Go-To Resources for the Non-FCIL Librarian

Int_lComArb_Wordle_Word_Cloud__on_Navy__2016By Janet Kearney & Michelle Penn

Hello DipLawMatic Dialogues readers! This is the first in a set of posts from Michelle and Janet on FCIL for non-FCIL librarians; the next post will focus on teaching. Michelle and Janet are both from Fordham Law Library, where Michelle is Faculty Services Librarian and Janet just made the leap from Reference Librarian to FCIL Law Librarian. Thanks for having us!

Where can I find Singapore cases on surrogacy? How do I cite check this Russian statute?  How do I find the main sources of international humanitarian law? As librarians, we often receive questions that we don’t know the answers to. What sets us apart is the ability to strategize and efficiently learn the answer. So for those of us who dabble in FCIL or only rarely get questions or are just interested, here’s a collection – a research guide of research guides and a couple of databases. While this is from the perspective of two academic librarians, these should get you started and answer the most frequently asked questions regardless of your work environment!

Research Guides:

GlobaLex – For those of you on the FCIL-SIS listserv, you have probably seen the great (and frequent!) updates to Globalex. From the publisher,       “The guides and articles published are written by scholars well known in their respective fields and are recommended as a legal resource by universities, library schools, and legal training courses.” What does this mean for users? It provides the location of various documents, but it also puts the documents in the context of their legal system. This is helpful for both those incredibly specific (and seemingly random) journal student requests and questions with broad strokes. “I need Icelandic adoption laws” – Globalex will get you started. “I want to establish a standard as customary international law” – Globalex will help you there too! Available for free online, http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/index.html.

UN Library Research Guides, are unsurprisingly, wonderful resources for areas of law involving the United Nations. The researcher should keep in mind though, that the guides apply to United Nations resources and are thus not complete regarding international law as a whole. For example, the resource guides on international law may inadvertently give the novice researcher the impression that international law begins and ends with the United Nations. Available for free online, http://research.un.org/en?b=s&group_id=2087.


The World Legal Information Institution, (World LII), is home to a number of free and non-profit databases helpful to the FCIL researcher, developed by the Australasian Legal Information Institution, British and Irish Legal Information Institute, Canadian Legal Information Institute, Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute, and Wits University School of Law. The searchable databases include case law, legislation, treaties, law reform, law journals, and specialist subject databases from 123 jurisdictions. Though the interface may not be as flashy as those of paid resources, it allows for an impressive level of advanced Boolean searching, including proximity searching. Note that coverage and currency can vary widely by jurisdiction. http://www.worldlii.org/databases.html

vLex Global is similar to World LII, but it is a subscription resource. It also contains case law and statutes, occasional regulations, and journal articles from over 100+ jurisdictions. The added value comes from a wider variety of materials such as forms, administrative decisions, regulations, and legislation from countries that can be harder to navigate, especially when you do not speak the language. What really gets me excited about this is the translation tool and the ability to navigate collections in my native language – sure I can use Google translate and try to parse things out, but this eliminates some of the guesswork. Translations, although not perfect, can be made between multiple languages and is not limited to English. https://vlex.com/p/vlex-global/

For primary and secondary source research, HeinOnline is home to many databases helpful to the foreign and international legal researcher. One of the most useful databases is the World Treaty Library, which includes over 160,000 treaties from 1648 to the present, as well as related articles and publications. While much of the material on Hein’s World Constitutions Illustrated is available on free websites, the database is still a useful resource, consolidating constitutional information in one place with quality English translations. For secondary sources, Hein’s Index to Foreign and Legal Periodicals is the the go-to index for over 500 legal journals. https://home.heinonline.org/

Introducing…Jennifer Allison as the February 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

Jennifer Allison

1. Where did you grow up?

San Diego, California.  (I know, why did I ever leave?)

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

When I was in law school (at Pepperdine Law) I decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but I really liked working in the law library.  By the time I was a 3L, I was doing regular shifts on the reference desk (the library was experiencing a bit of a staffing shortage at the time).  That sold me on the whole idea.  I haven’t regretted a day of it.

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

I took courses in comparative law and transnational litigation in law school and found them both interesting.  I was also an exchange student in Germany during my 2L year and, based on the classes I took while I was there, decided that the I wanted a job in which I could also learn more about the law and civil law systems in scholarly and historical contexts.

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

I am one of two FCIL librarians at the Harvard Law School Library.  I have been here for 6 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I speak German fluently.  I can read some French, Spanish, and Italian, just like many of the rest of us, as well.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I hope it’s okay that I list a few things.

Getting my job here at Harvard was a pretty major deal for me.  I didn’t have a ton of FCIL experience at the time, so I feel like they took a chance on me.  I hope they think it’s paid off!

I am proud of every law student and professor whom I have supported, taught, and cheered on in the 10+ years I have been doing this work, and the scholarship that they have produced – especially those who, as non-native English speakers, were required to research and write in English.

As far as my own scholarship, I am proud of the work I have done as an assistant editor of the Foreign Law Guide, and editing the country entries for Germany and Austria.

And, although this is more an academic than professional , I also completed an LLM in German Law at the University of Würzburg earlier this year, which I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to accomplish.  Writing a thesis about constitutional law in German was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

However, what I am most proud of is the network of colleagues and friends that I have been able to build during my years in the profession.  I have been the fortunate beneficiary of mentorship and friendship of so many FCIL librarians over the years (thinking especially of Marci Hoffman, Mary Rumsey, and Lyonette Louis-Jacques, among many, many others), whose belief and confidence in me has inspired me to want to strive to do my very best at work every day.  Joining and contributing to this community of colleagues has been my most significant professional accomplishment by far.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Goldfish crackers and a glass of Montepulciano red wine.  (I know, classy.)

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

So many!  Recently, it’s probably “Love my Life” by Robbie Williams.

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

Don’t we all say that we wish we spoke/read ______ fluently?  For me that would be Italian, so that I could read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitian quartet in the original.  I also wish I could draw.

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

My earbuds and my Fitbit.  (Sorry, that’s two.)

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

Never let anyone tell you that libraries and librarians don’t matter.  The contribution we make to our respective workplaces cannot be understated.  Keep on being your incredible selves and doing your amazing work.

Globalex January 2019 Issue is Live

By Lucie Olejnikova

In our first issue of 2019, we bring you a new article and four updates: researching the Right to Water, African Law, and the laws of Gambia, Malawi, and New Zealand. Congratulations and big thanks to our authors! Webmasters and content managers, please update your pages.

Researching the Human Right to Water with an Annotated Bibliography by Jootaek Lee at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Human_Right_to_Water.html.

Jootaek Lee is an assistant professor and librarian at Rutgers Law School (Newark). Professor Lee is also an adjunct professor and an affiliated faculty for the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at the Northeastern University School of Law. He is also a Massachusetts attorney. Professor Lee, a prolific scholar and author, has been published in prestigious journals, including Georgetown Environmental Law Review, Law Library Journal, International Journal of Legal Information, Legal Reference Services Quarterly, Korea University Law Review, and Globalex by New York University Law School. His research focuses on human rights to land, water and education, Asian practice of international law, especially human rights and international criminal law, legal informatics, Korean law and legal education, and pedagogy in law. He made numerous presentations at national and international conferences.

UPDATE: Sources of Online Legal Information for African Countries by Vincent Moyer at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/African_Law1.html.

Vincent Moyer (B.S., J.D., and M.S. from the University of Illinois) is the Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, California.

UPDATE: Researching Gambian Legal Information by Flora Ogbuitepu Ngo-Martin at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Gambia1.html.

Flora Ogbuitepu obtained an LLB (Hons) from Kogi State University Anyigba, Nigeria, a B.L from the Nigerian Law School (Lagos Campus) and an LLM in human rights from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She has a wealth of experience in the theory and practice of human rights law, corporate practice and other areas of law. As a researcher, she has also written numerous papers on human rights issues and legal audit, which have been published. She worked as a Senior Associate at Tope Adebayo LLP, a firm of Legal Practitioners and Arbitrators. At present, she works as a legal practitioner and consults for a variety of businesses and individuals in corporate law and other areas of law.

UPDATE: Malawi Legal System and Research Resources by Redson Edward Kapindu at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Malawi1.html.

Redson Kapindu is a Judge of the High Court of Malawi, and a Visiting Associate Professor of Law at the University of Johannesburg. Redson Kapindu holds a Ph.D. from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He also holds an LL.B. (Honors) from the University of Malawi; an LL.M. from the University of Pretoria; and a Diploma in International Human Rights from Lund University.

UPDATE: Access to New Zealand Law by Rosa Polaschek at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/New_Zealand1.html.

Rosa Polaschek graduated from the University of Auckland, BA/LLB (Hons) as a Senior Scholar in Law. She has worked as a Judges’ Clerk at the High Court of New Zealand, and subsequently at the Crown Law Office. Her interests are in constitutional and public law, and human rights law. In 2017, she was awarded the New Zealand Law Foundation’s Cleary Memorial Prize, for a young for barrister or solicitor who shows outstanding future promise in the legal profession. In 2018, Rosa was awarded a Hauser Global Scholarship to study at New York University toward an LLM (Master of Laws) degree. The article below updates the previous version, authored by Margaret Greville.


For more articles, visit Globalex at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/index.html.

Teaching a FCIL Research Course for the First TIme

By Sarah Reis, Foreign and International Law Librarian, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

 This is the third post in a series of posts over the next year about adjusting to my new position as a foreign and international law librarian. I started my position at the Pritzker Legal Research Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in February 2018.

A couple of weeks ago, I started teaching my Foreign, Comparative, and International Legal Research course for the spring semester. (Perhaps in Chicago, it would be more accurate to refer to the “spring semester” as the “winter semester.”) Not only is this the first time I am teaching a FCIL research course, but it is also the first class that I am teaching on my own, which has been simultaneously exciting and nerve-racking.

Reis - Photo 1.jpgTo help me feel more comfortable with teaching, I spent the fall semester co-teaching an Advanced Legal Research class with one of my colleagues. I learned so much from my co-instructor, Clare Willis, about how to ensure that assignments are appropriately meeting learning objectives, how to develop useful rubrics for grading assignments, and how to effectively employ creative teaching methods to keep students engaged during class. I am grateful I had the opportunity to work closely with an experienced instructor for a semester prior to teaching on my own.

In designing my FCIL research course, I consulted materials other librarians have generously shared and read through the DipLawMatic posts about teaching. Additionally, the teacher’s manual for International Legal Research in a Global Community has been an essential resource in preparing my class materials (thank you, Heidi Kuehl and Megan O’Brien!). I chose not to require my students to purchase a textbook, but rather assigned selected chapters from International Legal Research in a Nutshell, which is available electronically through our West Study Aids subscription, along with a few chapters from International Legal Research in a Global Community and International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook, for which we have copies on reserve.

My two-credit class meets twice a week for 55-minute periods. Already, I recognize it is going to be challenging to fit in a lecture/discussion and an in-class exercise while leaving sufficient time for a debriefing or review. I am looking forward to experimenting with various methods to give students time to practice using research tools and resources. For instance, some class sessions are set up with short exercises scattered throughout the session, while other class sessions are going to be dedicated workshop days where they will spend almost the entire class period working on a research problem in a guided environment.

One of the most exciting things about this class is the student diversity. The class has fifteen students, which includes a mix of JD students, LLM students, and students from our LLM in International Human Rights program. Some students have taken several international law courses, other students have already spent a semester working on projects for the Center for International Human Rights, whereas still others are completely new to international law concepts. I am encouraging the students to work together on in-class exercises so that some of the students who are more familiar with international law can help others who might not have taken an international law course before. Because the LLM students are familiar with legal systems in other countries, I am really looking forward to our class sessions on foreign law because I know the students will learn a lot from each other.

Throughout the semester, students will be required to submit four assignments accompanied by research logs so I can provide them with continuous feedback. Because I anticipated that that they would have diverse interests in areas of law (which was confirmed by the responses to the intro survey I had them fill out during the first week of class), I have incorporated an element of choice into the course by allowing them to select their own final project topic.

I realize that my first semester teaching this class will be the most challenging semester because over the next three months I’ll be getting a feel for what works well—and what doesn’t. After each class session, I have been carefully documenting and keeping track of how I felt the class session went so I can remember to adjust things as needed in future semesters. I am looking forward to reviewing all of these self-assessment notes alongside feedback from the course evaluations at the end of the semester. I also always welcome stories, suggestions, and teaching tips from other librarians—both from those who are newer to teaching like me, as well as from those who are experienced pros!


Book Review: Charting the Legal Systems of the Western Pacific Islands, by Victoria J. Szymczak

By Susan Gualtier

In a recent blog post, Shay Elbaum recapped a 2018 WestPac conference program in which Victoria Szymczak, Director of the Law Library and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i William S. Richardson School of Law, discussed the creation of her new legal research guide, Charting the Legal Systems of the Western Pacific Islands, which was recently published by Hein.  Although I was not personally able to attend WestPac or hear Ms. Szymczak speak on this topic, I had already received Hein’s announcement regarding the new guide and was anxious to see it in person.

Charting the Legal Systems of the Western Pacific Islands is unique for a research guide in that it contains quite a bit of context.  It covers history, defines important British colonial legal terms, and lays out clearly the challenges specific to legal research in the Western Pacific Islands.  At only 60 pages long, the book offers enough background information for the researcher to feel confident in beginning to look at primary sources.  Szymczak also recommends several treatises on both the British colonial system and the Western Pacific that can provide the researcher with more in-depth information.

The book is also unique in that it is very much focused on historical resources, specifically those created during British colonization in the Western Pacific.  Szymczak explains the different types of colonial documents that researchers may need to locate and identifies sources where those documents might be published.  She also describes how legislation and the judiciary operated in the Western Pacific Islands under British rule, and the ways in which native or customary law were applied during that period.  Szymczak discusses various instruments of customary law, including native courts and island and local councils, which were established during the colonial period, and even mentions a few ways in which the researcher might approach finding evidence of customary law from that era.  An entire chapter is devoted to archival research and secondary sources, such as historical newspapers, that can help to “fill in the gaps” in the historical record created by primary legal documentation.

The book wraps up with several chapters on post-independence sources of law.  Again, significant context is provided in order to help the researcher understand the history and legal structure post-independence.  Szymczak discusses open access online sources, as well as print sources specific to the jurisdictions covered in the book.

It is rare that a research guide is also such an interesting read, but I very much enjoyed this guide and learning about the legal history of the Western Pacific Islands.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in colonialism, the Western Pacific, or customary and indigenous law.

Introducing…Joan Sherer as the January 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

01.19 Joan Sherer

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kresgeville, PA. It is a very small village about 30 miles north of Allentown.

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

A family friend, who just happened to be the secretary at my high school’s library, suggested I consider librarianship.

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

It wasn’t until I started at the State Department that I really delved into it.

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

I work for the Department of State and I’ve been here 20 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Not really. I had Spanish in high school and college, but my knowledge of the language is rusty.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I think landing the position of Law Librarian at the State Department. This has been a wonderful experience and I feel fortunate to serve the Department in this very small capacity. It still amazes me when I get research requests from our embassies all over the world.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

While I hate to admit it, but it’s peanut M&Ms. I just love them.

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

I have two, Happy by Pharrell and September, by Earth, Wind & Fire. As I was driving home last night and Happy came on the radio. While I couldn’t get up and dance, I did sing along.

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

I admit I am a mediocre cook. I would love to be able to have the skills of a gourmet chef.

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

I would be lost without a good book to read. I have a never ending reading list of both fiction and nonfiction books that I hope to read one day.

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

This is a good venue to announce that I am retiring on December 31st.  In fact, if you are reading this after that date I am already retired. As much as I love my job, it is time to move on to other things. I’m looking forward to moving back to Pennsylvania next summer and spending more time with friends and family. Incidentally, it may take several months until my position is posted, but if you are interested in a federal government position working with a stellar group of librarians, check usajobs.gov in the coming months.


Top 18 Posts of ’18

By Alyson Drake


It’s that time of year–when we reflect back on all the wonderful contributions from our members over the past year.  2018 has been an amazing year for DipLawMatic Dialogues.  Not only was it our best ever year in terms of readership, but we actually more than doubled our number of views and visitors, topping out at over 29,000 views and over 17,200 visitors for the year.  We also nearly doubled the number of posts we had last year with 131 posts, more than two per week on average.

This would not be possible without all of you who volunteer to write posts and recaps for us.  (Remember, we’re now actively looking for contributors for 2019, so let’s keep this streak going!)  Susan and I are so grateful for your willingness to keep DipLawMatic Dialogues full of fresh content all year long!  If you’ve volunteered before, we hope you’ll agree to do a post for us this year; if you haven’t written for us yet, join this great community of bloggers and contribute in an easy way to our fantastic SIS.

Thanks to all of this year’s amazing bloggers, many of whom contributed multiple posts over the course of the year:

Jennifer Allison * Charles Bjork * Kate Britt * Anne Burnett
Meredith Capps * Sherry Xin ChenCatherine Deane * Yemisi Dina
Alyson Drake * Shay Elbaum * Gabriela Femenia * Amy Flick
Marisol Floren * Erin Gow * Julienne Grant * Susan Gualtier
Marci Hoffman * Caitlin Hunter * David Isom * Sarah Jaramillo
Lora Johns * Benjamin Keele * Tarica LaBossiere * Jootaek Lee
Evelyn Ma * Taryn Marks * Mike McArthur * Yasmin Morais
Mariana Newman * Lucie Olejnikova * Katherine Orth * Carlos Pagan
Jessica Pierucci * Joan Policastri * Marylin Raisch * Brooke Raymond
Sarah Reis * Mary Rumsey * John Scherrer * Rachael Smith
Beau Steenken * Stacia Stein * Loren Turner * Dan Wade * Alex Zhang

And very special thanks to our two all-star bloggers who both contributed eight or more posts this year:
Lora Johns and Jessica Pierucci!

Now for our top 18 of ’18!

18. From the Reference Desk, by Lora Johns
17. Crafting an FCIL Research Niche (When You’re NOT an “FCIL Librarian”), by Alyson Drake
16. MHz & Me: How a Crime-Solving Priest Saved by Italian, by Julienne Grant
15. Acquiring Foreign and International Law Materials with a New Collection Development Focus, by Joan Policastri
14. Teaching Religious Law as Part of Comparative Law: Focus on Jewish Law, by Marylin Raisch
13. AALL 2018 Recap: CONELL (Conference of Newer Law Librarians), by Tarica LaBossiere
12. Getting to Know the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, by Marci Hoffman
11. Comparative Laws and the Lies of Donald Trump, by Mary Rumsey
10. New FCIL Librarian Series: Collection Development in 2018, by Jessica Pierucci
9. New FCIL Librarian Series: Creating a New Research Guide, by Jessica Pierucci
8. Law Firm Impressions After One Complete Year, by Catherine Deane
7. From the Reference Desk: When Librarians Google, by Lora Johns
6. Using the “A” Word in Legal Research Instruction, by Alyson Drake
5. What Helped Me Transition to the Law Firm, by Catherine Deane
4. 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Teaching, by Alyson Drake
3. AALL 2018 Recap: Impostor Syndrome, by Jennifer Allison
2. AALL 2018 Recap: 25 Free Technologies, by Brooke Raymond
1. Transition to Law Firm from Academia, by Catherine Deane