Researching Current Federal Legislation And Regulations: A Guide To Resources For Congressional Staff

New Congressional Research Service report

Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff

This report is designed to introduce congressional staff to selected governmental and nongovernmental sources that are useful in tracking and obtaining information on federal legislation and regulations.  It includes governmental sources such as, the Government Publishing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys), and U.S. Senate and House websites.  Nongovernmental or commercial sources include resources such as HeinOnline and the Congressional Quarterly (CQ) websites.

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The County Law Library: Don’t Overlook This Free And Valuable Legal Resource

 The county law library: Don’t overlook this free and valuable legal resource

An article from Law Office Manager on the resources available at your public county law library.

According to just about every legal management article, webinar, or podcast, the landscape of the legal market in the past few years has changed—dramatically. Clients, it seems, are firmly in the driver’s seat. And with an abundance of legal service providers, these clients are demanding efficient and cost-effective solutions, leading many firms to rethink their infrastructures and find innovative ways to do more with fewer resources.

As the office manager, it’s your job to assess the value of every resource available to you. And one resource you may be overlooking is your county law library (the “CLL”).

The CLL is about much more than just housing books. According to Mark Estes, librarian for the Bernard E. Witkin Law Library in Alameda County, it’s actually “a bridge connecting people with resources.”

When you collaborate with your CLL, here are just a handful of the resources your firm will be connected with:

1. A library consultant. Many law firms are reducing or eliminating their libraries, either choosing online equivalents or just doing without the publications. If your firm does not have an in-house law librarian, it can be difficult to assess which books and subscriptions you actually need. A CLL librarian can help your firm decide which ones to keep and which ones you can do without.

2. Infrequently used publications. After purging your library, there will be those rare occasions where a lawyer in a general practice suddenly requires access to tax materials, for example, or something from a seldom-used publication that is not available online. The CLL can help by providing quick access to current publications.

3. Online legal information resources. For many firms, it’s also not feasible to subscribe to all of the legal research databases. County law libraries offer access to many of the premium legal research databases, translating into a huge cost-savings for the firm.

4. Research specialists. As research specialists, law librarians are the key to information. They are adept at finding a specific needle of information in the growing haystack of online data and are also skilled in assessing the quality and reliability of this information.

When Estes was the librarian at a law firm, he had a rule of thumb that he would share with new associates: “If you don’t feel you’re on the right path after 15 minutes, talk to the librarian. If you’re on the right path, you’ll feel it after 15 minutes. But if you’re not, it really helps to talk about it with someone.” Estes (who has since shortened that timeline to seven minutes) points out that a law librarian is someone who can connect lawyers with resources they may not have even considered, whether that resource is a book, a database, an expert, or something else. “A law librarian will help you find ways to connect.”

5. Research training. There are many legal research tools and programs that lawyers did not encounter in law school. And without proper training, anyone using these tools are not nearly as effective as they could be. Lawyers can receive training in a variety of legal research tools from the CLL staff, which would not only be thorough, it would take considerably less time than it would for the lawyers to learn the programs unassisted. Many CLLs also offer continuing legal education courses and materials, as well as basic research courses for both lawyers and non-lawyers.

6. Private meeting spaces near the courthouse. Often, county law libraries are across the street from the courthouse and are equipped with conference rooms. These rooms are ideal to hold strategy meetings, take depositions, or conduct mediations, before, between, or after sessions, all in the privacy of a meeting room, rather than in the hallway of a courthouse. (By the way, CLLs, of course, have electrical outlets, which can be very handy for those long days at the courthouse when the smartphone battery is running low.)

7. Potential clients and colleagues. There are many opportunities for lawyers to present educational programs at the CLL to non-lawyers. “Consider it today’s equivalent of writing your treatise,” says Estes. “By holding an educational program for potential clients, law firms have the opportunity to get the firm’s name out, in a face-to-face environment.”

8. Market analysts. CLLs can help a firm obtain market and competitive intelligence about potential clients and help a firm find new business, which is becoming increasingly important in the current competitive environment.

9. Volunteer and pro bono opportunities. Lawyers and law firms can support CLLs effort to offer access to justice, an ethical obligation for all lawyers. One such opportunity is the Lawyer in the Library (LIL) program, where volunteer lawyers meet one-on-one with individuals to discuss their legal issue(s). Without creating a client-attorney relationship, the lawyers can offer guidance regarding what the individual can do on their own, as well as provide a referral to the bar association’s lawyer referral program. These volunteer activities not only facilitate access to justice, they also serve to enhance the reputation of the firm.

We’re Still Here

Upon receiving an Emmy last night, the Veep showrunner David Mandel, having reached the stage, said, “Holy crap, I have a 9:30 a.m. library shift at my son’s school tomorrow morning, if anyone is willing to trade with me, or at home, you can email me”.

The host, Jimmy Kimmel, after everyone from the show had left the stage, responded, “I’m just glad to hear there are still [school] libraries.”

Are you glad that libraries still exist?  We can always use help to continue our existence.


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Election Day – November 2016 – Are You Ready, California?

Easy Voter Guide

Let’s face it – this current election campaign season has been a doozy.  (I almost wrote “this year’s election” … but can it be only one year?)  In addition to voting for candidates for the federal offices, California voters will also make decisions on 17 proposed state laws (propositions).  And that does not include the issues and offices that will appear on the everyone’s local ballot.

lwv_logoCovering the state and federal ballot, the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund has published an Easy Voter Guide.  It was just made available for reading on the internet.  You can start studying up on those issues before tackling the ones closer to home.

ACLL has ordered some hard copy versions for the library.  These will be made available as soon as they are delivered.

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Beginning Your Legal Research – Presented by ACLL – September 13 & 27

Beginning Your Legal Research – Two-part class designed for non-attorneys, paralegals, and students.  No MCLE credit.

Online registration at



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Oakland Art Association – Exhibit Now At ACLL Oakland – Through October 28, 2016

Oakland Art Association – Exhibit at ACLL Oakland


The Oakland Art Association is presenting a juried show of original works of art at Alameda County Law Library, 125 12th Street, Oakland.  The show will run until October 28th.

The OAA exhibit can be seen during normal library business hours:

  • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays ~ 8:30 to 6:00
  • Tuesday and Thursdays ~ 8:30 to 9:00

The Oakland Art Association is a non-profit group of roughly 60 members, several of whom have been active over most of its almost 60 years.  OAA typically has about 10 juried shows each year, where members are invited to show original work which is competitively judges, and cash prizes are awarded.

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