions
Legal Research in a Nutshell, 12th and earlier editions

 

Olson: When the fourth edition was published in 1985, we had Westlaw and Lexis but a large focus of research was still print-based – some of it in materials today’s students are fortunate never to have seen, such as digests and Shepard’s Citations. “Case-Finding by Computer” was a two-page section of the chapter on case research. Research isn’t necessarily simpler these days, but there are so many answers that used to take work that we can now Google our way to.

People talk about a “sea change” in legal research from print to online, but to my mind it’s more of an evolution. In the end, it’s still about finding persuasive authority and reasoning by analogy. If we reach the point where cases are decided by the number of “likes” or by some machine-based measure, I’ll need to move on.

The book itself has evolved with the changes in research. Free Internet sites were first mentioned in the 6th edition (1996), and HeinOnline first appeared in the 8th edition (2003). There are now more than three hundred websites discussed. We’ve had a companion website with updated links since 2003, and in 2013 we took the illustrations out and put them online as well. Small black-and-white illustrations were fine back when we were showing sample pages of books, but screenshots of websites work so much better in color and on a larger scale. 

Olson with a student in Advanced Legal Research
Olson’s students “help keep me honest by letting me know what’s superfluous and what’s unclear.”

 

AJM: You’ve written other books on legal research, notably the concise hornbook Principles of Legal Research (2d ed. 2015). You also teach Advanced Legal Research. How do teaching and writing about legal research inform each other?

Olson: At the basic level, my students who’ve used draft versions as course texts have saved textbook money and they’ve helped to catch some embarrassing typos before they made it to print. But they also help keep me honest by letting me know what’s superfluous and what’s unclear. If we don’t cover something in class, it might not be important enough to include in the book. And without my students I wouldn’t have known that you need to explain to some digital natives the difference between a table of contents and an index.

AJM: Any regrets about the new edition?

Olson: Of course. There are always regrets. One minor one is that I completely missed that govtrack.us stopped tracking state legislation several months before we went to press. At least I could update that on the Nutshell website. A more significant omission is that I made no mention at all of Practical Law, to which our students have access through Westlaw and which is a really useful and current source of basic legal information in several disciplines. At some point I also should really think about how research by mobile app differs from website-based research.

But this just means I need to start planning for the thirteenth edition. In the past couple of months Lexis Advance added a directory of resources to its main screen and made its Advanced Search much more useful, and Westlaw introduced its “Westlaw Answers” feature when you type a question into the search box. All the references to FDsys in the current edition will be obsolete once GPO completes its transition to govinfo.gov. It won’t be long before January 2016 seems like a very long time ago in legal research.

– AJM 

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Second Edition of Olson’s Principles of Legal Research Published

 

Kent Olson
Kent Olson.

This week, West Academic released the second edition of Kent Olson’s highly acclaimed Principles of Legal Research. The first edition of Principles earned Olson his second Joseph L. Andrews Bibliographic Award from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), which honors a significant contribution to legal bibliographic literature. Principles is the product of Olson’s many years of practicing the art and craft of legal research, and of teaching Advanced Legal Research to many bright and able students at the University of Virginia School of Law. It is the successor to the venerable How to Find the Law, published in nine editions beginning in 1931, the last of which Olson co-authored with Morris Cohen and Robert Berring.

The second edition of Principles of Legal Research remains true to its roots as an indispensable guide to practical legal research. Much of legal research still relies on traditional print-based sources and methods, and for those situations, the book offers refuge for those who may be more comfortable conducting research with a keyboard, mouse, and touch screen than by sifting through hefty tomes of pulp and ink. At the same time, Principles is a trustworthy compass for intelligent navigation of the latest generation of algorithm-based online legal research systems and the vast and growing array of Internet-delivered legal information services.

Works by Kent Olson
An extensive collection of works authored, co-authored or compiled by Kent Olson.

 

Skillful legal research requires a foundational knowledge of how law is made and interpreted and a solid understanding of the documentary outputs of those processes, and Principles of Legal Research offers novice readers the knowledge of both. The book has features that also make it a valuable reference work for experienced legal researchers, including copious footnotes, indexing, and a useful appendix of treatises and services arranged by subject. New to this edition, images of key websites are displayed in full color.

A prolific writer, Kent Olson is also the author of Legal Information: How to Find It, How to Use It (1999) and is author or co-author of several iterations of West’s Legal Research in a Nutshell, now in its 11th edition. Olson is an expert legal researcher and a dedicated professor of legal research. For nearly three decades he has also been colleague, friend, and mentor to the Law Library staff. We heartily congratulate Kent Olson on his latest literary achievement!

– The Law Library Staff

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Party with Books! Virginia Festival of the Book, March 19-23

Love to read? Love to read things other than cases and codes every once in a while?! Check out Charlottesville’s Festival of the Book events on campus and around town starting this Wednesday, March 19. For twenty years the Festival has been bringing great authors from around the world to our doorstep to tell us stories – ones they’ve written and ones about what they’ve written. Most of the events are free, no pre-registration required. 

Getting caught up on your Crim Pro casebook reading? Supplement it with the Festival event with authors of historical thriller books. Take a Saturday afternoon stroll to the downtown mall to hear about “Hell on Heels: Bad Girls, Feminism, and Rebellion in Romance Fiction”. If you’re looking for a study break & breath of fresh air, check out the many Festival events just down the hill at the Barnes & Noble at Barracks Road, including a panel on protest movement memoirs and one on writing about climate change.  

– Kristin Glover 

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Kristin Glover

Kristin Glover

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