Law Library News for the Week of March 31, 2008

Cheryl Nyberg, editor

Free UN Treaty Collection Database

by Ann Hemmens

Good news for legal researchers! The United Nations is providing free world-wide access to a database of all of its treaties and selected materials! Since the UW Libraries and Gallagher Law Library did not subscribe to this database before, this website is a great addition to your research collection.United Nationsl Treaty Collection Database

Treaties are one of the primary sources of international law. There are more than 500 multilateral treaties (i.e., more than two countries involved) deposited with the UN's Secretary-General. Treaties cover many subject areas, for example: Berne Convention (copyright), CITES (endangered species), Geneva Conventions (e.g., prisoners of war), MARPOL (maritime pollution), and climate change.

How do you access the database? Visit the UN Treaty Collection database. Use the generic username (treaties) and password (12345).

One important qualification: “temporarily, for technical reasons, no updates - except for the CNs [Depositary Notifications], will be posted to the website, from Thursday evening, 15 November 2007 until further notice.” The database refers users to the website of the Journal of the United Nations for current treaty signatures and ratifications.

What type of material is included in this free database?

  • United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS) [full-text of all UN treaties] and the UNTS Cumulative Index
  • League of Nations Treaty Series (LNTS) [full-text of treaties from the predecessor to the UN]
  • Status of Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General [includes declarations and reservations]
  • Treaty Handbook, from the UN Office of Legal Affairs (overview of the treaty registration process; explains basic concepts - consent to be bound, reservation, entry into force, withdrawal, termination).

Print copies of these materials are available in Gallagher Law Library. But now you have online versions to explore.

For more help with treaty research, see the Gallagher guide on Treaties and Other International Agreements. For a larger overview, see the Gallagher guide on International Legal Research.

Cost-Effective Searching on LexisNexis

LexisNexis´┐Ż Total Research SystemWith graduation and summer associate jobs ahead for most students, now is the time to refine your online searching skills. Check out the LexisNexis page on Cost-Effective Research Strategies.

Did you know and do you regularly use those tips?

Here are a few more from reference librarian Kelly Aldrich and Aaron Myers, our LexisNexis representative:

Use free features freely! Free features include:

  • Adding "Suggested Terms" to a search.
  • Checking your spelling in a search.
  • Browsing the Table of Contents in statutes.
  • Reviewing the contents and scope of a database before you use it by clicking on the link.

Use priced features cautiously!

  • Browsing the Table of Contents in a treatise is not free.
  • Following links to a document from within a document cost less than using "Get a Document."
  • Printing documents with the browser's Print command (with the Text-Only option) costs less than using the LexisNexis Print feature. BUT check with your employer, who may want to bill clients for LexisNexis printouts.

Website of the Week: JD Supra

by Kelly Aldrich

JD Supra may signify a new trend in the legal community: sharing work product. Developed by a lawyer workingJD Supra. Give content. Get noticed. long nights in advance of a trial date and briefing pre-trial issues that she knew other lawyers had addressed previously, JD Supra allows those in the legal community to create a profile (for free) and post (for free) court filings, decisions, forms, and/or articles that can be searched (for free) by anyone accessing the site. (Note: this article does not purport to address the ethical concerns, if any, of one lawyer using another’s work as a sample.)

JD Supra is a marketing tool for law firms (including, thus far, Lane Powell and Morrison Foerster) and advocacy groups (e.g., Electronic Frontier Foundation) and a “research tool” for practicing attorneys, journalists, consumers, and law students.

JD Supra is in Beta and it shows. The search engine leaves a bit to be desired—in part, I suspect, because there’s not a lot of data (yet) to search. On more than one occasion I saw error messages even when trying to run simple searches (e.g., for any document containing the words “motion to compel discovery” in any jurisdiction, federal or state).

If and when it discards its training wheels, JD Supra may very well become a legitimate marketing tool—its apparent focus (judging from its tagline: “Give Content. Get Noticed.”).

Whether it will be a legitimate research tool is up for debate. I wouldn’t take at face value another lawyer’s brief that had been posted on a website. Before relying on it, I’d want to ascertain its quality, verify its accuracy, update the authority cited, and carefully review distinguishable facts and issues.

For now, those of you working in firms and organizations large and small, try knocking on the door of the partner down the hall or searching your firm’s knowledge management system—chances are someone within your own organization has written a similar document that you can use as a starting point.

Read more about it!     

©2011, Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington