Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, July 27, 2007

How to Build a Study Aids Library

Whether we are working with a selected group of "at risk" students or working with all law students, we often need to have study aid resources for ourselves and our students.  We need academic support volumes for our own reference and professional growth.  We need study aids to "brush up" on the law that we will use for examples in workshops.  Also, we need practice questions, commercial outlines, hornbooks, Nutshells, and other items to loan to our students.

Some of the students with whom I work cannot afford to buy the study aids they need to perform successfully.  Other students have purchased some study aids but find at certain times in the semester that they need to check other sources or find more practice questions.  By having a collection for short-term loans (for example, two items for 48 hours), I can make sure that they have access to the study aids that more affluent students can purchase or that are needed to supplement their own purchases.

However, for those ASP professionals who do not have generous budget lines, it can be a daunting task to obtain a study aids collection without spending a fortune.  Here are some ways that you can build a library of resources:

  1. Work with your law school deans to have funding added to your office budget.  If you do not have a specific line in your budget for books, audiotapes, and other study aids, talk with your decanal staff about this need.  Start with your supervisor and work up the chain as appropriate to your internal procedures and politics.  Explain why resources are fundamental to your own professionalism and why resources are fundamental to your students' success.  Even a small addition to funds for this purpose is a step in the right direction.  If faculty members have a professional books allowance, you may be able to negotiate a similar allowance for your own professional needs.
  2. Work with your law school deans to identify alternative sources of funding.  Some universities have internal grant monies to initiate new academic endeavors.  If your university has such a program, apply for "start-up" funds for your core library.  Also, most law schools have private monies that can be used for special projects.  In addition, there may be a graduate who has been out a few years (especially if the graduate benefited from ASP) that the development staff for the law school could approach for start-up funds and/or funds for the purchase of future updates and new editions.
  3. Ask your faculty members to donate complimentary copies of study aids that they do not use.  Most faculty members receive complimentary copies of study aids.  Examples would be Lexis Q&A, Aspen Examples and Explanations, West Nutshells, Lexis Understanding Law, and many others.  The faculty members often put these volumes on their bookshelves without even looking at them.  At least once a semester and during the summer send out an e-mail to your entire faculty asking them to donate current editions of these items.  Ask for "clean" copies that are unmarked (usually the bindings will not have been cracked open).
  4. Ask your law students and recent graduates to donate copies of study aids that they will not be using.  Again, you want to ask for current editions and clean copies.  You will need to do some sorting because your idea of a "clean" copy may not mesh with the students' idea of the concept.  Also, law students will assume an edition is current because it is no more than three years old.  Your law library staff may be able to help you check editions.
  5. Always ask for complimentary copies of books that are in the academic success area and overlap areas.  Be on the look-out for ASP, legal writing, introduction to the legal system, legal reasoning, and other books that you can legitimately ask for a complimentary copy for your office.  Get on the catalog list for all of the legal education publishers who produce titles of the type you want.  If the complimentary copy turns out to not be one that you want on your own bookshelf, then put it in your new ASP library.  (By the way, complimentary copies are not to be sold.  But, you can donate them to your ASP library or another faculty member who can use them.)
  6. Contact all of the legal education publishers of study aids for complimentary copies.  Your own regional representative may be the best place to start.  However, if you do not know who that person is, call the toll-free number and make your request.  Why would they be willing to help you build a library?  First, the smaller publishers want to build market share.  Because all law students use my library, the publishers know that students are likely to buy copies of items they "test drive" and like.  Second, the publishers likely have a policy that supports giving out complimentary copies as part of their marketing strategy.  Third, if you are likely to buy extra copies of items that you like and recommend to your students, then they get your new library business as well.  One publisher sends me a complimentary copy automatically of all new editions in all study aids series.
  7. Ask faculty members at your institution who are authors of study aids for a complimentary copy.  Each study aid author receives some copies of her book or cassette/CD when it is published.  My faculty author gives me a copy for the study aids library every time a new edition comes out. 
  8. Ask your law library if they can purchase study aid books for your office library that can be permanently catalogued to your collection.  Your law library may be able to support some of your purchases from its own budget.  In any event, your law library most likely can purchase the books at a discount instead of your paying full price.  By utilizing their purchasing system you can get more items for the same budget dollars.
  9. Visit publishers' stands at legal education conferences and events.  Some time at the book displays can be helpful in four ways.  First, you can see what is new in your areas of interest that you might want to purchase.  Second, you can often actually thumb through copies to decide what you really need rather than taking a guess from a catalog description.  Third, the representative may be willing to help you through her publisher's procedures for complimentary copies of entire series.  Fourth, you can make sure you get on a catalog and e-mail alert list.

Depending on the size of a collection that you wish to build and to whom you want to lend the items, you will have more or less library management issues.  There will always be some cost issues with even small collections because you will need to purchase new editions. 

The study aids library attached to my office has over 900 items.  My law library staff members are an enormous help in the purchase, catalogue, and circulation steps.  In fact, I consider my law library staff members to be shining examples of collegiality and helpfulness.  (Amy Jarmon)

July 27, 2007 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Practical Article on Brief Writing

You may be interested in a new article designed to offer a succinct, straightforward guide to effective persuasive writing, with examples. In describing the article, author Sarah Ricks says that a common problem plaguing many briefs is the inability of writers to see their briefs from the point of view of "the busy judge or inexperienced law clerk."  The article suggests how to use the reader's perspective to avoid ten of the most common errors that weaken a brief's persuasive impact.

She and a practicing attorney, Jane L. Istvan, co-wrote the article, basing it on a series of CLE's the two taught.  The article is "Effective Brief Writing Despite High Volume Practice: Ten Misconceptions That Result in Bad Briefs," forthcoming in Toledo Law Review and available at SSRN: < >  (Dan Weddle)

July 24, 2007 in Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Good Idea from Sarah Ricks

Sarah Ricks sent the blog a good idea for using Ruth Ann McKinney's Reading Like a Lawyer:  Time-Saving Strategies for Reading Law Like an Expert (Carolina Academic Press).  Below is her suggestion.

"Last fall, I required all of my One L students to buy Ruth Ann McKinney's book, which I learned about at an Academic Support AALS meeting. 

"I tacked on an additional two classes at the outset of the semester to function as a substantive orientation to legal reading.  We spent two classes walking through much of the book, and I later assigned portions of it to introduce specific types of legal material such as 'how to read statutes.'

"It is an excellent book - unpretentious, accessible, and interesting.  If anyone would like the handouts I created to use in those first two classes, just drop me an e-mail and I'd be glad to share."

Sarah Ricks, Rutgers-Camden

July 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)