Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tip #8: A Great Little Procrastination Tip

I do a whole class on procrastination with a lot of advice for my students but I just saw something today that I had to pass on.

From "Goat Lady" in the comments of advice column:

"I will warn you in advance that this sounds hokey, but you can train yourself like you can any other critter and it works surprisingly well.
Get a big bag of your favorite small treat. Jelly beans, dove chocolates, wasabi peanuts, whatever. When you start a work task, have one! When you’ve spent a solid five minutes on it, have another! When you complete the task, have several (this is what animal trainers call a jackpot).
Do that for about a week, then drop the jelly bean you get just for starting but continue to periodically reward yourself for working and give yourself a jackpot for finishing. Gradually stretch how long you work between rewards until all you’re getting is the jackpot at the end.
It all sounds silly because your upper-level brain knows exactly what you’re doing, but you’re not dealing with your upper-level brain here. Your tiny mammal brain is frightened, because it associates work tasks with punishment. You’re slowly convincing it that in fact work tasks do not mean punishment, they mean jelly beans! Tiny mammal brains love tasty food, and you may find it easier than you think to get your tiny mammal brain to relax."

I do something like this when I'm grading (using peanut butter M&Ms)- but without this structure.  I'm definitely going to try it, though.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tip #7 - Notes of Decisions

Ah, liquid gold.  "Notes of Decisions," or, as you probably know them "NOTES OF DECISIONS" is a fantastic resource for finding cases when you're starting with a statute.

Here's how it works.  Type in your statute and you'll get a screen that starts off with the heading and the text of the statute.  I'm using Westlaw again, despite the fact that they refuse to give me an endorsement deal...

Scroll down until you reach the famous "NOTES OF DECISIONS" heading and you'll see a list of categories.  These categories will always include the elements of your statute as well as other things that have come up as difficult issues for courts.

Click on whichever category suits your needs, and the document will move to a list of headnotes that fit under that category.  Click on any case that interests you, and you're in business.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tip #6 - Italics or underline?

Here's a very simple tip about whether to use italics or underlining for case names.  It doesn't matter which you choose, but pick one.  Nothing is more distracting than seeing a document with both. 

Take this quote, for example:

"Courts review a grant of summary judgment de novo Willingham Sports, Inc. v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 415 F.3d 1274, 1276 (11th Cir. 2005)."

Yes, even that small inconsistency is grating.  If you italicize Latin phrases, you must italicize case names and vice versa.

Some courts or partners you will work for may have a preference that you should follow.  My old firm preferred italics.  No matter what, however, as is often the case in law, you must be consistent.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tip # 5 - How to create a new section in Word

For some documents, you may want to have different headings on different pages or different kinds of page numbers (roman, then arabic).  The way to do this in a single Word document is to create a new section where you want the changes to take place.

That is done by clicking "insert" and then "break."  A window will pop up with page and section breaks.  You want the section breaks kind.  You can choose from several options but the one you'll want is "next page," which starts your new section on a new page.

You can then treat the new page (and anything that comes after it) as a different document and changing its formatting won't affect the earlier pages.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tip #4 - How to add a Section Symbol

There are two ways to add the "section symbol" (§) to documents in word.  The case by case way and the macro way.

In the case by case way, you need to click on "insert" then "symbol."  Then click on the "special characters tab."  The § symbol will be located in the list window.  Click "insert" and you're done.  Check out these illustrations!

But perhaps you don't want to do this every time you need the section symbol.  If that's the case, you can copy and paste the symbol every time you need it or you can create a macro for it.

To create a macro, go back to the symbol popup screen and click "shortcut key."  In the next window, figure out what combination of keys you'd like to press to make the section symbol appear.  I've chosen "alt-S."  Click "assign" and you're all done. 

Works for the paragraph symbol (¶), too!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tip #3 - How to remove superscript for ordinal numbers

Ok, what does that even mean? 

When you're citing to cases (most commonly, federal circuit court cases), you have to put the Circuit number in the year parenthetical.  Example: (4th Cir. 1986).  The problem is that Word likes to raise up the "th" so that it looks like this: 4th, which is incorrect.  Word does this automatically so it's up to you to fix it.

How do you fix it?  The easiest way is to hit the "undo" button or press Ctrl-Z.  It will undo the superscript and you can continue.  Another way is to ensure that you don't hit the spacebar after your "4th" - put the spaces in advance.  That one takes a bit more forethought.

The final way to fix this is to get Word to stop superscripting automatically. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options, and click the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Then, deselect the Ordinals (1st) With Superscript check box and click OK.

 Hope this helps!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tip #2 - How to find case page numbers in Westlaw or Lexis online

If you're looking up a case in a book, the page number for your pinpoint cite should be easy to find.  When you're looking at cases online, things get harder.

Here's an image of a case on Westlaw with the page numbers circled. 

Here it is on Lexis:

As you can see, the page numbers are in bold with an asterisk (or two or three) in front of them.  Everything after the number is on that page and everything above that number is the page before.  For example, everything between the symbol *916 and *917 is on page 916 and everything before *916 but after *915 is on page 915.

Please note that for cases that are published in multiple reporters, there will be multiple page numbers (denoted by a different number of asterisks).  The Bluebook will tell you which reporter to use (for this case, which takes place in Massachusetts, it's the N.E. 2d).  Make sure you use the pin numbers associated with that reporter, which should be easy to tell from the citation.  For this case, the citation is 567 N.E.2d 912 so we want the page numbers in the 900s.

Questions?  You know what to do!