Catching the Google Wave

I recently received an invitation to join Google Wave. I was very excited about it. After a short time of playing around, I was given a limited number of invitations to hand out so that my friends and peers could join in. It was then that I realized how few people actually know about Google Wave.

So what is it?

Google Wave is a “personal communication and collaboration tool.” It is a Web-based service, designed to merge e-mail, instant messaging, wikis and social networking.

Basically, Google Wave works like e-mail, but instead of sending a message along with its entire thread of previous messages, or requiring all responses to be stored in each user’s inbox, message documents that contain complete threads of messages are perpetually stored on a central server. Like a Web page!

The entire document is called a “wave,” and each wave is shared with collaborators who can be added to or removed from the wave at any point during a wave’s existence. Any participant of a wave can reply anywhere within the message, edit any part of the wave and add participants at any point in the process. Each edit/reply is a “blip,” and users can reply to individual blips within waves or add blips at the end. Recipients are notified of changes/replies in all waves in which they are active.

The history of each wave is stored within it. Collaborators may use a playback feature in Google Wave to observe the order in which a wave was edited, blips that were added, and who was responsible for what in the wave. The history may also be searched by a user to view and/or modify specific changes, such as specific kinds of changes or messages from a single user.

In addition, waves are live. All blips are visible in real-time, letter by letter, as they are typed by the other collaborators. Multiple participants may edit a single wave simultaneously in Google Wave. Thus, waves can function not only as e-mails and threaded conversations but also as an instant messaging service when many participants are online at the same time. A wave may repeatedly shift roles between e-mail and instant messaging, depending on the number of users editing it concurrently. The ability to show messages as they are typed can be disabled, similar to conventional instant messaging.

And, of course, Google Wave is supported by extensions that can provide, for example, spelling/grammar checking, automated traslation among 40 languages, a game of chess, and many others.

To learn more, visit Or watch this video!


Interested in a Wave invite? I have some, and I’d be willing to share! Shoot me an e-mail!

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian

Lawyering Skills: Teaching first-year students legal reasoning, writing and research

First-year students spend most of their time in doctrinal classes like Contracts and Torts. Lawyering, in contrast, provides students with the practical skills that are necessary in law school. In this class, students receive an overview of the legal system, learn things like how to brief cases and cite using Bluebook format, and get a short review on grammar.

The main focus of the class is writing memos. The first assignment, the closed memo, is largely practice for the open memo. For the memo, students are presented with a legal question and asked to use relevant legal sources to analyze the issue and present an answer. Students learn skills used in legal reasoning and how to structure an office memo. The closed memo is “closed” because the sources for comparison are provided with the assignment. It is a multi-step assignment, and most steps are completion-only grades. This gives students several opportunities to improve their memo-writing skills before the open memo, which is the major assignment in the first semester of Lawyering.

In writing the open memo, students employ nearly everything they have learned in Lawyering up to that point through research, analysis and writing. The step-by-step guidance and practical training found in Lawyering separates it from other first-year classes and works with those classes to provide first-year students with a broad legal education.

Alyssa Boone, 1L and Student Ambassador

Google Scholar makes case law accessible for the regular guy (and gal)

On Nov. 17, Google added a feature to Google Scholar that will enable people everywhere find and read full-text legal opinions. Included are U.S. federal courts, including district, appellate and Supreme Court, as well as state appellate and supreme courts. You can find cases by party name, citation or topic. Simply go to and select the “legal opinions and journals” radio button. For example, typing in “seperate but equal” brings up the cases Brown v. Board of Education and Plessy v. Ferguson as well as many others.

When you select the case name, it is pulled up for your viewing pleasure. As you scroll through the document, you will notice that Google highlights the terms for which you searched. Along the left-hand side, Google provides the pagination.

Along the top you will find two tabs: “view this case” and “how cited.” Google Scholar defaults to “view this case.” The “how cited” tab provides you with examples of how the case you are looking at is cited.

For example, with Brown v. Board of Education, the first listing under “how cited” is:

As we noted in Brown I:” To separate [Negro school children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”
– in Wright v. Council of Emporia, 1972 and 374 similar citations

So check out Google Scholar and let me know what you think. Will it give Westlaw and Lexis a run for their money?

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian

‘Finals glaze’ overcomes law students late in semester

Editor’s Note: This blog was written in early November, so the “glaze” in question has long since set in. The first finals of the fall semester are a week away.

The weather has turned colder and my books seem to be getting heavier every day, which can only mean one thing: We are nearing what I like to call “the one-month point.” Law school is always busy. Class preparation, attending class and outlining are enough to fill your daily schedule. However, everything changes here at Green Hall about a month before finals.

Everybody seems to get the “finals-glaze” look in their eyes. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a student who has been outlining since day one, started outlining over fall break or haven’t started at all. Whether you are a 1L, 2L, or 3L — highly involved with extra-curricular responsibilities or not — everyone gets the “glaze.”

We have not quite arrived at this magical point, so everyone is still looking pretty calm. I have a Constitutional Law paper due right before we hit the one-month point, so that is currently occupying most of my time. We have been assigned a case critique over any one of the cases we have studies thus far in class. I have chosen to analyze U.S. v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144 (1938).

I had better return to my studies. Until next time…

Chelsea Barnett, 2L and Student Ambassador

CALI offers feedback before finals

Finals are coming up and, as a student, you are in need of a service that can help you review some of the concepts that you have discussed in class and read about in textbooks. But you would also like to be quizzed to see if you are getting these concepts. Is there anything out there that can help?

Of course there is! And its names is CALI!

CALI (short for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) was started back in 1982 as a colaboration between the University of Minnesota’s and Harvard’s law schools. After going through many different incarnations, including floppy disks, CDs and DVDs, CALI finally settled on a Web-based operation located at

Just as the name implies, CALI is a computer-based learning system for legal materials. Think of it as a computerized tutor. Although CALI provides quite a few different services, the big one is its lessons. These lessons are broken down into topics, author and casebook. Also, if you use CALI on a regular basis, there is an area for new and updated lessons.

So how do these lessons work? Well, first you choose a topic. Let’s say, contracts. When you get into CALI, you will notice that there isn’t really a lesson plan simply on contracts. Rather, it is further broken down into sub-issues, such as offer, acceptance, consideration and remedies. You will also notice that you have run into two types of lessons. One is a simple podcast in which a law professor gives you advice. The other lesson consists of a lesson and a quiz. An explanation of the legal concept is given, followed by a quiz. If you get the answer right, you get a big, green check. You also get the opportunity to explain why you got the answer you got and compare it with the “model answer.” Now keep in mind that these “model answers” are based upon what the author believes the answer should be. If you get the answer wrong, CALI will explain it to you.

Interested in checking out CALI? Well, send me an e-mail and I will forward to you the access code! Provided you are a student or faculty member here at KU Law, of course.

Blake Wilson
Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Biolaw symposium ponders future of IP law

Students and friends of the law school had an opportunity to listen to one of the great scholars on intellectual property law on Nov. 6, 2009. Roger Milgrim, author of the treatises “Milgrim on Licensing” and “Milgrim on Trade Secrets,” addressed a group of about 80 people about the rates at which technology and law are currently growing and the increasing gap between these two fields. Milgrim was the keynote speaker at Biolaw 3.0: Law at the Frontiers of Biology.

Milgrim pointed out that one of the biggest challenges to overcome in the field of biotechnology and intellectual property law is taking a complex subject matter and being able to explain it in words that a judge and jury can understand. The words we choose to use could make the difference between winning and losing a case.

Another interesting part of Milgrim’s speech focused on the development of “hybrid” intellectual property statutes. Historically, patents, trademarks and copyrights have been governed by federal statutes, while trade secrets have been governed by state law. Since technology is growing at such a rapid pace, the current laws cannot properly govern intellectual property rights. Milgrim raised the question of whether a “hybrid” form of intellectual property laws would offer improved protection until the moral and social issues currently plaguing intellectual property laws could be fairly legislated.

Spending an hour listening to Milgrim speak about the current state of intellectual property laws was a welcome addition to my intellectual property law class. I had the opportunity to take concepts that I learned in class and see how they are applied in a day-to-day legal setting. Opportunities such as the biolaw symposium are frequently available at the KU School of Law and are a great supplement to an already outstanding legal education.

Courtney Johnston
2L and Student Ambassador