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Earn a Certificate in Research Skills for Practice

The Certificate in Research Skills for Practice program provides training in the legal research skills most useful for new lawyers. Did you know:

  • 45% of a new associate's time is spent doing research
  • 70% of new legal researchers need help using print and online resources together
  • Research showed that new associates could not:
    - Effectively and efficiently use print legal research materials
    - Perform legislative histories
    - Proficiently use an index or table of contents
    - Understand key sources for specific practice areas.

Cost-effective and efficient research is more important now than ever. Improve your skills by attending practical, hands-on research classes tailored to the realities of today's legal landscape. Every class emphasizes resources and skills outside of Lexis and Westlaw and you choose the classes that fit your future practice needs.

Classes are taught by experienced legal information librarians, who have law degrees as well as library degrees. Each class will be 1 hour and will have a brief assignment which you will need to return to your instructor. To obtain a certificate you must complete at least 6 of the 16 offered classes.

Register for classes.

View the classes.

Spring 2013 Classes:

Administrative Law Research
Instructor: Steven Ellis • sgellis@bu.edu
Mar. 26 & 28 at 1PM; Mar. 29 at 2PM

Finding a regulation, making sure you have the most up-to-date version of the CFR, and learning about proposed regulations, these are all tasks you need to perform when doing research in a regulatory area.  Learn these tasks in this class.

Alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw
Instructor: Ellen Richardson • emric@bu.edu
Apr. 1 & 3 at 1PM

Think your unlimited Lexis and Westlaw access will continue outside of law school? Think again! Come learn how to use other legal research databases like Loislaw, Fast Case, Mass Cases, and Casemaker (included with a Massachusetts Bar Association membership).

Case Law Research in Print
Instructor: Steve Donweber • donweber@bu.edu
Feb. 25 & 27 at 1PM

Did you know you can do complex case-law research in print?  Besides being an invaluable skill if you lack Lexis or Westlaw access, proficiency in print caselaw research can help you understand and use headnotes and key numbers better whether researching in print or online.

Court Documents
Instructor: Stefanie Weigmann • sweig@bu.edu
Mar. 25, 27, & 29 at 1PM

Looking for a docket sheet to see the status of a case?  Need a brief?  Court documents is a universe unto itself.  Some court documents are easy to find and others are impossible.  Come learn how to manage the complex, but important realm of court documents. We will investigate PACER, Bloomberg Law, state court docket Web sites, and the United States Supreme Court docket Web site.

EU Law Research
Instructor: Stefanie Weigmann • sweig@bu.edu
Feb. 5 & 7 at 1PM

The increase in transnational business means that many transactions brush up against the laws of other countries.  One of our primary trading partners is Europe.  The EU has created a layer of law over the domestic laws of European counties.  Learn what the EU is and how to navigate its law in this class.

Finding the Best Way
Instructor: Steve Donweber • donweber@bu.edu
Feb. 20 & 22 at 1PM

The partner just walked into your office; the pressure is on. When you get an assignment, whether it's a citation, fifty-state survey, memo, or oral advice, what are the best tools to do the task you've been assigned quickly and efficiently? Learn how to approach different research tasks and choose the appropriate strategy.

Finding Treaties
Instructor: David Bachman • dbachman@bu.edu
Feb. 11 & 13 at 1PM

Some assignments, once you analyze them, turn out to involve a treaty.  Find out how to determine if the U.S. is a signatory and where to find the most authoritative text of the treaty.

Foreign Legal Research
Instructor: Steven Ellis • sgellis@bu.edu
March 5 & 7 at 1PM

Researching the law of another legal jurisdiction can be frustrating. The goal of this class is to minimize your frustration. You will learn the best strategies, resources and tools for researching foreign laws as you tackle foreign research scenarios in class.

Free Legal Research
Instructor: David Bachman • dbachman@bu.edu
Apr. 8, 10, & 12 at 1PM

If doing cost effective legal research is a priority, it is essential to make use of web sites that provide information that is both reliable and free. This session will include government sites, Google Scholar, indispensable blogs and news sources, and other ways to locate information and documents without using commercial databases or visiting a library.

Keeping Up with the Law
Instructor: David Bachman • dbachman@bu.edu
Feb. 26 & 28 & Mar. 1 at 1PM

One of a lawyer’s most challenging tasks is staying current in a practice area.  Find out how to use the same free and subscription services used by lawyers to keep up-to-date in any legal area.

Legislative Process and Congressional Documents
Instructor: Ellen Richardson • emric@bu.edu
Feb. 19 & 21 at 1PM

Most lawyers must do legislative history research at some point in their career.  This research intensive task is a favorite assignment for young attorneys.  Learn about the documents you need to complete a legislative history and where you can find them.

Massachusetts Litigation Research
Instructor: Ellen Richardson • emric@bu.edu
Feb. 12 & 14 at 1PM

If you're planning to practice in Massachusetts, come learn how to find primary sources like state statutes, regulations, and judicial opinions, as well as relevant secondary sources and court documents, rules and forms.

People Searching
Instructor: Ellen Richardson • emric@bu.edu
Apr. 9 & 11 at 1PM; Apr. 12 at 2PM

Ever needed to find an address, phone number, or other information about a person? Come learn how to use public records and other resources to locate birth, death, and marriage certificates, property records and more!

Power Searching
Instructor: Jennifer Ekblaw • jekblaw@bu.edu
Apr. 2 & 4 at 1PM

WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law were all designed so that people would not have to remember terms and connectors anymore. In this class, you will learn when you may want to run more specific searches and the rules of constructing detailed search strings on the classic platforms.

Download the Assignment

Statutory Research in Print
Instructor: Jennifer Ekblaw • jekblaw@bu.edu
Mar. 4 & 6 at 1PM

Many lawyers prefer statutory research in print, and with good reason.  This class will get you comfortable with statutes, pocket parts, updating pamphlets, indexes and tables and give you the confidence to perform this low-cost legal research with ease.

Transactional Law Research
Instructor: Steve Donweber • donweber@bu.edu
Feb. 4 & 6 at 1PM

This class will provide an in-depth look at the best research tools for transactional lawyers, including EDGAR, Bloomberg Law, and BNA.

Register for classes.

Experienced Instructors

Each class in the Certificate in Research Skills for Practice program is taught by experienced legal information librarians who have law degrees as well as library degrees.

David Bachman received his JD from Washington University and worked in St. Louis as a judicial clerk and a litigator. He was a legal reference librarian at Vanderbilt before coming to BU Law. He will teach Free Legal Research, Finding Treaties, and Keeping Up with the Law.

Steve Donweber graduated from Cornell and Villanova and worked at Saul Ewing as a litigator for 10 years.  He will teach Finding the Best Way, Case Law Research in Print, and Transactional Law Research.

Jennifer Ekblaw received her JD and M.L.S. from Indiana University in Indianapolis. She worked in law libraries at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and the Office of the Indiana Attorney General before coming to BU Law. She will teach Power Searching and Statutory Research in Print.

Steven Ellis received his JD from the University of San Diego and has worked at the University of Arizona and University of Melbourne, Australia law libraries. He clerked in Paris, France and worked in Melbourne, Australia for a large firm where he also completed a Post Graduate Law Diploma in Labor Relations law. His work experience includes years working as a union advocate and negotiator as well as extensive non-profit organizational work. He will teach Foreign Legal Research and Administrative Law Research.

Ellen Richardson has a J.D. and concurrent LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from Cornell Law School where she was a Managing Editor of the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. She received her MLIS from the University of Washington. Ellen comes to Pappas from the University of South Carolina Coleman Karesh Law Library. She will teach Alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw, Legislative Process and Congressional Documents, Massachusetts Litigation Research, and People Searching.

Stefanie Weigmann graduated from University of Michigan Law School, and then clerked for a federal judge in Puerto Rico and worked at Cleary Gottlieb as a tax attorney.  Stefanie will teach EU Law Research and Court Documents.

Register for Classes Today

Registration is required for Research Skills for Practice classes. Space is limited, so register early to secure your spot.

Questions about registration? Contact the Pappas Law Library Reference Librarians at lawref@bu.edu or consult the Frequently Asked Questions.

Registration for the Spring 2014 Certification Program will be available early next year.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to register to attend classes?

Yes. Please register for each class you plan to attend. Registration will secure your spot in the class and will allow your instructor to remind you of the class meeting location and time prior to the class. If you want to change your registration at a later time, please email Ellen Richardson at emric (at) bu (dot) edu.

Can I register for more than the 6 classes required for the certificate?

Yes. Register and attend as many of the classes as you wish. Your certificate will note the number of hours of research training you have completed. 6 hours is the minimum number of training hours required for the Certificate in Research Skills for Practice.

Can I register for only 1 or 2 classes that interest me?

Yes. You may register and attend any of the classes even if you do not plan to complete the certificate. You may also attend a few classes and decide later whether to complete more classes to earn the certificate.

Will the certification classes require any outside work or assignments?

After a class, each student will complete and return a brief assignment. The Certificate in Research Skills for Practice program is designed to give participants experience with common research tasks for new lawyers. Because research skills are best learned through application and repetition, each class concludes with an assignment to reinforce the class's most important points. The assignments are brief and should take no more than 25 minutes to complete.

Can I finish a certificate I started during last year's certification program?

Yes. Attend enough classes to meet the requirements of last year's certification program. For example, if you needed 2 classes to complete the requirements for certification last year, complete at least 2 classes this year to earn the certificate. When registering for the program, note that you are completing a certificate you started last year.

What if I cannot attend one or more classes that interest me due to my schedule?

Each class is offered at least twice. If neither of these times fit in your schedule, consider Classes on Demand. Even if you do not know of anyone else who wants to attend the session, consider contacting the class instructor to discuss the possibility of offering another class time or of obtaining the class materials.

Have a question not addressed here? Ask a legal information librarian.

Here's What Last Year's Students Said:

I love that the BU law library offers this!! I plan on finishing my certificate and feel that this will help me exponentially in the future in school and in future jobs.

I'm really glad I learned about free legal resources like the THOMAS database and HeinOnline. They'll be useful to me in the future.

The class was fantastic. I think that it is incredibly useful to have the opportunity to learn more about print research as it is something that most everybody will need to do at some point.

Skills for Success:
The Inside Scoop on Legal Research in Practice

  • What resources do new lawyers use in practice?
  • How much does online legal research cost?
  • What can you do while in law school to prepare for the real-world of legal research?

Come enjoy lunch and hear from BUSL graduates what new summer associates, attorneys, and interns are expected to know about legal research and the skills your employers will expect you to possess on day one. Don't miss this lively and informative panel, relevant whether you are going to a firm, an internship, the government, or a small practice!

The time and place of the 2014 panel is TBD.

Pizza and refreshments provided courtesy of our sponsors: Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw.

Spring 2013 Panelists:

Orly Shoham

Orly graduated from BU Law in May 2012, where she was a member of the Housing, Employment, Family, and Disability Clinic.  After graduation, she began working as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Labor in the Office of the Solicitor.

Bailey Goldberg

Bailey Goldberg graduated from BU law in 2012 and is licensed to practice in Massachusetts.  In September 2012, Bailey began working for Cushing & Dolan, P.C., an estate planning firm in Waltham, Massachusetts.  He has since been focusing his practice on corporate law and estate planning.

Chris Valente

Chris Valente is a fourth-year associate in the Boston office of K&L Gates LLP and concentrates his practice in civil and commercial litigation.  Over the past four years, Chris has worked on a wide variety of matters, including consumer finance litigation, insurance coverage litigation and government enforcement actions.

Carlos Duque

Carlos is a third year associate at a boutique law firm in Orange County, California specializing in M&A and securities litigation. His practice focuses on securities fraud, UCC Article 8 and other statutory and contractual breaches as they relate to publicly traded "penny stock" companies.

Susan Cleary

Susan is the Director of Library Services at Nutter McClennen & Fish, LLP. One of Susan's duties is legal research training for new associates. 

Stephen Donweber
is a senior reference librarian and lecturer in law at BUSL. Prior to joining the staff at BU Law, he worked for 10 years as a litigator at Saul Ewing in Philadelphia. In addition to his responsibilities as a reference librarian, Steve teaches Federal Civil Practice, Discovery Theory and Practice, and Securities Law Research at the law school.

Archived Class Pages

Did you take a certification class last year and want to refer to the class page? All of the 2011-2013 class pages are archived here so that you can refer back to them as necessary.

Administrative Law Research

Spring 2012 Class Page

Administrative Regulations without Westlaw and Lexis

Spring 2011 Class Page

Alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw

Spring 2011 Class Page

Cool Tools for Lawyers

Spring 2012 Class Page.

Finding Treaties

Spring 2012 Class Page

Spring 2011 Class Page

Foreign Legal Research

Spring 2011 Class Page

Spring 2013 Class Page

Free Legal Research

Spring 2013 Class Page

International Legal Research

Spring 2011 Class Page

Legal Research on the Internet 

Spring 2011 Class page

The Spring 2013 Survey has been closed.


Page maintained by Reference Staff
Last updated:May 2013