Call for Nominations: FCIL Awards

The FCIL-SIS Executive Board is currently accepting nominations to honor FCIL-SIS members who have made outstanding contributions to our community.

FCIL-SIS gives out the following awards:

  1. Established in 2006, the Daniel L. Wade FCIL-SIS Outstanding Service Award honors an FCIL-SIS member who has made outstanding contributions to the Section in the areas of section activity and professional service.

    Criteria to be considered include: outstanding leadership in the Section, at meetings, and in committee work; special and notable service to the Section, such as participation in special projects; participation in Section educational programs and public-speaking activities;  mentoring activities that encourage others in the Section; and Activities that encourage others to join the Section.

    Past winners include: Dan Wade, Marci Hoffman, Mary Rumsey, Maria Smolka-Day, Teresa Miguel-Stearns; Mila Rush; Ellen Schaffer; Marylin Raisch; Dennis Sears; Mirela Roznovschi; Lyonette Louis-Jacques; Alison Shea; Jonathan Pratter; James Hart; and Sergio Stone.

  2. The Thomas H. Reynolds and Arturo A. Flores FCIL-SIS Publications Award honors FCIL-SIS members who have greatly contributed to the professional development of their AALL colleagues during any given year.

    The award is named after Thomas H. Reynolds and Arturo A. Flores, authors of the Foreign Law Guide.  The winning “publications” may be print, digital, or electronic initiatives. The decisive factor for bestowing the Award is “the degree to which the publication enhances the professional knowledge and capabilities of law librarians.”

    Previous winners include Teresa Miguel-Stearns and Alison Shea; Marci Hoffman and Mary Rumsey; Wei Luo; Ralph Gaebler and Alison Shea; Mirela Roznovschi; Timothy G. Kearley; and the authors of the Mexican Law and Legal Research Guide: Bianca T. Anderson, Marisol Floren-Romero, Julienne E. Grant, Jootaek Lee, Lyonette Louis-Jacques, Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns, Jonathan Pratter, and Sergio Stone.

  3. The Spirit of the FCIL-SIS Award is presented each year to members whose work further the FCIL-SIS’s mission, serves the FCIL-SIS community, and inspires others to act.  See the long list of previous winners of the Spirit of the FCIL-SIS award here.

Submit your nominees to any member of the Executive Board: Alex Zhang, Catherine Deane; Sabrina Sondhi, or Alison Shea by March 31, 2018.

Using the “A” Word in Legal Research Instruction

By Alyson Drake

Both the legal academy[1] and librarians[2] have long recognized that analysis is a critical component of the legal research process.  Despite this, legal research has long been put on the back burner in legal education and is often viewed by our colleagues and our student as a rote, mechanical task.  This is partially due to the fact that we don’t talk about research explicitly as an analytical task, probably because analysis is so entrenched in legal research that it seems obvious to librarians.

As legal research instructors, it is critical that we point out the analysis inherent in our research classes to our students. Students will value our courses more and get more out of them if they do not view research as simply a gathering task. Students will also become better researchers and attorneys by practicing engaging in analysis while they research.

Yes, this can be difficult to do. After all, it can be challenging enough just to teach students how to locate materials using the wide variety of databases and other sources they must be familiar with, and we only have so much time with our students. This may be especially true in FCIL research courses in which students are often researching outside of Westlaw and Lexis for the first time. But separating the ability to locate sources from analysis only serves to diminish the importance of researching as a lawyerly task.

So how can we bring the analysis into our classroom, even if we don’t always have considerable time to spend on it, due to the need to also teach the bibliographic side of legal research?

  1. Have a discussion about the values of a good legal researcher. In a fantastic post on the RIPS-SIS Law Librarian Blog this past week, Paul Gatz identified several virtues valuable to the legal researcher, including curiosity, intellectual honesty, perseverance, adaptability, and humanity. This discussion should expand into what skills legal researchers should have. Part of this discussion should include the importance of analytical thinking in conducting research effectively. Trust me, if they’re not hearing it from us, they’re definitely not hearing it from anyone else in their law school careers.
  2. Have discussions with your students about where analysis comes into play in legal research, from research planning to evaluating resources to knowing when it is appropriate to stop researching (plus many others). Without pointing it out, these times when students must use their analytical skills stay hidden. Students won’t be necessarily be able to identify those times when analysis is important if we don’t tell them; instead, they’ll look at research as just using technology to gather sources, rather than a problem-solving endeavor.
  3. ELRclass

    Whenever possible, try to incorporate simulations into your practice exercises so students have an opportunity to use their analysis skills.  Not every problem has to require students to analyze the sources they’ve found to a factual scenario–after all, first we do need to ensure they can locate a foreign law or a bilateral treaty. But they should do this regularly enough that analysis becomes a regular part of the research process for them. These simulations do not have to necessarily be long fact patterns; they can simply ask the student whether a certain provision of a treaty they just located would apply in a given situation and asking them to explain why. This simulates exactly what they would do in practice–considering whether that source would be relevant to the issue they’re researching.  Just like any other skill law students are learning, there must be multiple opportunities for practicing their legal research analysis. Treasure hunts, while they have a value for the bibliographic skills we must teach, tend to reinforce the ideas that research is just gathering and that analysis is a separate task.

Analysis does not belong solely with writing in the law school curriculum. By the time students sit down to write, they should already know which sources are helpful for which issues. As analysis has long been the hallmark of legal education, reclaiming it as a legal research skill may also be key to illuminating the importance of legal research in the law school curriculum, which is long overdue.


[1] See, e.g., Am. Bar Ass’n Section of Legal Educ. & Admissions to the Bar, Legal Education and Professional Development—An Educational Continuum: Report of the Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap 138-141 (1992) (MacCrate Report).

[2] See, e.g., Am. Ass’n of Law Librarians, Principles & Standards for Legal Research Competency (2013).


February 2018 GlobaLex Issue Now Live

By Lucie Olejnikova

The February 2018 issue of GlobaLex is now live, featuring four articles. We are pleased to bring you two new articles and two great updates. GlobaLex is an electronic publication dedicated to foreign, international, and comparative law research.

An Introduction to International Fisheries Law by Abdullah Al Arif at

Abdullah Al Arif is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Law, Daffodil International University, Bangladesh. He is currently on study leave and writing his doctoral thesis on ‘Achieving Sustainable Marine Fisheries in Bangladesh: A Legal and Policy Analysis’ at Macquarie Law School, NSW, Australia. He has recently published an article entitled ‘Legal Status of Maximum Sustainable Yield Concept in International Fisheries Law and Its Adoption in the Marine Fisheries Regime of Bangladesh: A Critical Analysis’ in the International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law.

International Humanitarian Law by Thamil Venthan Anathavimayagan at

Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan holds an LL.M. from Maastricht University, The Netherlands and has submitted his PhD with the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is currently a lecturer for international law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law at Griffith College, Dublin. Prior to joining Griffith College, he was a Fellow and research assistant at the Irish Centre for Human Rights in Galway, Ireland. Thamil has also studied civil/public and criminal law in Germany at the universities of Bonn and Marburg, with particular focus on international law.

UPDATE: Guide on Researching Chinese Mass Media Law by Alex “Xiaomeng” Zhang at

Alex Zhang is the Head of Public Services and Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School, USA. She received a B.A. in Philosophy and a Chinese Law Certificate from Nanjing University, China, and an M.A. in Philosophy from Tulane University. She attended the University of Kansas Law School earning her J.D. with a certificate in International Trade and Finance Law in 2006. She also received an M.S.I from the University of Michigan, School of Information in 2009. Before joining Stanford, Alex was a senior Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian and Adjunct Professor of Law at University of Michigan Law School, USA.

UPDATE: Legal Information Institutes and the Free Access to Law Movement by Graham Greenleaf, Philip Chung, and Andrew Mowbray at

Graham Greenleaf AM is Professor of Law & Information Systems at UNSW Australia, and Co-Founder, AustLII. Dr Philip Chung is Associate Professor of Law at UNSW Australia and Executive Director, AustLII. Andrew Mowbray is Professor of Law and Information Technology, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), and Co-Director, AustLII.


For more articles, see

Teaching FCIL Research Series: Fun with FCIL Assignments

By Beau Steenken


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

One of my favorite parts of teaching is drafting assignments, as the activity provides an outlet for creativity to a greater degree than other parts of my job. If you think about it, drafting assignments does rather mirror writing fiction. You make up a client/protagonist, give said protagonist some sort of problem or conflict, and then set up the means of resolving said conflict. This is especially true of writing assignments for experiential simulation courses as you have to provide enough detail for the problems to simulate real case files. Engaging in this activity for an FCIL research course, however, presents a unique set of challenges.

The main difficulty I encountered in drafting assignments for my initial FCIL course was to come up with assignments realistic enough to satisfy the requirements for a simulation course without leading my students to pretend violate professional responsibility standards. (I feel comfortable in assuming that my students by and large will be licensed in the U.S. and not foreign jurisdictions. Furthermore, under simulation standards, I would be assuming the role of supervising attorney, and I’m also only licensed domsestically.) Additionally, I still needed to use the assignments to measure students’ proficiency in each of the discrete learning outcomes I identified for the course in getting it approved. Thus, I still needed assignments that would require students to:

  • analyze a set of facts to determine what legal issues are presented,
  • research the law to answer legal questions,
  • communicate clearly and effectively in oral and written form, including electronic media, and
  • explain ways in which laws are made and what gives different forms of law authority.

Though I took the learning outcomes I submitted for the course from our list of approved programmatic outcomes (meaning that they were designed with courses on American law in mind), they lined up well with conducting FCIL research. I especially like the last outcome for FCIL assignments, as the forms of law differ quite a bit, and so a large part of what I teach in the class is how to determine what sources exercise what level of authority for a given jurisdiction. Still, drafting assignments that combined these outcomes with realistic problems that could be worked on by attorneys licensed in the U.S. took a bit longer than anticipated.

Altogether I had my FCIL students complete three research assignments, one each for class segments on Foreign, International, and European Union legal research. By far the easiest (and most fun) to draft was the International Law assignment. The assignment required students to take on the role of advising a made-up state (because the state was completely made up, I was also able to make up its own professional responsibility standards rendering that particular concern null for at least one assignment) and to evaluate which of three legal arguments (preemptive self-defense, collective security, or invitation to intervene) would be the best justification for a military strike that had already happened. Sadly, I became so involved in writing the scenario and so giddy at my own cleverness in fictionalizing away professional responsibility, that I forgot to also balance the assignment with consideration of feasibility for my poor students (which they brought to my attention on course evaluations). Thus, in addition to being the easiest and most fun to write, it also stands as the assignment in need of most revision going forward.

For the foreign and E.U. assignments, I got around the P.R. problem by employing a similar plot device in each assignment. My students took on the role of American attorneys conducting initial research to advise clients on whether those clients wanted to take the next step of hiring counsel in foreign jurisdictions. My foreign assignment tasked students with representing an eccentric entrepreneur who wished to relocate off-shore. They had to compare several jurisdictions of my choosing and evaluate those jurisdictions’ mechanisms for dispute resolution and the jurisdictions’ immigration regulations in order to make a recommendation as to which jurisdiction the client should relocate. (The former requirement allowed me to measure my final outcome while not breaking the Fourth Wall of the simulation assignment.) They delivered their recommendations via powerpoint presentations. In the E.U. assignment, the students represented a toy maker who’d been approached by a French company about expanding into new markets. The toymaker wanted to know whether it would be worth looking into by asking whether its current toys would likely satisfy safety regulations in Europe. Thus, students had to find and apply an E.U. Directive as well as French implementing legislation. Their conclusions on the matter took the form of either recommending that the toymaker engage French counsel or by advising that to continue would probably mean changing the toy manufacturing process. (This way they weren’t simulating practice in a jurisdiction in which none of us were licensed.) Interestingly, my students seemed to like this last assignment the best, I think because it was most similar to what they are used to doing with American law.

Ultimately, I feel like my assignments were successful, and I did get good learning outcome data from them. They were also a blast to write, not only because I enjoy FCIL subjects, but also because they required a certain degree of meta-narrative to satisfy both simulation requirements and outcomes-based education requirements.


From the Reference Desk: Can You Do That? Filing Amicus Curiae Briefs in Other Countries

By Lora Johns

Slovakia“I would like to see an amicus brief filed by Alliance Defending Freedom in Slovakia.”

Before I got this question, it had never even occurred to me that Americans might want to—or even could—file friend-of-the-court briefs in other countries’ courts.

In this case, Alliance Defending Freedom—a group vehemently opposed to marriage equality for same-sex couples—wanted to file a brief in the Constitutional Court of Slovakia, which in 2014 was about to consider a petition on a proposed referendum to define marriage as heterosexual only to bar same-sex couples from adopting children, among other questions. Over 400,000 Slovak citizens signed the petition supporting the referendum. Slovak President Andrej Kiska asked the Constitutional Court to review the measure because the country’s constitution forbids holding a referendum to change “fundamental rights and liberties.”

What struck me is that the Slovak legal system is a “continental” civil-law legal system in which only statutes are technically recognized as sources of law—not the kind of common-law system we have in the States. The judicial system is very different from ours; the courts of first instance have no juries, but rather “lay judges”—regular people who serve as judges alongside one professional judge. The Constitutional Court is a strange creature as well. Subject to standing requirements, it reviews the constitutionality of any legislation, among other things, but its jurisdiction is very selective. In this case, the President asked the Constitutional Court to evaluate whether holding a referendum on same-sex marriage would violate the Constitution. The Court eventually ruled that the referendum could proceed; however, the referendum failed to pass in 2015 due to low voter turnout.

The interesting question here from a legal research standpoint, though, is that amicus brief. The ADF sent it as a letter to the Chair of the Constitutional Court (predsedníčka Ústavného súdu Slovenskej republiky). The cover letter claims ADF has “special consultative status” (osobitný konzultačný status) at the Economic and the UN Social Council and “full accreditation” with the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. It also states that it has intervened in dozens of cases before the European Court of Human Rights.

To me, the form and addressee of the letter and the recitation of reasons why the court should take the attached brief under consideration indicated that they were not de rigeur in a civil law jurisdiction like Slovakia’s. I was curious, so I did a little research.

Amicus briefs have a history dating back to Roman Law, and while they are mostly a creature of common law jurisdictions—especially the United States—they make appearances in international adjudicatory bodies as well. This can be tricky, as many courts restrict participation in suits to parties only. However, the uptick in cases dealing with issues of broad interest—like human rights and environmental causes—means that more non-governmental organizations want to air their opinions in venues like the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. See Dinah Shelton, “The Participation of Nongovernmental Organizations in International Judicial Proceedings,” 88 Am. J. Int’l L. 611 (1994).

It is easy enough to research these amicus briefs—standard procedures for researching cases in the ICJ, the ECHR, and other major courts usually suffices. But what’s more interesting is the acceptance of amicus briefs—like ADF’s—in civil-law courts that do not traditionally accept them. As distinct from rapporteurs publics or Vertreter des öffentlichen Interesses, who have a long tradition in France and Germany respectively of providing neutral research to the courts, more civil law jurisdictions are warming to the American style of amicus—a person or organization very much interested in the overarching policy surrounding the dispute, but with no concrete stake in the outcome of the particular case.

NGOs helped blaze the trail for the acceptance of amicus briefs by courts that, unlike common-law tribunals, had not used them before. See Steven Kochevar, Comment, “Amici Curiae in Civil Law Jurisdictions,” 122 Yale L.J. 1653 (2013). Some courts, especially those in Latin America, have formally adopted rules and procedures for accepting amicus briefs. (That is good news for those of us who may be called upon to find them.) In antitrust cases, the European Union requires its member states’ national courts to accept the “written observations” of certain governmental authorities. Individual jurisdictions—for instance, France and Poland—have gone further, welcoming amici in cases on a wider range of subject matters.

Other courts, however, have no formal procedures for submitting amicus briefs—though that hasn’t stopped would-be amici from trying (and often succeeding). These briefs are more difficult to research, not only because they span such a wide ideological spectrum, but also because of the informality with which they are offered and accepted. Recall that the ADF’s brief was sent as a personal letter to the chief judge of the Constitutional Court of Slovakia.

The increasing influence of international law and the pressure to conform national standards to international ones (e.g., the EU’s practice) might, in part, explain why more civil-law jurisdictions are accepting these non-standard filings. Whether or not it is a salutary trend for NGOs to wield increasing influence upon national courts is a topic that inspires much debate and diversity of opinion. But to even get to the point of discussing the pros and cons, you need to find the briefs in the first place to know what you’re dealing with. Here are some strategies that have worked for me:

  • In jurisdictions that have adopted formal submission rules, there are likely to be indicia of filing. Having a document number, or even a docket number, is an enormous help when you’re researching in unfamiliar jurisdictions.
  • In jurisdictions that don’t have formal submission rules, you may need to trawl through the news sites and legal journals of the local bar associations. GlobaLex is helpful for orienting yourself to this literature.
  • If you know that you’re looking for a brief from a particular NGO, chances are decent that they will have published the brief on their own website along with a press release describing the case. For example, you can read the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre’s brief to the Czech Constitutional Court and the International Trademark Association’s numerous foreign amicus briefs on their websites.
  • INTA has put together a handy chart on filing amicus briefs in Latin American jurisdictions. Helpfully for researchers, it indicates which courts do and do not accept amici and at what level (e.g. Supreme Court only).
  • Of course, you can always find foreign governments’ amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court, for comparison’s sake—but you already know how to do that.

Introducing…Katherine Orth as the February 2018 FCIL Librarian of the Month


1. Where did you grow up?

Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

I realized early on in law school that I didn’t want to practice law.  I would often get so wrapped up in research that I didn’t want to stop!  I had already become friends with some law librarians at UNC and Duke before I started law school, so law librarianship as a career option had been on the back burner for quite a while before I started my MLS program (part-time) in the fall of 2013.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

I developed an interest in the “F”, “C,” and “I” long before I developed an interest in the “L” !  I grew up in a university town, so I had been exposed to different cultures for as long as I can remember.  The neighbors two doors down from my childhood home were from Argentina, the neighbors two doors up were from Germany, and the neighbors on the street behind our house were from Vietnam.  In college, I majored in Modern European History and I spent my junior year abroad in Bristol, England.  After graduating, I planned on building a career in some aspect of international development or international policymaking, so I did stints in Ghana, Ecuador and New Zealand.  By the time I got to law school, I was interested in taking as many FCIL classes as I could.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

I’m the Acquisitions Assistant in the K.R. Everett Law Library at the University of North Carolina School of Law.  I’ve worked here since May of 2013, and in January of 2016 I took on some reference desk duties as well.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I speak some French and Spanish, but probably only well enough for tourist purposes at this point.  I also speak a bit of Mandarin.  I lived in Shenzhen, China, the year after I graduated from college.  Although my speaking abilities plateaued at a pretty low level, I remain fascinated by the language.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Fiscal close, which happens in May and June, is a stressful time for all Acquisitions folks.  At the same time that our library is working to spend down all of our fund lines, we’re also waiting on our main campus library to disburse remainder amounts to us that we use to replenish our deposit lines.  We often don’t know how much to expect from main campus until very late in the process, so there’s not much turnaround time on this “use-it-or-lose-it” funding.  Normally, our library has a team of three working on fiscal close.  But in 2016, my immediate supervisor had retired, and my department head was on vacation, so for a ten-day period, I had to take care of a lot of the fiscal close procedures on my own.  It so was nerve-wracking (I had fever dreams about our fund lines for the entire time!), but I’m pleased to say that everything went smoothly in the end.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Probably doughnuts.  My boss can attest that I’m always hovering around the box of doughnuts after staff meetings, waiting to snap up the extras!

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

There are too many to name!  But a selection from my most recently-created Spotify playlist includes “Dreams” (Beck), “Amidinine” (Bombino; production by Dan Auerbach), and “Mi Gente” (J. Balvin, Willy William).

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

I wish I could draw really well.  I would love to supplement my travel journals with drawings of the places I’ve been, and the people and things I’ve seen.  If I could confidently draw portraits, I’d give them as gifts to friends and family.  Perhaps one day I’ll splurge on drawing lessons to see how far I can go with it.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without?

Coffee. (Close runners-up are my phone and Post-It Notes)

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

My Masters paper, which I’ll submit in the Spring, involves looking at works of art and “spotting” the legal issues depicted in them.  I’m looking forward to injecting a big dose of the humanities into my final semester as an MLS student.


New Year, New Start: Introducing ERIG’s Current and Upcoming Projects

By Sherry Xin Chen


The main mission of the Electronic Research Interest Group (ERIG) is to “provide information and support to librarians on online resources of foreign, comparative and international law research”. To carry out our mission, we plan to engage in three projects in the New Year:

First, we will maintain and update the FCIL-SIS “Jumpstart” pages with the list of FCIL specialists organized by jurisdiction/region, language or topics. Over the years, more specialists have joined the list and the areas of expertise we can offer are expanding. We sincerely appreciate the specialists’ voluntary service to the FCIL community.

Second, we will continue the “Resource Review” project started in 2017. This project aims to evaluate new and useful FCIL resources for both veteran FCIL librarians and general law librarians who intend to explore a new territory. Each review is individually authored and appears in the FCIL Newsletter. To ensure the consistency of our reviews, each author evaluates the resource using seven criteria including its popularity, accessibility, authoritativeness, comprehensiveness, user-friendliness, currency, and ability to answer both common and rare questions.

For the past one year, our group has completed seven reviews, two of which have already made their debut on the October 2017 FCIL Newsletter. In the New Year, we are considering the following seven resources for review:

  1. Global Regulation (subscription);
  2. Library of Congress, International Tribunals Archive (free);
  3. OUP Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law (subscription);
  4. The Encyclopedia of Private International Law from Edward Elgar (subscription);
  5. HeinOnline: Multinational Sources Compared (subscription);
  6. UN iLibrary (free to just read; subscription for PDF download);
  7. The Constitution Project, (free).

Your comments and suggestions about the criteria we use to review the resources or our list of future candidates are very welcome. Please feel free to send your comments to Sherry Xin Chen at

Sensing FCIL members’ strong interest in hearing from experts about their experience in selecting FCIL electronic resources, we are currently considering a third potential project. The project may involve a series of interviews with experts about their tips and experience on how to select FCIL electronic resources. In the 15 to 20 minutes’ interview, questions we ask may include:

  • What do you see as the current trend in FCIL resource selection in terms of print v. digital?
  • What are some of the new FCIL resources acquired in your library?
  • What are some of the factors that you consider while acquiring new resources?
  • Tips on working with vendors?

As we are still working on the details of the third project, please send your suggestions or other comments to