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Law Library News for October 14, 2002

Ann Hemmens, editor

Law Library News Archive


Figuring Out Legal Terms

by Mary Whisner

Legal terms are often puzzling. Even a word you thought you knew (e.g., "standing") can be used in a special way in law.

The leading American law dictionary is Black's Law Dictionary. We have several copies on dictionary stands in the Reading Room. Other copies are on Reserve and in the Reference Office (KF156.B53 1999). Black's Law Dictionary is also available on Westlaw (DI database).

Bryan Garner's Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2d ed. 1995) provides writing tips as well as definitions of selected terms. It is available in the Reference Office (KF156.G367 1995). The 1987 edition of this work is on LexisNexis.

Some basic law dictionaries are available on the Internet:

Figuring out the meaning of a legal term does not stop with a dictionary. If the unfamiliar term is in a law or ordinance, check to see whether another section defines the term. See if there have been cases interpreting the statute that help to clarify the term. Read articles or books about the topic to see whether they explain the concept.

[Editor's note: For more print and online sources, see our Legal Dictionaries guide.

Announcing a New Japanese Legal Resource

by Rob Britt, East Asian Law Dept.

The Law Library has recently acquired access to Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan Online. Access is available from any University of Washington IP address. Just click on this URL: (or search for the title in MARIAN, the Law Library catalog). For information on connecting to databases from off campus see our guide on Connecting to Online Library Resources.

Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan Online (an updated version of the 1983 8-volume print set) contains wide-ranging and detailed information on Japanese history and culture, but it also includes a wealth of Japanese legal information. It is an English language resource, but it allows keyword searching using either English or Japanese language terms (see, for example "Horitsu" (25 items) and "Law" (200 items)).

Japanese law-related articles in Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan Online include:

  • Entries for Japanese Laws. Dozens of Japanese laws are listed, each including the "kanji" (Chinese character) name of the law, the English name, and the law number and date, plus a summary of the contents of the law, and historical background. (see, for example "Commercial law").
  • Entries for famous cases. Explains the historical background for dozens of landmark cases in Japanese history (see, for example "Naganuma case" and "Seizonken").
  • Entries for famous jurists. These entries also include the "kanji" for the Japanese names. (see, for example "Dando, Shigemitsu").
  • Legal terms and phrases. Defines legal terms and phrases in the context of Japanese law. (see, for example "Administrative litigation").

Law Librarianship at the UW

You may have noticed people working in the Reference Office with "Student Reference Librarian" nametags. These are students in the Law Librarianship Program at the University of Washington Information School. This one-year academic program trains lawyers to be librarians in a variety of law library settings (law firms, law schools, courts, etc.).

Law librarianship is one example of an alternative legal career worth considering. The UW School of Law and Information School (formerly the Graduate School of Library and Information Science) have been training law librarians since the early 1940s. Sixty-one of the 185 graduates of the program have become law library directors (including our own Professor Penny Hazelton). For more information on the program check out the program's website.