Indiana University Bloomington

Primary Navigation

BLAWg In Bloom

The Indiana Law Library Blog

A Finals Break with Vinny

Finals are almost over!  Come take a study break with the Law Library tonight. We’re going to be screening that legal classic My Cousin Vinny. Curtain up tonight at 6:30 in room 125.  Popcorn provided!

In the summertime when the weather is high…

…you can stretch right up and touch the sky.  When the weather’s fine, you’ve got legal research, you got legal research on your mind!

As you head out for the summer, ready to kickoff your summer gig and bask in the warm sunshine, it may help you to know which library resources you can use over the break.  All three of our major legal databases — WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law– have different summer access policies:

  • WestlawNext requires the completion of an online registration form and your summer employment situation must meet certain guidelines.
  • Lexis Advance will be freely available to all law students who have registered for it.  Please note this includes only Lexis Advance.  Those only registered with must activate Lexis Advance accounts to ensure no disruption in service.
  • Bloomberg Law will also be accessible to returning students for the summer.  For those graduating, you will have complimentary access for 6 months following your graduation.  If you haven’t yet signed-up for Bloomberg, follow the following procedure: (1) Go to either the Bloomberg Law link on the front page of the Law Library’s website, or; (2) On the left side of the screen, in the big orange box, click on “Register for a Law School Account”; (3) Skip the activation code box and fill out the remaining information. **You must use a “.edu” email account issued by Indiana in the “law school email address” field in order to successfully register.**

For the remainder of our Online Resources, students returning to continue their studies in the Fall will continue to have remote access using their IU username and password.  Additionally, the law library’s research guides are publicly available.

If you encounter any research questions, or a problem you’d like help with, drop us a line using our Ask-a-Librarian service or call the reference librarians at (812) 855-2938.  The Reference Office will be open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Have an enjoyable and relaxing summer!

Ch-ch-ch-changes: How the Internet and modern computer technologies have entered the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Computer technology is pervasive in our everyday lives.  Certainly technology plays a role in our private lives, whether it be our social media accounts, communication via Skype or text, cloud storage of personal photos and documents, or perhaps all of the above, and then some.  Outside of our personal lives too, whether in our professional capacities or preparing for class, technology plays a significant role.

Since the computer and mobile technology invasion began, attorneys and professional organizations have been aware of the ethical impact these technologies inevitably have on legal practice.  Thus, CLEs, ethics opinions, and law review articles abound discussing the ethics of social media use by attorneys, cloud computing in firms, and e-discovery.  The ABA took this one step further last August, adopting several amendments to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, discussing the lawyer’s roles and responsibilities when it comes to technology. (Note: where I’ve directly quoted the changes, italics indicate the changed language.)

Rule 1.0 – Terminology – 1.0(n) “Writing” or “Written” – where previously e-mail was listed among the examples of this term, this has been changed to the broader category of “electronic communications.”

Rule 1.1 – Competence – Comment 8 – “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with technology…”

Rule 1.4 – Communication – Comment 4 – This comment formerly contained a statement about prompt return of client phone calls.  This has been changed to say that “[a] lawyer should promptly respond to or acknowledge client communications.”

Rule 1.6 – Confidentiality of Information – Comment 18 – This comment discusses the necessary safeguards attorneys must take to protect client information.  “Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s efforts include, but are not limited to, the sensitivity of the information, the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed, the cost of employing additional safeguards, the difficulty of implementing safeguards, and the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively difficult to use).”  Both comments 18 and 19 of this rule additionally discuss data privacy as governed by state and/or federal law, and that, owing to such laws, the attorney may be bound to follow additional safeguards to maintain the privacy of client data.

Rule 4.4 – Respect for Rights of Third Persons – 4.4(b) – “A lawyer who receives a document or electronically stored information relating to the representation of the lawyer’s client and knows or reasonably should know that the document or electronically stored information was inadvertently sent shall promptly notify the sender.”  Comment 2 to this rule states that electronically stored information includes “email and other forms of electronically stored information, including embedded data (commonly referred to as ‘metadata’), that is subject to being read or put into readable form.  Metadata in electronic documents creates an obligation under this Rule only if the receiving lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the metadata was inadvertently sent to the receiving lawyer.

Rule 5.3 – Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistance – Comment 3 – This comment, pertaining to nonlawyers outside the firm, states that “[a] lawyer may use nonlawyers outside the firm to assist the lawyer in rendering legal services to the client.”  It cites as examples of this a document management company that creates/maintains a database for your firm; using a third party for printing and scanning client documents; and storing client information via an “Internet-based service.”  This comment goes on to say that, much like the ethical requirements regarding nonlawyers within the firm, the lawyer must take reasonable steps to ensure that the outside nonlawyers follow the ethical standards of the attorney when it comes to maintaining the confidentiality and privacy of the client’s information.

Rule 7.2 – Advertising – Several comments to this rule have been updated to include “Internet-based advertisements” and “other forms of electronic communication” among the many forms of lawyer advertising that fall under this rule.  Comment 3, moreover, states the power of electronic advertising in its many forms: “Television, the Internet, and other forms of electronic communication are among the most powerful media for getting information to the public, particularly persons of low and moderate income; prohibiting television, Internet, and other forms of electronic advertising, therefore, would impede the flow of information about legal services to many sectors of the public.”

Rule 7.3 – Solicitation of Clients – Comment 1 – This comment discusses the difference between a solicitation and a regular advertising communication, and discusses it in the context of various different types of advertising, including several ways in which an attorney’s services can be advertised online.

So what does all of this tell us?  For the most part, these changes are simply expansions of previously existing rules and comments to recognize the role that computer technology plays in attorney practice and advertising; however, some of the other changes go beyond this, discussing for example issues of data privacy and the balance between maintaining that privacy to the utmost through certain software and the difficulty and technical issues such high privacy standards can cause, potentially affecting the attorney’s use of that data.

Particularly interesting is the comment to Rule 1.1 on attorney competence that states that an attorney must possess knowledge of the “benefits and risks associated with technology” to comply with this rule.  Is this simply a cautionary comment, to make sure attorneys desiring to use cloud-based storage, for example, know the risks of involving a third party in housing clients’ data and information?  Or is it equally addressed to attorneys who have not jumped into the latest technologies, suggesting that, to be the best attorney you can be, it is important to utilize the best and most efficient means of representing your clients, which may very well include the introduction of certain software and Internet services into your practice?

I would imagine that further interpretation of these changes will be forthcoming through CLEs and ethics opinions, but students preparing to enter the legal profession will do well to keep these changes in mind, and, as the language of the previously mentioned comment suggests, consider the “benefits and risks associated with technology” as you prepare to practice.  Technology can certainly do a lot to enhance the legal profession, but with each new service comes new legal and ethical implications to be considered.

Check out the full text of all the August 2012 changes approved by the ABA House of Delegates.


Just in case you were wondering, that snow falling this morning was no joke– spring has officially been cancelled for the IU-Bloomington campus. “After years of careful analysis, we determined that law students concentrate better during cold, bleak weather,” announced Maurer Dean of Students Catherine Matthews. “Think about it! Don’t you hit the books a lot harder when it’s gray and miserable outside?” “The metrics do not lie!” echoed Professor Bill Henderson. “Just look at my groundbreaking study, Cleveland– Where the Sun Never Shines, But the Litigation Sizzles! Lake effect snow causes staggering increases in filings and billable hours!” When asked how exactly the Law School effected such drastic changes in weather patterns, Acting Dean Hannah Buxbaum replied, “This was actually a campus-wide initiative. The snow is not confined to the northwest corner of 3rd and Indiana.” Former Maurer Dean and IU-Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel likewise demurred when asked for details. “All I can say is that with great responsibility come some pretty awesome powers,” she said.

Nation’s favorite groundhog facing death penalty!

As you put on your scarf and gloves, pull on your boots, and chip the ice and brush the snow off your car this morning, take heart that you are still having a better day than Punxsutawney Phil

(courtesy of

Last week, a prosecutor in Ohio indicted Phil on felony fraud charges stemming from the Gobblers Knob resident’s February 2nd prediction of only six more weeks of winter.  Citing “aggravating circumstances” and seeking the death penalty, the indictment accuses the groundhog of “purposely, and with prior calculation and design,” causing people to believe that an early spring was forthcoming.  Intriguingly, Phil’s 39% accuracy rate is far worse than random guessing.  He is overwhelmingly likely to predict a long winter, forecasting an early Spring less than 14% of the time.  His century-long pattern of  inaccuracy may help save his hide.

Extradition issues aside, Phil is unlikely to stand trial.  Being a prudent and savvy marmot, he has already retained top-notch legal counsel.  In a motion to quash filed over the weekend, Phil’s legal team lays out a highly scientific defense.  Additionally, Bill Deeley, a high-profile member of Phil’s entourage, is attempting to take some of the heat off of the ground squirrel asserting: “I’m the guy that did it; I’ll be the fall guy.  It’s not Phil’s fault.”  Likely on advice from counsel, Phil has declined to publicly comment about the charges against him and maintained a low profile.

Will a defense consisting of rodent illiteracy, a negative North Atlantic Oscillation, and the misinterpretation of ‘Groundhogese‘ prevail?  Only time will tell.  Regardless of Phil’s ultimate fate, get ready to stow those snow boots for at least the next six months.  Relief is in sight.  In the meantime, stay warm!

Jumpstart Returns!

The extremely popular Jumpstart research program returns to the Law Library. Jumpstart sessions will be available April 1st-April 12th. The program, designed by the reference librarians, will again work towards preparing law students for summer internships, clerkships and the first year of practice. During last year’s sessions, a number of students learned the necessary research skills for dealing with materials such as legislative history, administrative law and the regulatory process, and computer-assisted legal research.

Following the formula established in previous years, each of the Jumpstart sessions will begin with a brief review of the basic legal resources so that every student has a complete grasp of the legal research process. The librarians will also provide information about more specialized types of reference books, including practice aids and form books. The Jumpstart sessions will then focus on individual student problems and questions about legal research, with an emphasis on the type of practice student participants will be seeing in the summer.

If you have any questions about the Jumpstart programs, be sure to drop by the Reference Office and speak to a reference librarian. We’d especially like to hear from those of you who already know in what jurisdiction you’ll be working this summer and any special areas of law with which you’ll be dealing. We tailor the Jumpstart sessions to your particular needs in order to make the program a continuing success.

Fifty years of Gideon v. Wainwright

(courtesy of

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark Supreme Court decision concerning the right to counsel.  Clarence Earl Gideon was a poor man living in Florida in 1961.  A single eyewitness accused Gideon of breaking into a local pool hall and stealing money from its vending machines.  At this time, a felonious offense.  After requesting and being denied legal counsel by the trial judge, Gideon was sentenced to 5 years in state prison.

While incarcerated, Gideon began reading and researching his case.  From his prison cell, he sent a handwritten petition to the Supreme Court requesting review of his case.  The Court granted certiorari and Abe Fortas, who would later become a Supreme Court justice, was appointed to represent Gideon.  A complete transcript and audio of the oral arguments is available from the Oyez Project.

On March 18th, 1963, in an opinion penned by Justice Hugo Black, the Court ruled in Gideon’s favor.  Invoking the Sixth Amendment, the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon requires states to provide legal counsel to indigent defendants charged with felonies.  Subsequent decisions expanded this right to all cases punishable by imprisonment (See Argersinger v. Hamlin, 1972).

On remand, Gideon received a new trial and — with the assistance of legal counsel — was acquitted.  In 1964, Gideon’s story was made into a book, Gideon’s Trumpet (later, a critically acclaimed made-for-television movie).  Yet controversy rages on as to whether the goal of providing effective legal counsel to indigent defendants, as endorsed by Gideon, has ever been realized.

Shelby County and the Voting Rights Act

Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in the Shelby v. Holder case.  Shelby County, Alabama is challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  In 1965 the Act was created to prevent discrimination in the voting process.  Prior to the VRA there were several practices designed to disenfranchise minority voters, particularly literacy tests.  Section 4(b) of the VRA identified states and political subdivisions that were particularly at risk for voting discrimination—states that had some sort of discriminatory voting practice in place and very low voter turnout.  Most of these states were in the South.  Section 5, meanwhile, requires “preclearance”—that is, if any of the states or political subdivisions wanted to change their election laws, they had to clear it with either the Attorney General or the D.C. District Court.  In 2006, Congress renewed this provision for another 25 years. Full Story »

Happy 281st birthday, George!

Happy birthday, George!

(courtesy of

Although we officially celebrate it on the third Monday of February each year, George Washington’s birthday is February 22, 1732.  Many happy returns, President Washington!  If you are interested in knowing more about our first president, Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, maintains a website devoted to all things George.  You can even subscribe to his daily blog!

As a humble gift to the legacy of George Washington and the men who followed him, we offer a few fun presidential facts.  Earlier this month was the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth; however, the month with the most presidential birthdays remains October, with six.  In addition to being a statesman and lawyer, Abraham Lincoln was a licensed bartender and co-owner of an Illinois saloon.  Andrew Jackson was involved in over 100 duels and carried bullets from two of them in his body throughout his life. Full Story »

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Want to wish your sweetie a happy Valentine’s Day and looking for an appropriate law-related way to do it?  Try using one of these Supreme Court Valentines from Georgetown Law Weekly!  Remember, nothing says romance like Justice Scalia.  Happy studying, and happy Valentine’s Day!