Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide for Law Students

December is almost here, which means the law students in your life are preparing for the end of fall classes and their final exams. Since 2009, the Goodson Blogson has put together a small gift idea list for your favorite future lawyers.

Attorney/blogger Reid Trautz has already released his annual gift guide for lawyers, which include "the world’s first smart earplugs" by Hush Technology. These Bluetooth earplugs can reduce ambient noise by 30 decibels, and can also be set to play noise-masking sounds in order to reduce up to 40 additional decibels. Although the plugs are designed mainly to help with a better night's sleep (currently they cannot be set to play a user's own music), law students may appreciate the noise-masking features when studying for finals in the library, or trying to catch a mid-flight nap while traveling to callback interviews.

If your law student would prefer a more versatile set of noise-cancelling earbuds, check out the brand recommendations at, which also offers a round-up of best over-ear headphones under $100.

Although it's been featured every year in the Goodson Blogson holiday gift guide, we just can't ignore the unique law-related items at the Supreme Court Historical Society Gift Shop. Our top picks there this year for the law students you love are two attractive and budget-conscious travel mug options, each bearing the Court's seal. Top them off with a gift card to your student's local coffee joints (Cocoa Cinnamon is a Durham favorite), or a bag of gourmet coffee for home-brewing.

Beer mug patent poster from National ArchivesOther government agency gift shops, such as the National Archives & Records Administration, offer unique items as well, many of which have law themes. Law students with a home bar to decorate might welcome one of several NARA boozy poster prints, including a Prohibition-era closure notice, an 1876 beer mug patent illustration, or a 1934 "cocktail construction chart" authored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other items in the NARA shop include presidential Pez dispensers, an umbrella adorned with the text of the U.S. Constitution, and an assortment of military-style tote bags and backpacks.

Maybe your law student could use some pampering. A gift certificate to a nearby day spa, hair salon, or massage parlor could do wonders for a frazzled law student during finals. Meal delivery services like Blue Apron or HelloFresh can also relieve the stress of grocery shopping during difficult times of the semester.

Does your shopping list include someone with…unusual tastes? You might find the perfect off-kilter item at GovDeals, an auction site for government agencies who dispose of surplus equipment or confiscated items. While the average holiday shopper probably won't be in the market for a gently-used fire truck, there are categories for art, photography equipment, jewelry, and confiscated personal items which may fit the bill. Note that while GovDeals operates similarly to consumer auction sites like eBay, many of its sellers do not offer shipping or packing services; pickup may be required and can often be arranged with a local third-party service, but read the auction terms carefully.

Shipping may pose problems for gifts from GovDeals, but remember that hundreds of popular online retailers will participate in Free Shipping Day on December 17. With guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery, this is a good option for last-minute shoppers. Other shipping deals and coupon codes for your favorite gift sites can be found at RetailMeNot. And of course, don't forget your local merchants this holiday season, whether it’s on Small Business Saturday or any other time.

Happy holidays to all of our readers!

Previous Goodson Blogson gift guides:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Illustrating Medical Evidence

On Friday, December 4, the Duke University Libraries' Visualization Friday Forum series will host a lunchtime talk by medical illustrator and artist Jennifer McCormick, who creates courtroom exhibits designed to explain complex medical concepts to juries. (Sample case studies are available on her website, Art for Law & Medicine.) The event is co-sponsored by Duke Law School's Academic Technologies department and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine.

event image

The Power of Intention in Art and Medicine
Jennifer McCormick • Art for Law & Medicine
Friday, December 4, 2015 | 12-1pm
Duke Hospital Lecture Hall 2003 (map)
Lunch will be provided
Additional details: Data and Visualization Services blog.

Medical evidence can be difficult to comprehend for jurors and attorneys alike. In addition to valuable demonstrative evidence by illustrators like Ms. McCormick, a number of resources are available to aid litigators who are handling a case involving medical issues. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) sessions often address medical topics, such as the 2006 ALI-ABA handbook Anatomy for Litigators (RA1053 .H63 2006) or 2010's Cross-Examining Doctors: A Practical Guide (KF8964 .R33 2010). Additional resources are available online to the Duke Law community, such as the treatise Attorneys Medical Deskbook (on WestlawNext) or Attorneys Textbook of Medicine (on Lexis Advance). Both of these reference works are intended to give practitioners guidance on topics like basic anatomy, calculating damages for specific injuries, and even how to read an autopsy report.

For more general research resources on topics of health and medical law, check out the Goodson Law Library's guide to Health Law or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A New Look for Campaign Finance Data

Just in time for Election Day, the Federal Election Commission has launched phase one of, where it is testing new features for federal campaign finance data. The new site offers a slick new design compared to the long-running FEC Campaign Finance Disclosure Portal, which remains online as well while the beta site is developed.

The beta site currently includes a glossary of campaign finance terms, as well as a new look for campaign finance data. Users can search for an overview of an individual candidate or committee, and can also use the Receipts feature to search for an individual or corporate contributor.
  • Candidate information includes a summary of campaign financial operations, as well as links to required filings, such as financial disclosures and statements declaring candidacy. Compare, for example, leading 2016 presidential primary candidates Dr. Ben Carson and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
  • Committee information includes candidates' principal campaign committees as well as political action committees. For example, late night television host Stephen Colbert formed a Super PAC in 2011 dubbed "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" in an elaborate response to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court opinion on free speech rights of corporations in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The FEC information page for the now-defunct Super PAC includes financial summaries and links to required filings, which likely contain more comedic commentary than most FEC disclosures.
  • Receipts are available since 2011, and include federal election contributions from individuals (including corporate entities) and committees. For an example, see the last few years of contributions from the Duke Energy Corporation.
The site also includes an improved map to find data by location, and will be adding more features over time. Planned additions include a portal for advisory opinions, an overview of the candidate registration process, and the ability to easily export customized data. The beta site already includes the OpenFEC API, allowing developers to use FEC campaign data for non-commercial projects.

Keep an eye on the new FEC beta site for more features as they are developed, and remember that the existing Campaign Financial Disclosure Portal remains online for information that isn't yet available on the new site. For help with research federal campaign data, be sure to Ask a Librarian.