Tax Research

Researching tax law can be tough.  We’re lucky enough here to have a law librarian, Dennis Sears, who is a tax research expert.  To help tax law researchers, Prof. Sears has created and maintains a Taxation Law Subject Guide that is extremely helpful.  It points researchers to a variety of print and electronic sources in the different areas of tax law.  This subject guide has been so helpful to BYU Law students and others that it has been viewed over 5,000 times in the past year.  If you need to research tax law, this is a great place to start.

This and other subject guides created by our law librarians are available here.

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Low-Cost Legal Research

As school was coming to an end I blogged about student access to Westlaw/Lexis/Bloomberg for the summer.  While the access to Lexis and Bloomberg is wide open, some of you may not have access to Westlaw this summer.  Some of you may also be in firms that don’t use any of the more expensive legal research systems.  If you’re looking to go back to those firms, it would be a good idea to get familiar with the types of legal research systems that they’re using.

Free and low-cost legal research systems have been around for a while, but there seems to have been an uptick in their use over the past few years.  I think there are two main reasons for that.  First, the recession caused law firms to look for ways to cut costs and many firms were forced to look at alternatives to Westlaw/Lexis.  From that time until now, many of the free/low-cost alternatives have improved and some, like Google Scholar, were created.  All of this has led to more firms using these sources more often.  I know of one firm, for example, that has cut their Westlaw contract and uses Google Scholar for its case law research.  Many others use the resources, like Casemaker or Fastcase, that are offered by their Bar Association.

With all that said, it’s important to be familiar with free and low-cost resources and what they can offer (as well as what they lack).  Here’s a guide we’ve created that has links to a number of free and low-cost sources, as well as some additional information on using these sources.  We hope it will help you get familiar with some of these sources this summer.


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Armed Conflicts Database

The Law Library has recently subscribed to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Armed Conflicts Database.  This database monitors current conflicts worldwide, “focusing on political, military and humanitarian trends in current conflicts, whether they are local rebellions, long-term insurgencies, civil wars or inter-state conflicts.” Currently there are 41 armed conflicts occurring across the world.  This database provides news, information, and statistics on each.  For example, researchers can get a brief summary of the conflict in Libya and see a number of news events surrounding the conflict that occurred last month.  Researchers can also see that there have been 31,078 fatalities in this conflict since 2011.  This database will be especially useful for students who take Prof. Jensen’s Law of Armed Conflicts class.

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Construction Update

Here are a few construction pictures from last week.

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Digital Collections

100,000 downloads.  That was the milestone our digital repository hit last week.  Pretty impressive if you ask us.  The Howard W. Hunter Law Library Digital Collections, which debuted at the end of last summer, provides free access to a number of documents, including the complete archive of the Brigham Young University Law Review, the Journal of Public Law, the Education Law Journal and the Int’l Law and Management Review.  Digital Collections also has a large collection of Utah State Briefs that are added to daily, as well as other law school publications like the Clark Memorandum and the 3 volumes of the Life in the Law series.

Recently we’ve added a wonderful download map that shows what documents are being downloaded and from where.  Watching the balls drop can be addicting.  In the last few minutes we’ve had downloads of a BYU Law Review article from Shijazhuang, China, a UT Court of Appeals brief from Portland, Oregon, an Education and Law Journal article from Montreal, Canada, and a BYU Law Review article from Syracuse, New York.  The page resets when it’s opened, but leave it there for a few minutes and you’ll start to see the downloads.

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Summer Construction

The interior of the Law School is undergoing construction this summer, but the law library remains open.  Our summer hours are 8am-6pm Mon.-Sat.  The entrance into the library from the East parking lot has moved slightly, but there are signs to lead you in.  Reference assistance is still available by multiple means and we’re happy to help if you have research questions.  Currently demolition is going on in the area that used to house Career Services.  Here’s what it looks like:

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Summer Help

The Write-On is winding down and externships and jobs will soon be starting up.  Just because you’ll be gone for the summer doesn’t mean the library will abandon you.  This is the time for you to put those legal research skills into practice and we’re here to help if you need us.  The reference desk will be staffed 8-6 M-F and 9-5 Sat.  Feel free to give us a call at 801-422-6658.  Also there is an “Ask a Librarian” link on the Law Library webpage that will give you the option of emailing or chatting with a law librarian.  We hope to hear from you!

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WL/LX/BL Summer Access

Finals are over!  Congrats!  Now that “summer” is here, it’s time to answer a question that I get often throughout the school year.  Can students use Westlaw or Lexis during their summer work?  The answer is that it depends.  Each legal research vendor has its own policies on what summer accounts can be used for during the summer.  These rules have relaxed quite a bit over the last few years, so many of you will be able to use at least some of your student accounts for research this summer.

With that said, let me make a plug for not always using your student account.  Let’s say you’re working for a small firm that you’d like to work for after graduation that only uses Casemaker.  Casemaker is a Utah Bar member benefit, so Utah attorneys have access to it for “free.”  Using your Westlaw or Lexis student account isn’t going to give you the practice you need to perform the research on Casemaker that you’ll have to do if you get hired.  Just a thought.

Lexis Advance – Student accounts can be used for any type of research this summer.

Bloomberg Law – Student accounts can be used for any type of research this summer.

WestlawNext – Student accounts can be extended over the summer for summer classes, law review and journal work, projects for a professor, Moot Court, and unpaid externships for school credit.  The caveat to externships is that you can’t use your student account if the firm is going to bill your client for the research that you’re performing.  To extend your password and see a more detailed explanation of when your student account can be used, see this page (you’ll have to sign in first).  Contact our Westlaw rep, Jeff Brandimarte ( with further questions.

I’ll post more soon about ways the library can help over the summer.

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End of Westlaw Classic

Westlaw recently announced that they will be retiring Westlaw Classic for law school accounts on July 1, 2014.  WestlawNext will then be the only Westlaw platform available to the law school community.  This timetable applies only to law school accounts, so it’s still possible that students and new graduates will see Westlaw Classic at their jobs even after July 1.

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Get Ready for Finals

It’s hard to believe finals are already here.  As always, the library has a number of resources and services to help you get ready for finals.

Sample Exams – The Law Library has a number of sample exams for BYU Law professors and courses.  These sample exams are available electronically and can be null or through the “For Law Students” section of our webpage.  BYU Law students with a current BYU Net ID and password can access these exams.  Sample exams can be browsed by professor or by class.  We currently have sample exams for Professors Augustine-Adams, Backman, Benson, Brinton, Durham, Fee, Ferrin, Lee, Mangelson, Rasband, Scharffs, Thomas, Todd/Nydegger/Richards, Wardle and Wilkins.  If your professor doesn’t appear on this list, you will still likely be able to find sample exams for the class that you are taking on the sample exams page.

Flash Cards – One of the popular study helps we offer are flash cards by Law in a Flash.  Near finals time it’s tough to keep these puppies on the shelf.  You can check them out for 2 hours at a time at the circulation desk.  We currently have the following sets of flash cards: Civil Procedure (parts 1 & 2), Con Law (parts 1 & 2), Contracts, Corporations, Criminal Law, Crim. Pro., Evidence, Fed Tax, Future Interests, Professional Responsibility (parts 1 & 2), Real Property, Sales, Secured Transactions, Torts, and Wills and Trusts.

CALI – The Law Library’s subscription to CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, provides BYU law students with access to nearly 900 internet-based lessons on 35 different legal topics.  Lessons range from core 1L courses to many different 2L/3L courses.  In addition to being web-based, CALI lessons are often interactive–asking you questions to test your knowledge as you go along.  Not only does this help you retain things better, but it can help add some variety to your study techniques.  If you don’t have a username and password already, email me at and I can get you our authorization code.

Study Guides – We collect a number of study guides that may be useful as you brush up for finals.  They are available in the Reserve Library and can be found by browsing  or by searching the library catalog.  The best way to find them is to pull down the drop-down next to the library search box on our home page, select Study Guides and search for your subject.  Study Guides in the Reserve Library are available for 2 hour checkout to law students.

Extended Hours – As of Monday, April 7, the Law Library is now open until 1am Monday-Friday until finals end.  We will continue to close at 11pm on Saturday.

Study Rooms – The law library is home to 14 group study rooms that are especially popular during finals.  Law students can reserve study rooms online in 2 hour blocks.  We ask that you please be respectful of others as groups transition between study rooms.

Quiet Reading Room - The Quiet Reading Room in the northeast portion of the library’s main floor is also available for study.  This room is for law students only (so bring your ID card to swipe in) and quiet study will be enforced.  We ask that you help us keep the noise down in there.

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