Finding a topic is the first and often the most vexing challenge for law students writing a paper, note or comment for a class or law review. Choosing a paper topic that is neither too broad nor too narrow, both pertinent and topical, and not over nor under written about can be an exercise in frustration. Here we present a number of strategies to help you find the right topic for your law school paper.
Current Awareness Tools - Rich Sources of Paper Topics
A variety of print and online resources used by attorneys for keeping current can be rich sources for paper ideas.
BNA's United States Law Week summarizes the most significant federal and state court and administrative cases each week. Among the criteria: Cases which further split the circuits, establish new legal precedent, address new statutes, or contribute to emerging legal doctrines. Use the Circuit Split Roundup link to find splits by topic; click our Search link to find the latest circuit splits. Links: Circuit Split Roundup | Search for the Latest Circuit Splits | US Law Week
Also: Check the Split Circuits blog, regularly posting in-depth discussion of current circuit splits.
The Law Library subscribes to over 100 specialized BNA current awareness services online. Coverage in 28 topic areas, including environmental, intellectual property, labor & employment, business, corporate and tax law. Browse titles and subscribe to an email alert service in your legal area of interest for the latest legal news and analysis.
Links: BNA Databases by Subject | A-Z List | Email Updates | About
Also: Locating Paper Topics Using BNA Publications (pdf)
JURIST is a leading legal news and research website out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Every JURIST post provide news, background and, significantly, links to the primary source materials - judicial decisions, legislation, testimony, reports and releases - behind the legal news.
Links: JURIST Current Awareness | JURIST Home
News and analysis (and much more) of environmental, health and safety, toxic tort, natural resource and land use law. Be sure to check the ELR Update, latest developments newsletters, and News & Analysis Journal.
Links: Environmental Law Reporter | also see BNA's environmental law titles | also see E&E Newsletters
Free electronic newsletters published by ASIL, the American Society of International Law. International Law in Brief provides twice-monthly updates on general developments in international law. ASIL Insights contains periodic analysis of important developments and issues in international law.
Links: Subscribe to ASIL E-Newsletters | Read online International Law in Brief | Read online ASIL Insights
Three employment-law related email alert services provided by LawMemo.com. Employment Law Memo (M,W,F), NLRB Law Memo (Weekly), and Arbitration Law Memo (Monthly).
Links: Subscribe to a LawMemo | More info
Timely access to the latest law review articles in over 500 publications. Each week CILP presents citations to articles organized by legal subject, along with the tables of contents of all indexed journals. Direct links to articles on LexisNexis & Westlaw are included.
Free access to working papers, including reprints of published papers, by faculty worldwide.
Links: SSRN Legal Scholarship Network | bepress Legal Repository | Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series
There are a large number of law blogs ("blawgs") in specialized subject areas written by attorneys, professors, judges, students, and other area specialists.
Justia BlawgSearch - Leading directory of blogs by category, combined with powerful search engine
Law Professor Blogs Network - 56 blogs, 56 legal topics, all by law professor bloggers
• Blawgs.fm - Legal podcast directory and search engine
Twitter is a social-networking/microblogging service that allows anyone to sign up for a free account, post brief tweets (updates), and receive the updates of other Twitterers accounts. Following attorneys, firms and organizations in your area of interest, or searching the Twitter stream for keywords are fine ways to discover and keep up on the latest legal issues.
Twitter Search - search by basic keyword to find recent 'tweets' on a topic.
Boley's Lawlib Twitter - Our own feed of news, tips and resources for our students, faculty, staff and alum
Justia Legal Birds - Searchable directory of legal feeds, with consolidated feeds of by practice area.
LexTweet - Searchable collection of legal twitter feeds.
Top 100 Twitter Feeds for Law Students - Not sure where to start? Here are some popular legal feeds for lawyers, law students, faculty and more.
LexMonitor - Legal news and commentary from over 600 legal blogs
Many services providing analysis of current developement in the field and reports of recently decided cases are available in print in the Law Library. Searching the catalog for these tools can be difficult at times. Consider using "reporter" and your legal topic as a keyword search. Other words that may prove useful include "weekly", "alert", "current", "news", "analysis", or "newspaper" and then use one of these in conjunction with "law" or "legal."
Browsing the shelves still works! Go to your subject area of interest in the stacks and look for multi-volume looseleaf services, in particularly ones by BNA (Bureau of National Affairs) or CCH (Commerce Clearing House).
Links: Lewis & Clark Libraries Catalog | also search for looseleaf services with LawTRIO
Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review (4th ed. 2010)
This book covers everything from choosing a topic (chapter I) to getting your paper published (chapter VII), and in the process gives fine advice on writing. Even addresses a key question: What topics to avoid.
Links: Lewis & Clark Copy | Author's Website
Elizabeth Fajans and Mary R. Falk, Scholarly Writing for Law Students - Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes and Law Review Competition Papers (4th ed. 2011)
Levit, MacLachlan and Rostron, Submission of Law Student Articles for Publication (July 26, 2010)
Suggestions for law students who want to publish their law school research papers. Contains a chart of the policies of 194 law reviews.
Links: Download paper via SSRN
Deborah E. Bouchoux, Aspen Handbook for Legal Writers: A Practical Reference (2005)
Brian Garner, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2nd ed. 2006)