AALL 2015 Recap: Customary and Religious Law Interest Group Meeting

By Susan Gualtier

Front page of CARLIG flyer distributed at FCIL-SIS Exhibit Hall table.

Front page of informational flyer distributed at the FCIL-SIS Exhibit Hall table.

The Customary and Religious Law Interest Group (CARLIG) met on July 19 at 11:30 as part of the FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting. The group briefly discussed the year’s progress, which included acquiring approximately 35 members in My Communities, developing several programming proposals for the 2015 conference, and publishing an article in AALL Spectrum describing the group’s formation, purpose, and goals. The majority of the discussion then focused on 1) improving communication with the group’s membership in order to generate better response to the My Communities posts; 2) increasing the number of blogging and book review opportunities on customary and religious law topics and soliciting participation by the group’s members; and 3) developing and prioritizing additional projects for the coming year.

CARLIG intends to continue proposing conference programming, and brainstormed a few ideas for the 2016 conference. The group discussed the possibility of putting together a panel of librarians and researchers who are currently working on comprehensive online portals or printed bibliographies of religious law resources. Kelly Buchanan, of the Library of Congress, also shared some preliminary information relating to an Islamic law program to be held at the Library of Congress in December. The group discussed potential opportunities for collaboration between CARLIG and the Library of Congress staff, which has been working on increasing the number of available customary law and religious law resources.

In addition to planning substantive programming, the group decided that CARLIG’s primary focus over the upcoming year should be to create teaching/research toolkits for customary law and for each of the major religious law systems. The purpose of these toolkits will be to encourage more librarians to incorporate customary and religious law research into their FCIL research classes or their presentations in substantive law classes. CARLIG will also work on some of the ideas proposed at the 2014 conference, including creating bibliographies of core resources for use in collection development, and identifying the major library collections in customary law and in each of the major religious law systems.

AALL 2015 Recap: “International Attorneys and LL.M. Students: Filling Research Gaps”

By Alexis Fetzer

scalesThe late Sunday afternoon session entitled “International Attorneys and LL.M. Students: Filling Research Gaps” targeted librarians working with international students in an instructional setting. Each speaker presented on his or her experience working with foreign LL.M. students.

The first of the three speakers was Jinwei Zhang, Reference and Instructional Technologies Librarian at the University of Tennessee School of Law. Ms. Zhang had a unique experience in that she had been a foreign LL.M. student herself. She began by discussing some of the unique challenges instructors face in teaching these students, such as language barriers, cultural differences, and introducing a new legal system. One cultural difference that Zhang emphasized was a reluctance to ask questions in class. Many of these students are coming from learning environments in which they are not encouraged to interrupt a lecturer with comments or questions. It is important to be patient and encouraging of these students in order to get them to open up in class. One suggestion offered was instituting more one on one meetings with students in order to get them comfortable talking to instructors and to answer any questions that they are too uncomfortable to pose before an entire class.

Nina Scholtz, Head of Reference Services & Instruction Coordinator at Cornell University Law School, was the second of three speakers. Ms. Scholtz spoke on her experience as an academic law librarian instructing LL.M. students in legal research in their Principles of American Legal Writing course. In this course she instructs students in four class sessions and then works with students individually on their research for writing projects.

One challenge she highlighted was the difficulty in overcoming language barriers for legal citation abbreviations. It is important for instructors to keep in mind that what appears to make sense in the English speaker’s mind as an abbreviation for a court or publication may not always translate clearly to the foreign student. An instructor should look for ways to make this easier for students to understand and should be able to point to resources that can assist students in abbreviating or deciphering abbreviations of citations.

Scholtz shared one of the exercises she performed with her students, entitled “Thinking like a Common Law Lawyer.” This exercise focuses on the factual analysis that needs to take place before students can begin tackling legal research. Students are tasked with finding the basis of the case, generating search terms, and looking to other synonyms and antonyms of those terms. After the class performs this exercise together as a whole, students are broken up into smaller groups and given the same type of assignment with a different fact pattern.

The final speaker was Furman Scott DeMaris, Research Services Librarian at Reed Smith LLP, who spoke of his experience as a firm librarian when Reed Smith took on several Chinese LL.M. students as apart of work-study program with Temple University School of Law. One thing the firm did was to offer research refreshers and training for these students. Mr. Demaris found that it was important to let these students know that the librarians were there to assist them, because otherwise they might not have identified the librarians as a resource. Research guides were also offered to students on topics such as how to avoid research pitfalls and how to perform cost effective research. One challenge in hosting these LL.M. students was that, because they were guests rather than employees, they could not be given access to all of the firm’s resources. At the end of their time with Reed Smith, the students were asked to give a presentation on Chinese Law. This was a great way take advantage of the special knowledge of these foreign educated attorneys and to educate the firm’s attorneys on a foreign legal system.

After the final speaker, attendees were asked to discuss amongst members seated at their table the challenges in training foreign attorneys in an LL.M. instructional program or similar setting. The microphone was then opened for attendees to share and for the speakers to answer any questions.

Schedule of FCIL Events in Philadelphia

Blog Postcards 2015Hello FCIL-SIS!  Are you ready for Philly?  We at the publicity committee certainly are!  We have swag for the exhibit hall ready to go, and we’re looking forward to seeing all of our SIS friends again next week!

As we approach the 2015 AALL Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, we encourage you to keep an eye on the blog and to follow us on Twitter for coverage of FCIL-SIS programming both during and after the conferenceIf you are interested in covering any of the events listed below, please contact blog administrators Susan Gualtier (susan.gualtier@law.lsu.edu) or Loren Turner (lturner@law.ufl.edu).  Finally, remember to send us your original photos from the Philadelphia conference so that we can share them with our readers who were unable to attend!



Saturday, July 18

9:30am – 4:45 pm

Researching the European Union (University of Pennsylvania Law School)

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Exhibit Hall Ribbon-Cutting/Opening Reception. Stop by the FCIL-SIS table!

Sunday, July 19

11:30 am – 12:45 pm

AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers: Researching International Agreements other than Article II

Treaties (PCC-Room 104A)

FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting (Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon C)

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Cross-Border Disputes: Dissecting the International Investment Arbitration (PCC-Room


4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Designers’ Workshop: Subject Guides that Create the Effect You Want (PCC-Room 103BC)

5:15 pm – 6:00 pm

FCIL-SIS Foreign Selectors Interest Group (Marriott-Room 306)

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

FCIL-SIS Internships and International Exchanges Committee (Marriott-Room 310)

FCIL-SIS Publicity Committee (Marriott-Room 308)

Monday, July 20

7:15 am – 8:30 am

FCIL-SIS Business Meeting and Breakfast (PCC-Room 110AB)

3:15 pm – 4:25 pm

FCIL-SIS Teaching Foreign and International Legal Research Interest Group (PCC-Room


4:00 pm – 4:30 pm

FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant for Foreign Law Librarians Fundraising Committee (Marriott-

Conference Suite 2)

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant for Foreign Law Librarians Recipient Presentation (Marriott-Grand

Ballroom Salon D)

5:45 pm – 6:45 pm

International Attendees Joint Reception (AALL/FCIL/IALL) (Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon


Tuesday, July 21

8:30 am – 9:30 am

Mighty MT: Enhancing the Value of Machine Translation Tools for FCIL Reference and

Collection Services (PCC-Room 103BC)

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

LHRB/FCIL-SIS Roman Law Interest Group: Researching the Corpus Juris Civilis (PCC-Room


1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

FCIL-SIS Education Committee (Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon B)

FCIL-SIS Electronic Research Interest Group (PCC-Room 104B)


First Time Teaching FCIL Research: Final Weeks

By Alexis Fetzer

europe-political-mapAfter a hectic and stressful semester, I have concluded teaching my first Foreign & International Legal Research class. As with teaching any subject for the first time, it was a humbling experience, but I am left feeling confident that the class was an overall success.

The final three weeks of instruction focused on foreign legal research sources. In the first of these three classes we discussed the research process and general sources in foreign legal research. I have taught versions of this class multiple times as stand-alone modules to an Advanced Legal Research course, so this was one class I felt very confident about. Nonetheless, the nature and composition of my class changed how I would go about teaching it. I needed more in class exercises and opportunities for class participation rather than simply lecture.

During the second week of foreign legal research classes we discussed researching in common law jurisdictions. We focused mainly on the United Kingdom as an example. This gave me an opportunity to highlight Justis and JustCite as resources, two of my favorite databases to show off. In addition to these subscription databases, I showed free online resources such as BAILII and general print materials such as Halsbury’s Laws of England.

In the third week we covered research in civil law systems. I chose to break up these final two classes between common law and civil law jurisdictions to draw attention to the difference in sources of primary authority. In this final class I wanted to also demonstrate how treatment of case law and publication across different civil law jurisdictions differs greatly. This class turned into more of a shallow survey of different civil law countries and their legal publications than I would have liked. In the future, I plan to take two countries and use them as a comparison. I would also like to devote more time to discussing mixed and religious legal systems, but time did not permit this semester.

As an in-class activity, I assigned a different civil law country to each student and asked them to look into various types of legal publications for that country. Using the Foreign Law Guide, they looked to things like gazettes, codes and court reporters. I then had each student report back with their findings. This simple, straight forward exercise seemed to work well. If it didn’t work well, my students were at least distracted by the Perrier that I offered in class. (Perrier is French > France is a civil law country > Perrier should be offered in class.)

After concluding with three weeks of foreign legal research, it was time for my students to present their final projects. Over the course of two weeks, each of my five students offered a 15-20 minute presentation on an international and/or foreign legal research topic of their choice. Their accompanying paper to this project was the majority of their course grade. I gave my students a lot of leeway in terms of topic choice. One of my students presented on the research she performed for seminar paper in a separate class. Another student presented on the research he performed as a research assistant to an international law professor. My remaining students came up with hypothetical research scenarios. Topic choices, sources used, and problems encountered ranged widely. While this made for a much more interesting variety of presentations, I am now left with the difficult task of having to grade very different work products. I like the flexibility this offered the students, but the next time I offer this assignment I will be changing some of the requirements to make type of material presented more uniform. For example, rather than allowing students to research the law broadly on a given topic, I will ask them to come up with specific questions in their research process and offer answers to those using the sources they find. This will likely require more direction and counseling on my part throughout the semester rather than a single individual conference.

Outside of the final project, another area I hope to improve in the future is instruction on citation. I spent time talking about appropriate sources to include in Bluebook citations, but did not spend a lot of time meticulously going over citation format. I would be interested to hear how other instructors treat citation in their classes.

Foreign and international legal research is such a challenging course to teach for the first time. It was vital to have the assistance and support of others who have done this before. Without the help of Susan Gualtier, Alison Shea, and the FCIL Course materials web page, I am not quite sure how I would have made it through the semester. With this first semester down, I am excited for the next opportunity to teach this course.

First Time Teaching FCIL Research: Weather Woes & Student Conferences

by Alexis Fetzer

After a strong beginning of the semester, the middle of the semester got off to a rough start. Susan Gualtier, FCIL Librarian at LSU Law, was scheduled to guest lecture via Skype on the topic of Customary International Law on a day our University cancelled classes. While you can plan out every detail of your course, you can never control the weather. The month of February brought new record low temperatures for Virginia and with that class cancellations related to snow fall. While Susan has graciously agreed to reschedule her guest lecture, the shuffling around of schedules and assigning days to make up classes missed has been a challenge.

snow in richmond

On a more positive note, I recently held individual conferences with students to discuss progress towards their final paper and presentation. Students were asked to choose a topic they would like to research involving international and foreign law, including any seminar paper topic they may be currently writing, and then compose a 6-8 page narrative of their research process. During the final two weeks of class, students will present on their research strategies and any problems they came across along the way. I modeled this final assessment after an assignment Susan Gualtier had previously shared with me.

The leeway in topic choice has been great in playing off of student interests but I believe it may eventually pose some problems in terms of assessment. I love the idea of having students researching topics they are currently writing about for a seminar course or have been employed to research as an assistant to a professor. At the very least simply being motivated by a personal interest gives the student more of a stake in the end product. The problem arises when topics range to such a degree that the types of relevant sources and strategies employed are very inconsistent. Granted the subject matter of this class ranges a great degree. Unless I were to force students to pick from a narrowly defined list of topics, I have to expect such variation.

Because this is the first time I have ever given this assignment, I put no restrictions on topic choice so long as it required substantial research in the sources covered in class. I indicated I prefer they address a fairly specific inquiry, but I did not place a scholarly survey of a topic off limits. In the future, I will give more guidance in choosing topics based on how I intend to assess these papers and presentations. I may also reassess my order of topics covered in class. Because we focus on researching foreign law during the last three weeks of class, students who chose topics centered heavily around finding foreign law are at a slight disadvantage.

Like topics chosen, preparation and discussion that took place in individual conferences varied widely. Some students came with a clear vision of the types of sources they need and examples of problems that had already encountered. Others had more of a theoretical idea of what they would be looking for and expected to find. This was another good lesson in the value of giving clear instruction.

One thing I had not expected were the questions I would come away with from student conferences. During each session I made suggestions of sources students should consult, but students also had questions about sources I did not immediately know how to find. For example, one of my students would benefit in finding Irish legislative history for her project. Not being an expert on Irish legal research outside what is readily made available through Justis and BAILII, I was challenged to find an answer to my student’s question.

I am looking forward to seeing my student’s final presentations a month from now. I anticipate learning just as much from them as they will from each other. In the meantime we still have several important topics to cover in class including researching the law of the European Union, customary international law, and foreign law focusing primarily on a select few common and civil law jurisdictions.

First Time Teaching FCIL Research: Initial Class Meetings

By Alexis Fetzerred-legal-scales-hi

We are now five classes into the semester of my first time offered course of International & Foreign Legal Research at the University of Richmond School of Law. Each class thus far has been a significant learning experience. You truly never master a subject until you are asked to teach it.

During our first week I gave an introduction on researching international law generally. I wanted to draw similarities between the legal research process students are familiar with in researching domestic law and then apply that to the international legal research context. One thing highlighted was the importance of beginning research using research guides and secondary sources. In emphasizing the utility of research guides I have assigned a corresponding research guide for the topic considered each week as material to be consulted prior to class. This way students not only get an idea of the type of sources we will be discussing, but can also see the value of having such a compilation.

I also emphasized secondary sources in this first class. As with any unfamiliar legal research topic, secondary sources are always a good place to begin to gain a better understanding of the subject matter you are researching. With international law, however, sometimes these sources can be the only means of searching for primary material by subject. If they took away nothing from this first class, I wanted them to take away this concept. Max Planck’s Encyclopedia of International Law was a great source to highlight for this purpose. An entry in Max Planck can quite literally “direct” you to primary authority through use of the Oxford law citators. A great example of this is the Max Planck entry for “UNCITRAL”. The first paragraph indicates that UNCITRAL was established by “UNGA Resolution 2205 (XXI) of 17 December 1966.” Clicking on the link to this resolution, you are directed to an Oxford Law Citator entry which then allows you to navigate to where this document can be found on an external web resource.

Following this introductory class, we covered U.S. and non-U.S. treaty sources. Having spoken on this topic before, including guest FCIL research lectures in our law school’s general Advanced Legal Research class, I was confident this area would not be difficult to prepare for. This was true, but now I had more of an opportunity to expand upon the information delivered and give my students more practical instruction with treaty research.

The next topic we addressed was researching intergovernmental/nongovernmental organizations. This transitioned nicely from non-US treaty resources since the students were already familiar with the UN Treaty database. While we discussed the elements of an intergovernmental organization and how to find nongovernmental organizations, much of the material was focused on the United Nations. In the future, I may consider researching United Nations material as a part of its own separate class. We could have gone into much more depth but I made the mistake of allotting this topic to a single class.

In contrast, I do not believe my next week’s topic of international courts and tribunals should not have been allotted an entire class worth of material. While I like the idea of transitioning from talking about intergovernmental organizations to talking about their judicial organs, I could have summarized this information without discussing individual international courts and the type of material they produce. The students quickly grasped the material and the in class exercises proved rather simplistic.

Thus far, each class has been a tremendous learning opportunity. One of the benefits of only having 5 students is that there is constant dialogue and questioning. My students are keeping me on my toes and forcing me to answer questions I have yet to think of myself. In those moments where I clearly do not have the answer, I never shy from admitting to it. Instead, I tell them “let me make sure I give you the correct answer to that at a later time” and always make a point of following up either through email or in the next class.

Anna Wiberg of Lund University on the Introduction to European Business Law MOOC

By Anna Wiberg

Anna WibergSome weeks ago, Lund University’s first MOOC, Introduction to European Business Law, started.  It is an introductory course that teaches students the essentials of European Business Law. For some students it may also be followed by studies at the Master’s Programme in European Business Law at Lund University in Sweden.

Members of Lund University’s law faculty were chosen to create the MOOC because of their previous experience in making films for online courses.  I am one of the librarians on the faculty that helped create the course.  I appear on films throughout the course that focus on how to find and use European Union materials.  My colleague, Annika Hellbring, and I created the PowerPoint slides and talking points that appear on these films. The aim of these films is to support students taking the course; to make it easier to find and read the documents you need during the course or when practicing European Union law.

The faculty is often involved in new areas and projects and for many years I was part of a project that the faculty had together with the law faculties in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. This included many discussions and teaching sessions in both Lund and Vietnam. It was therefore natural for the law faculty and the library to collaborate in a MOOC.

The actual filming process for the MOOC occurred in August 2014. It was both scary and interesting to be in the studio, to use a teleprompter and to act in front of the camera for the very first time. When sound, picture and speech were put together by the production team and when I finally saw the films, I was impressed by the construction, even though it is hard to ignore the somewhat odd feeling of watching myself on the screen.

I began my employment at Lund University in 2003.  There are six librarians on the Lund University faculty with me, all specialists in different areas. An extensive part of our work is to support our researchers, to educate the students in information skills, to handle the European Documentation Center and of course, to build excellent printed and digital collections. Besides many other things, I mainly work with teaching the students how to search, find and evaluate legal documents. I enjoy working closely with the students and I find it challenging to support the students to develop their information literacy. The library is well integrated in the law faculty and has an ongoing discussion with the teachers about the learning outcomes in the area of information skills.

I am sure that the faculty will produce more courses and more films, and I would not hesitate to be involved again.

In the meantime, for a refresher on European Business Law research, join the MOOC for free!