Legal Research Blog


Some Great Advice

Photo By Steve Debenport Imagery

The Oregon State Bar has been the latest to follow in the mandatory mentoring trend for newly minted lawyers started by the State Bar of Georgia and Utah State Bar. With graduation just around the corner, this can be a useful tool for new graduates as they face a challenging marketplace and could likely use some insight into the skills they need to become a successful professional. While there is some controversy as to how helpful these mentoring programs can be, the Harvard Business Review offers some things to keep in mind for a successful mentorship:


Build a cadre of people you can turn to for advice when you need it

Nurture relationships with people whose perspectives you respect

Think of mentoring as both a long-term and short-term arrangement


Assume that because you are successful or experienced in your field that you don’t need a mentor

Rely on one person to help guide you in your career

Expect to receive mentoring without providing anything in return

The major take away from the article is the nature of the mentorship has changed drastically. Jeanne Meister, a Founding Partner of Future Workplace and co-author of The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today says that in today’s world mentoring is “more like Twitter and less like having a psychotherapy session.” It no longer has to be this long term drawn out event. It is not uncommon to have more than one mentor as careers and circumstances change, one needs to be flexible with their sources.

It is a quick read and it should inspire those in all levels of their careers to reevaluate their situation and take an active role in their sources and/or imparting of guidance.

The Baseball Card that Changed The Sound of the Supreme Court

This week we hosted Jerry Goldman, founder of the Oyez Project, for a coffee talk at Fastcase DC headquarters. Today, Oyez is the comprehensive home for everything Supreme Court: audio and transcripts of oral arguments, summaries, briefs, Justice bios.  Oyez has grown a lot recently, with a move to Chicago Kent College of Law, and especially with new mobile apps Pocket Justice and OyezToday.

Photo credit: Nicholas Moline of Justia

And the whole thing sprang from a Cubs game and a baseball card.

Jerry was watching a Cubs game one day (the Cubs were losing badly, as Jerry remembers), wondering how he could marry his love of the law and his love of baseball.  And then it came to him: the statistics on the back of a baseball card could be just as interesting for Supreme Court Justices.

Oyez began in the late 1980s as the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court,” with baseball cards for Supreme Court Justices, including their “stats.”  And in the process, Jerry discovered that he could link audio on the stat sheet.  In fact, there was a huge trove of unused Supreme Court audio.  So the Hitchhiker’s guide was transformed into a comprehensive source of Supreme Court audio, and the rest, as they say, is history. From audio recordings and transcripts of oral arguments, to full synopses of cases and Justice biographies, provides appellate litigators and the public alike with a terrific inside look at the High Court.

Jerry also knows us, so he brought gadgets.  He brought out the iPad 2 to show off Oyez mobile apps – PocketJustice and OyezToday.  PocketJustice features constitutional decisions, with audio and written transcripts, as well as Justice bios. Just this spring, the Oyez Project launched its second mobile app, OyezToday, with deeper background on the cases of the most recent term.  He also previewed some sweet new clipping and sharing features that we’re really excited about for a forthcoming release – but you’ll have to wait for Oyez to announce those.  Oh, and did we mention, OyezToday is free?  Download for your iPhone or iPad here.

Happy National Library Legislative Day!

One of the best things about living in D.C. is meeting and learning about groups who come from all over the country to advocate for important issues they face every day. And, today, our friends are here – it’s National Library Legislative Day! Librarians from all over the country are networking, meeting with members on Capitol Hill, and bringing awareness to upcoming legislation.

For more information, check out the briefing materials on the American Library Association webpage.

Fastcase: We ride with the Future

At Fastcase, it is no secret that we are big fans of smarter, cutting edge technology. Just last month our team was lucky enough to be able to take the Tesla Roadster, an incredibly speedy electric sports car, out for a spin in downtown Washington, D.C.

So when we saw this next generation motorcycle, our hearts were all aflutter. The Sora, an electric performance motorcycle by the Canadian company Lito, is designed to go 185 miles on a single 8 hour charge. While not as sleek looking as it larger cousin, the Sora’s carbon fiber and aluminum body will certainly turn heads, and as the bike tops out at 125 mph, it will turn those heads quickly. The Sora is currently not yet in production, but that just heightens the anticipation.

Smartphones: Searchable by Police?

                In many states, courts have upheld the authority of police to search a person’s cell phone contents upon arrest, without a warrant. Now that many of us carry internet-capable smartphones, which hold vast stores of personal information, the rulings permitting such searches may need reconsideration. Courts find themselves at an intersection where emerging technologies meet old case law. New precedent is likely to result.

                An article in last week’s Law Technology News did a great job of framing this issue with illustrative cases. First, author Engel points out that states have upheld the legality of arrest even for minor offenses. In Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001) a woman was held to have been legally arrested, handcuffed, and taken to the police station after a traffic stop for failing to wear a seatbelt. She was returning home from soccer practice with her children. Then, this year, United States v. Curtis, No. 09-2049 (2011) held a man’s text-messages to have been legally searched and used to incriminate him in a mortgage fraud case, after he was arrested for an unrelated crime. In combination, these two cases justifiably make us fear the worst: we could legally be taken into police custody for a small infraction and then have some of our most private information scrutinized. Even without any wrongdoing on the part of the arrested person, this policy is an uncomfortable invasion of privacy and a potentially huge embarrassment.

                At issue here is the fact that modern smartphones are far different from the objects originally determined to be searchable by police during arrests. “Incident to arrest” searches were determined to not violate Fourth Amendment rights decades ago. These searches could include the defendant’s person and immediate personal property. The searchable items were then interpreted to include containers, and soon pagers and cell phones were being lumped into this “container” category in legal decisions. But ubiquitous new internet-capable smartphones may finally be making the point that phones are less like containers and more like personal letters – thereby qualifying for some court protection.

                Some courts have considered the new nature of cell phones in their interpretation, and thus limited authority of police to search them without warrants, notably the Ohio Supreme Court in 2009. But other states, such as California, have continued to treat cell phones as searchable containers.

                California has been one of the places where police searches of cell phones received significant attention this year, along with Michigan. The California Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding the right of police to search cell phone contents during an arrest. And, in Michigan, state police are using a customized piece of hardware to extract cell phone data from drivers during traffic stops. The ACLU in Michigan has taken action against the police for this apparent invasion of privacy. The Michigan police can reportedly retrieve all phone data – such as photo data and GPS location information. This reminds us of Apple’s recent scandal with iTracking users’ location data which we remarked on last week.

                While case law about the legality of cell phone searches continues to develop, perhaps the best we can do is to keep ourselves informed. And in the meantime, maybe we need to consider password protection or encryption for our mobile devices.