Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Review: International Law Legal Research

We're pleased to share a Guest Blog Post from Anne Abramson, the Foreign and International Law Librarian at the Louis L. Biro Law Library of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  She's written the first review of a new legal research book for international law.  The book launches a new series of international legal research texts being published by Carolina Academic Press. 

International Law Legal Research

Winer Book CoverBook Review of International Law Legal Research by Anthony S. Winer, Mary Anne E. Archer and Lyonette Louis-Jacques (Carolina Academic Press 2013).

Reviewed by Anne Abramson

When I first learned that there would be a new print textbook on international legal research, I wondered just how useful it could be. So much international legal research is done electronically these days, how could a print text keep up with the incessant changes in the electronic environment? 

Then I took a look at the just-published book on International Law Legal Research and realized why this new text is essential even if it cannot record every new database development.  In fact, the best format for a text such as this one is indeed print.  This title is not a brief "one off" taste of the subject but rather a comprehensive, detailed treatment. The quality of the content will stand the test of time.

This book on International Law Legal Research launches a new International Legal Research Series being published by Carolina Academic Press.  The series is edited by Professor Mark E. Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School.  This inaugural title in the Winer Photoseries was authored by Professor Anthony S. Winer of the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mary Ann E. Archer (who served for ten years as the Associate Director for Public Services of the Warren E. Burger Law Library at William Mitchell), and Lyonette Louis-Jacques, the Foreign and International Law Librarian at the D’Angelo Law Library of the University of Chicago Law School.

Professor Winer and his colleagues delve into the historical origins of the international legal system and key organizations like the United Nations.  Their thorough discussion of treaties and their resemblance to legislation and contracts is enlightening and useful.  Their chapters on judicial and arbitral decisions, UN resolutions, customary international law, and international organizations and bodies such as the International Law Commission are similarly comprehensive and eye opening.  The text provides an excellent framework for new students to learn international legal research and for more seasoned legal researchers to hone their skills or fill gaps where necessary. I appreciate, for example, the clarification of that most confusing term “private international law” under both modern and traditional interpretations.  

Louis-Jacques PhotoThe reader will want to pay special attention to Lyonette Louis-Jacques’ Additional Resources and General Bibliographic References at the conclusion of each chapter.  Her concise lists of sources should be part of every international legal researcher’s toolkit.  In addition, most librarians like myself are obsessed with “information literacy.” We are constantly called upon to articulate reasons as to why Google is not enough.  Thus, I quite like the authors' emphasis on accuracy, currency, and authenticity as well as the adherence to proper Bluebook citation formats.  In my view, solid citation skills are part and parcel of good research skills and are necessary for scholars, advocates, and even moot court teams competing in international law moot court competitions.  Knowledge of which sources to cite and how to cite to them signals a true understanding of the subject matter in contrast to the tendency to cut and paste from a website.

Professor Winer and his colleagues have even gone where angels fear to tread by explaining Bluebook citation of UN records and reports, a complicated area which, in the current electronic era, has only become more mysterious.  Researchers who do not wish to tear out their hair will appreciate his helpful explanations of the Bluebook’s often enigmatic pronouncements  

Most valuable of all, this text will give students the necessary context to understand what they are researching and why.  This context is all too often lost in today’s world of instant information.  

Many thanks to the authors for this excellent contribution to the field and to Carolina Academic Press for launching this promising new series on international law legal research.  The book will be a useful one for individual researchers, international law moot court teams, international law review journal staff, and for law schools looking to offer courses in international legal research.  

Anthony S. Winer, Mary Ann E. Archer & Lyonette Louis-Jacques, International Law Legal Research (Carolina Academic Press 2013).  Paperback, 308 pages including bibliographical references and index.  ISBN 978-1-61163-068-8.  LCCN 2012038569.  $35.00.  Available from Carolina Academic Press www.cap-press.com.   Click here for more information.

Anne Abramson is the Foreign and International Law Librarian at the Louis L. Biro Law Library of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  She can be reached at 8abrams@jmls.edu

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