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Topic Selection for Law Review Comments & Notes: General Topic Sources

Idea People

You may be able to generate ideas from your educational and work experiences. Professors, class discussions, work-related projects, and law librarians can be good sources of ideas.  Keep the focus on topics of interest to you.

Professors

Reflect on your favorite classes. What issues came up during class discussions that interested you? Talk with professors from your classes, or with a professor who specializes in a field that interests you. He or she will have ideas about whether an issue is ripe for commentary or has been thoroughly addressed in legal literature. 

Attorneys

Consider your projects at work or at internships. Did an issue arise that would be a good subject for your note? You could also ask your supervisors at work about emerging issues in practice.

Law Librarians

If you have identified a few broader subject areas, the law librarians can teach you how to use databases and current awareness sources to help you narrow your subject area into a more specific topic. 

 

 

Subject Matter Services and Topical Databases

United States Law Week.  Available in print, KF102.5.L38, and online. Provides analysis of recent federal and state legislative, regulatory and judicial developments. As the title suggests, the publication is issued weekly. Available online from Bloomberg Law and BNA online

BNA Topical Libraries (online). Provides access to topical libraries, which offer commentary on legislative activity, cases and legal trends.  Library topics include, among others: health law and business, international environmental law, privacy law, labor and employment law, right-to-know, corporate law, and bankruptcy law. 

BNA's topical Law Reports also are available in Bloomberg Law.  Use the "News & Law Reports" and "Practice Centers" tabs on the orange, top menu.

Wolters Kluwer Law & Business covers health, employment, benefits, securities, tax, and other topics.

Pension & Investments is a useful, browsable commerical website for benefits news.

Judicial, Legislative & Regulatory Developments

Legal newspapers, newsletters, blogs, and topical databases often feature unsettled legal issues, and trends in the law and law practice. You might start monitoring a couple of blogs or news websites and follow up on issues, cases and pieces of legislation that grab your attention.

Legal Newspapers and Newsletters

National Newspapers

Jurist  – Web-based legal news and research site maintained by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  Reports on the latest legal developments in real time and provides links to the relevant primary source materials, including complaints, legislation, testimony, decisions, and reports. 

National Law Journal – Covers current legal activity of national importance. Newspaper website offers limited free access to content. Available in print (in the law newspaper area), and on Lexis.

Also try national news publications to learn about current legal developments.  Newsbank offers access to thousands of news sources, at the local, regional, national and international level, including archived editions. 

National news sources like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are available to all Marquette students on ProQuest.  Marquette law students also can set up an individual New York Times account via the law school's group membership, with a searchable archive to 1851. Ask a reference librarian. 

Regional Newspapers

If you are interested in pursuing a topic in a specific jurisdiction, for example, the jurisdiction where you plan to practice, consult that jurisdiction’s regional legal newspaper, bar journal, and other localized publications, like Crain's Business. Many bar journals and legal newspapers are available in HeinOnline, and some are accessible on Westlaw and Lexis.  Wisconsin Lawyer, the Wisconsin bar journal, is available via the WI State Bar website and recent print issues are in the library. Westlaw has selected coverage of Wisconsin Lawyer.  Other examples are:

Wisconsin Law Journal – Offers analysis, digests and text of recent federal and Wisconsin cases. Monthly print publication is available on reserve in the library (first floor), ask at Circulation.  The reference librarian can access a passworded digital version.

Minnesota Lawyer – Available on Westlaw and Lexis.

New York Law Journal – Available on Lexis.

Newsletters

Topical newsletters also track recent legal developments. They tend to be published either weekly or monthly and contain only brief articles.  Selected legal newsletters are available on Westlaw and on Lexis (includes newspapers and newsletters). You might also try bar association section newsletters.

Ask a reference librarian for help if you are trying to locate more sources like this.

 

Blogs

Directories & Individual Legal Blogs

ABA Journal Blawg Directory . Browse blogs by subject. Results can be sorted by the “most popular” with directory users.

BlawgSearch  on Justia.com. Allows searching and browsing of more than 1,000 legal blogs. Identifies the “most popular” blogs.

Library of Congress Legal Blawg Archive. Provides information as well as archives back to 2007 for more than 100 law-related blogs on a variety of topics. Keyword searchable and browsable by topic.

Law Professor Blogs. Law Professor Blogs is a network of many blogs. Each blog focuses on a particular area of law, such as Alternative Dispute Resolution, Business Law, Elder Law, Employment Law, and Family Law.  The blog posts consist of regularly updated permanent resources and links and daily news and information.

For example: Workplace Prof Blog http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/laborprof_blog/

Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog -- See what your professors are blogging about on their local site.

 

 

 

Circuit Splits

You could look for disagreements among the federal circuits on how certain legal issues should be resolved. 

Because circuit splits suggest ambiguity in the law, you do run the risk of having your topic hijacked while you are writing or waiting to be published. In other words, the Supreme Court may choose to resolve the issue, and your topic would be preempted.

If you are interested in a topic that involves a circuit split, you should check the subsequent histories of all of the cases involved in the circuit split to see if petitions for review have been filed and how the Supreme Court handled them.  If no petitions have been filed, check to see if the time for filing has expired.  For a more complete discussion of this issue, see pages 37 and 38 of the Eugene Volokh text listed under the tab “Getting Started” in the box titled Recommended Reading.   

 

 

Identifying a Circuit Split

You can identify a circuit split by taking advantage of a resource that compiles examples of circuit splits or by running targeted keyword searches in cases law databases.

The following sources will identify circuit splits for you:

Seton Hall Circuit Review (available on HeinOnline, Lexis, and Westlaw)A law review dedicated to covering the federal circuits. The section entitled “Current Circuit Splits” provides brief summaries of the circuit splits identified in federal court of appeals opinions. 

BNA, US Law Week Circuit SplitsLinks to reports on circuit splits from the last several months.

Keyword Searches

To identify circuit splits, you can try running keyword searches in case law databases or you can consult resources that compile the splits for you.  Keyword searches might include some combination of the terms “circuit”, “conflict”, “authority”, and “split” in close proximity to one another. You might want to limit your searches to the last 3 or 4 years to make sure you land on current issues.

Circuit Split -- Tip

Media and legal blogs often focus on splits among the federal Circuit Courts of Appeal.  Split outcomes on legal issues also occur between state and federal courts, among intermediate appellate courts in states that do not have a unified appellate structure, and at the highest level appellate courts of different states.