In Brief

Vol. 40 No. 7

Student access to Westlaw or Lexis, clinics, success tip.

Law clerks: Keep your free Lexis, Westlaw to yourself

You’re working as a law clerk. Your boss comes by and asks you to look up something on Westlaw or Lexis—using your free student access.

Nothing wrong with that … right?

Actually, according to the ethics advisory committee for at least one state bar—Utah—it is professionally unethical for a practicing attorney to ask you to use your free account in this way. In fact, it might even be a felony.

If you read your user agreement, notes James B. Levy at Legal Skills Prof Blog, you’ll probably find that you’ve agreed to use your free access only for educational and nonprofit purposes—and not to save your boss some money.

How common is this kind of request, and how strong is the expectation that law clerks will comply? Enough that Levy, an associate professor of law at Nova Southeastern University School of Law, titled his post “Utah opinion notes ‘numerous’ law students report employment is conditioned upon criminal use of free Wexis access.”

The rough economy is probably playing a role, Levy speculates, adding that small firms and solo practitioners might be the most tempted to rely on students’ free access.


Struggling in your clinic?

If you were having trouble in, say, your torts, contracts, or evidence class, it’s unlikely that a dean or professor would advise you to drop it. The same is not true, though, for clinical courses.

That’s according to Irene M. Scharf, professor of law, director of clinical programs and experiential learning, and director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Massachusetts School of Law–Dartmouth.

In “Does the Practice of Counseling Students Out of a Clinic Make a Statement About the Place of Clinical Education in the Academy?” at Best Practices for Legal Education, Scharf notes that even clinical professors themselves often advise struggling students to drop clinics.

One simple reason for this is that clinics are often elective whereas those other classes are required. Maybe that should change, Scharf says; in the meantime, it’s ultimately much better for you, she believes, if you hang in there.

That way, she writes, you’ll learn “not to give up if and when ‘the going gets tough’ in the course of handling difficult cases and challenging clients.”


Success tip: Ask for an exam review

If you were disappointed by your fall exam scores or are already looking ahead to spring exams, here’s something to keep in mind: Many professors will sit down with you one on one to go over how you could have done better and what you can do differently the next time.

Some professors have very specific dates and times and require that you make an appointment—and it’s very unlikely the meeting will result in a change to your score. Still, writes Kimberly K. Ballard in “Weekly Academic Success Tip––Evaluate Your Exam Performance,” there’s a lot you can
gain from such a meeting.

At the blog for the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, Ballard, the school’s assistant dean for academic and student services, recommends you arrive prepared with specific questions, including:


Did I spot the important issues?

What ways could the answer have been better organized?

Did I make unwarranted assumptions in order to reach my conclusion?

What aspects of my exam were strong?



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