Study Aid Spotlight: Acing Evidence

by Ralaya Evans, 2L

As 1Ls, we are often guided on which study aids are good to use to help us prepare for some of the hardest exams we will ever have to take. Once we enter into 2L year, we are aware that study aids are helpful, but not always sure where to find them. I talked with a few friends, and we all are of the opinion that Evidence, during 2L year, is one of the courses in a study aid that could be most helpful. Evidence is such a dense and rule-intensive course. During the semester, we review and learn the rules separately, which is not so bad. However, when it is time for the final exam, we quickly realize we will have to be able to identify which rule applies to each problem and this is not always so easy.

Study Aids for Evidence are important for so many reasons. This area of law is important for litigators and transactional attorneys, and studying it gives us all practice for the bar.

Knowing this, I searched for several Evidence study aids and came across Acing Evidence by Aviva Orenstein. I worked with this guide to study for my upcoming final exam and can honestly say that my confidence greatly increased as a result. The “Acing Evidence” study aid has been extremely helpful for a few reasons:

  • Practice Problems: This study aid provides examples and practice at the end of every lesson. For example, the first chapter discusses Relevance, which is a big part of Evidence. At the end, there is a page titled “Illustrative Problems.” Here, you will find questions and answers to practice. The majority, if not all, Evidence professors will tell you that one of the best ways to get great at Evidence and prepare for exams is to practice.
  • Checklists: There are checklists for the majority of the rules. In Evidence, checklists are your absolute best friend. You can virtually get every question correct if you find/develop the correct check list for that rule and apply it to the question. Character is one of the best parts of Evidence to have a checklist for and Chapter 2 of the study aid provides this checklist. Try it out next time you are practicing evidence
  • Reminders: Another great aspect of this study aid is the Points to Remember after each chapter. This provides a quick highlight of the important parts of the chapter and sometimes acronyms to remember points about Evidence during an exam.

As far as study aids go, I give this one two thumbs up. If you need help finding a study aid for another course, don’t forget that the reference librarians are always here to assist. Good luck with exams!

4 Tips for In-Person Exams

by Alison Guffey, 3L

For many law students, this semester marks the first time you will be taking a law school examination in-person, either because you are a finals novice altogether (welcome 1Ls!) or because you have been a faithful student of the Zoom School of Law. In either case, as you sit for your first in-person exam, here are four tips to prepare you.

Tip 1: Study on campus.

Carve out some time to study on campus before your exam date. Though it is often more comfortable and convenient to study at home, studying at least once in the same environment you will be taking the exam will help improve your overall performance.

Tip 2. Noise is inevitable.

You never realize just how loud someone can type until you’re an hour into an in-person final, reading the same multiple choice question for the third time in a row while the sound of tiny, tap-dancing mice fills the room. Typing, pencils scratching, chairs moving and creaking – these sounds can be distracting during an exam. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a way to avoid this one. The best tool you have is to mentally prepare yourself that noise will happen, and try not to be caught off guard by it.

Tip 3: Arrive an hour early.

The trek to your in-person final will likely be longer than that from your bed to your laptop. Thus, in addition to triple-checking the start time, plan to be at the COL at least an hour before your final exam begins. You will be grateful for the extra time if Atlanta traffic rears its ugly head or T-deck is inexplicably full. Plus, you will never regret reading through your outline one last time before the exam starts.

Tip 4: Think through what materials you can bring.

The days of sprawling notebooks on your kitchen table are over. In-person exams limit the space you have available to reference other sources, and your professor might further limit those resources. Review what is and is not allowed in your exam and plan accordingly.

Taking exams in person might seem daunting or even scary. Just remember – you are now one in a long line of law students who have taken in-person final examinations. Welcome to the club, and best of luck!

How do you become a USPTO-registered Patent Practitioner?

Agents of Invention, Part 2

Welcome to another installment of Agents of Invention, our series exploring the exciting world of patent agents by the law library’s own T.C. Deveau. T.C. has a PhD in Neuroscience and has worked as a patent agent for almost 7 years. He’s currently in the final year of GSU Law’s part-time program.

(https://www.flickr.com/photos/82175587@N00/3280979916 licensed via creative commons).

In order to represent clients in patent matters in front of the USPTO, one must be a registered agent with the USPTO – either as a patent agent or attorney.  The primary mechanism by which one becomes registered is by passing the USPTO Registration Exam (also colloquially referred to as the “Patent Bar”).  Those interested in patent practice may have heard of this exam, and this post will provide guidance on how to sign up to take the exam.

You may be thinking – what exactly does it mean to represent clients in front of the USPTO?  Generally, this means submitting documents related to patent applications and communicating with the USPTO.  A more detailed definition is provided by the USPTO in 37 C.F.R. 11.5(b) and 37 C.F.R. 11.5(b)(1) for those that are curious. 

Moral Character

(https://www.wikihow.com/Become-a-Patent-Lawyer#/Image:Become-a-Patent-Lawyer-Step-5-Version-5.jpg licensed via creative commons)

First, before one can sit to take the U.S.P.T.O. Registration, one must satisfy the eligibility requirements of the USPTO.  To be eligible to sit for the exam, the USPTO requires: (1) good moral character; and (2) sufficient technical background and/or training to demonstrate technical expertise.

Satisfying the moral character portion is generally straightforward for applicants, involving a “yes” or “no” checklist to statements regarding things such as felonies, disciplinary reprimands, federal debt, etc., similar to what one has to deal with on a law school application. 

If the answer is “yes” to any of the questions on the application, then a detailed statement explaining the circumstances is required.  A heightened standard (and application fee) for applicants who previously: (A) faced convictions; (B) were disciplined professionally; or (C) were denied for “Lack of Good Moral Character and Reputation” is required.  If one falls into one of these categories then one is not automatically disqualified, but subject to review based on the information provided on a case-by-case basis.

Technical Background

Satisfying the second eligibility prong – technical background – can be a little confusing.  There is no “one size fits all” educational or experiential model that demonstrates technical expertise, so the USPTO has several categories that it lumps its requirements into – Category A, Category B, and Category C.

CATEGORY A: Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree or Doctor of Philosophy Degree in a Recognized Technical Subject.

The following subjects are currently “recognized technical subject” areas by the USPTO.  If your major in college, Master’s degree, or Ph.D. was in any of these subjects, then submit an official transcript showing award of the degree.  The technical subject areas have been expanded in the last few years, and even expanded to include graduate degrees.  The following list is current as of 2022:

CATEGORY B: Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree or Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Another Subject.

For people that have a degree in a subject that is not explicitly listed in Category A above (at the time I applied, Neuroscience was not a recognized subject area so my application was a category B application), the USPTO will still qualify it if your transcript demonstrates one of the following options:

  1. Option 1: 24 semester hours in physics. Only physics courses for physics majors will be accepted.
  2. Option 2: 32 semester hours in a combination consisting of the following: Eight semester hours in a combination of chemistry and physics, with at least one course including a lab, and 24 semester hours in biology, botany, microbiology, or molecular biology. Only courses for science or engineering majors will be accepted.
  3. Option 3: 30 semester hours in chemistry. Only chemistry courses for chemistry majors will be accepted.
  4. Option 4: 40 semester hours in a combination consisting of the following: Eight semester hours in a combination of chemistry, physics, and/or biology, with at least one course including a lab, and 32 semester hours of chemistry, physics, biology, botany, microbiology, molecular biology, or engineering.

Unfortunately for individuals trying to qualify under this category, there is a lot more paperwork involved.  In addition to an official transcript showing conference of the degree, a course description from the institution in the same year the course was taken has to be provided, as well at is showing a grade for that class (only grades of C- or better are accepted).

This category is a catch-all, and the USPTO provides more options than those explicitly listed above.  For example, the USPTO, on a case-by-case basis, will consider teaching experience, other training, etc.  If trying to qualify under this category, get in touch with the USPTO and consult with someone about exactly what they’ll want to see so it can be furnished with the application.

CATEGORY C: Practical Engineering or Scientific Experience.

This category is reserved for individuals that do not qualify under Category A or Category B, but have received a bachelor’s degree and passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) test.  The official FE results and official bachelors transcript showing the award of a degree must be submitted to the USPTO to qualify under this category.

Additional information can be found in the General Eligibility Bulletin here.

Fill out and Submit the Application

Alright – so now that you’ve read all the fine print and determined that you are eligible and collected any and all relevant paperwork, it’s time to fill out and submit the application.  This part is generally straightforward, and the application is no-nonsense, and will be similar to other applications that you have filled out before. 

An example application can be found with the General Eligibility Requirements, and hey, because it’s the 21st century, can even be filled out and filed online with the USPTO here.

The exam will have to be submitted with an application fee along with all the relevant documentation.  After submission, it will be reviewed by the USPTO and approved or rejected, generally within about 14 days.  If approved, proceed to register, if not, get in touch with the USPTO and they can help you rectify any application defects.

Register to Take the Exam

Unfortunately, you can’t simply register to take the exam.  As we discussed above, you have to be approved to take it by the USPTO after demonstrating your eligibility. 

After receiving your approval letter, you proceed to the Prometric website here to register and take your exam.  This isn’t a “offered twice a year” type exam, and there will be just about any time of year you can sign up and take it. 

The only caveat to registering for the exam is, after approval, you only have a certain amount of time to register and take the exam.  This time period may range from about 90 days or more.  The USPTO does know that life happens, and this time period may be extendable.  It is extendable with the payment of additional fees to the USPTO, and note that prometric may also want a rescheduling fee.

90 days is probably a suitable preparation period for most but this is something to keep in mind.  It’s not worth filling out and submitting the application if you plan to take it a year later, for example.

Currently, Prometric is the vendor but this may be subject to change.

The Exam Itself

The Exam itself is 100 multiple choice questions broken up into two 50-question/three-hour chunks.  Only 90 of these questions are graded and 10 may be experimental.

Preparation and Study

The Registration Exam generally tests one on the laws, rules, regulations, and procedure of patent prosecution.  These can range from to overcoming Examiner rejections, post-grant proceedings, and more mundane questions like “what can/can’t you fax into the USPTO?”  Yes, you might be thinking it’s crazy for them to asking a question about fax in 2022, but, computers/computer systems are not infallible and there may be a time in practice where you have to actually snail mail and fax things into the USPTO.  Some items the USPTO still won’t accept electronically either. 

The Exam sources questions from the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, the Code of Federal Regulations, and other sources, such as the Federal Register.  The MPEP and CFR is where the overwhelming majority of questions will be coming from. 

To prep and study for the exam, there are a variety of prep courses one can take.  No, it’s not necessary to take a prep course, but, like the actual bar exam, you’re not going to find many practitioners out there that recommend a DIY “go at it yourself” approach.  Most will say just suck it up and spend the money for the course and get to work.

There are a lot of advantages to prep courses too.  One of the main ones is prep courses often have large proprietary question banks and computer software that emulates the display you will see on test day.  This alone is worth the price of admission in my mind, because it tends to be an area where “practice makes perfect.”  Prep courses also do the organizational work for you or organize the material in a readily digestible format and provide a study timeline.

GSU’s courses in Patent Law and Patent Drafting and Prosecution can be very valuable resources and help one prep for the exam as well.  Definitely take them if you get the chance.  These courses, however, are not a substitute for exam prep. 

Please note no valuable consideration is provided by any outside source in writing the above advice; it is simply based on the author’s personal experience.

I’ve Taken the Exam – Now What?

After submitting your completed exam, you’ll immediately get a notification at the test center as to whether or not you passed.  This is unofficial, and you should wait for the official USPTO communication to let you know, but I’ve not heard of anyone getting a pass at Prometric and an official notification or vice-versa. 

This official notice from the USPTO generally comes 10-14 business days after the exam, but could be sooner or later.  If you passed, congrats! 

If you didn’t pass – not a big deal.  It’s a tricky test with a low pass that is generally taken by very intelligent people.  Not uncommon for people to have to take it more than once, especially people with technical backgrounds and no legal backgrounds.  Hope back on the horse, re-apply (you don’t have to submit all the application addendums with the re-application), register to take it again, and get back to the books.  You got this.

The Fine Print

Please keep in mind that the purpose of this blog post is a good faith effort to provide information relating to the exam.  As anyone trying to be a patent agent or attorney should be aware, this blog post should be a guide, but should not be a substitute for doing your own due diligence.  Please double check the official USPTO and Prometric guidelines before proceeding to apply for and take the exam. 

Additional information regarding the USPTO Registration Exam can be found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USPTO_registration_examination

https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/patent-and-trademark-practitioners/becoming-patent-practitioner

https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/patent-and-trademark-practitioners/becoming-patent-practitioner/routine-processing-documents

https://oedci.uspto.gov/OEDCI/practitionerhome.jsp

https://www.prometric.com/test-takers/search/uspto

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/37/1.21

Meet Dan Quiggin

This post is the continuation of an “in-depth” interview series with new librarians and staff at Georgia State University College of Law Library. See earlier installments here.

We introduce our new librarians and staff at Georgia State University College of Law Library with a questionnaire invented by Austin Williams, which is borrowed in spirit, if not in part, from Marcel Proust’s famous questionnaire.

PXL_20221003_124857746.PORTRAITAustin (if he were still here): What is your name and what do you do?

Dan: – My name is Dan Quiggin, and I am a data analyst in the Legal Analytics and Innovation Initiative. Informally, I take care of the math side of legal analytics!


A: How long have you been at Georgia State University College of Law Library? 

D: I have been at the College of Law for about two months, but associated with Georgia State University for a little over nine years.


A: What books are currently on your nightstand (or Kindle)?

D: The book I’ve spent the most time reading recently is Statistical Inference, by George Casella and Roger Berger – but on my nightstand is one of my wife’s favorite books, In The Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce.


A: What is an interesting fact about yourself that you would like to share with our readers?

D: Aside from 2020, I have not missed a single DragonCon since moving to Atlanta.


A: What is your favorite place in Atlanta (so far)?

D: My back patio, with a glass of bourbon and a good book (at least at this time of year!)


A: When you are not saving the world here at GSU Law Library, what do you enjoy doing outside of work?

D: I like to read, cook, and play video games, and I’m also active in some volunteer circles.



A: Lastly, what is your favorite vacation spot? The place you go to leave it all behind for a few days.

M: My in-laws have a cottage in North Georgia, by Dahlonega (though I don’t get there as often as I’d like!)


There you have it, folks. The complete, unedited, behind-the-scenes interview with Dan Quiggin.

Newbie’s Guide to the Law Library

I walked into my first law library almost fifteen years ago as a 1L. By the end of my first year I was working there. I have since been in dozens of law libraries, worked in five, and received a whole other degree in library science. And still, when I arrived at GSU Law, I found myself a little unsure about the library, its space, and its offerings.  If walking in with all this library street cred I still find myself learning something new every day, I imagine new law students, faculty, and other patrons, might find themselves in the same situation.

A road sign welcoming a driver to the town of Newbie
Image Credit: Anne, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ilike/4942572797 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

With that, I offer up some tidbits and advice I have collected the past few months that I hope will help you make the most of the GSU Law Library.

  • Use the maps! Just like the rest of the law school, the Law library has floor maps on each floor. These are incredibly helpful for figuring out where to study, where to hang, and how to find items in the collection!
  • Circulation to the left; Reference to the right- know the difference! When you are standing facing the main desk, the reference folks are on the right. You may recognize us from RMiL or the Professional Librarian program. We can assist with research support, RMiL assistance, or other reference needs. The Circulation staff will be those on your left. They are AMAZING and can help you with questions about checking out everything from study aids to portable monitors!
  • Did I mention the library has TONS of loanable tech and other non-book ‘resources’? There are book stands, games, dry erase marker sets, foldable monitors, headphones, and more. You’ll never know if you don’t ask, so if you need something for the day always check in with Circulation.
  • Don’t get loud on the sixth floor- your peers will not only give you the side-eye, they will complain. The 6th floor is for quiet studying, even if you are in a study room. Be careful not to get too noisy up there because your colleagues really do expect silence!
  • The blinds are adjustable! I had no idea, but if you find yourself sitting at a study table unable to manage the afternoon glare, come talk to the library and let us help you adjust the shades so you can get back to concentrating.
  • The back of the 5th floor has a collaborative work space- need to use the monitors to group share? The Circulation desk can loan you the tech needed to connect your computer(s) to the screens no problem.
  • The library offers an amazing set of trainings and asynchronous programs through the ALERT program. You can attend the in-person session and/or do the online modules to gain research certifications.
  • You can check out some games, but there are also lots of places and ways to use the library for study breaks- from the coffee machine to the lobby puzzles, to our Leisure Collection where you can check out movies for pleasure (Spoiler, they have some law connection, but it’s better than a casebook!)
  • Check out study rooms online! Save yourself time and a headache and make sure to use the QR codes or go to https://booking.lawlibrary.gsu.edu/reserve/studyroomres to reserve a room before coming to Circulation to get a key!
  • The GSU Law Library makes improvements based on student needs and feedback. If there is something you wish the library did or offered, let them know by using the feedback form!

This is definitely a non-exhaustive list of the library’s voluminous offerings. If you haven’t yet, take a minute and check explore the terrific resources and materials the library promotes on its website.

“Two Countries Separated by the Same Language”: Comparing Marriage under U.S. Law and English Common Law

The Law From Here

By Divya Maharaj

Welcome to another installment of The Law From Here, our globe-trotting series that gives you a chance to get to know GSU Law’s LLM students. Like many of our LLM students, Divya Maharaj has considerable experience researching the law of another country–here, the Caribbean twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Divya has an LLB from the University of London and an LLM from Staffordshire University, in addition to being a recent graduate of GSU’s LLM program. In Trinidad and Tobago, she spent some time working under the nation’s former attorney general before working as an independent attorney. In today’s very special The Law From Here, Divya takes a look at some of the different ways that English Common Law and U.S. Way treat marriage.

George Bernard Shaw said, “England and America are two countries separated by the same language”. Before I immigrated to the US, I had very little idea about how extensive this “separation” is because it goes much beyond language and extends even to the sphere of the legal systems which originate from the same English Common Law (ECL). As a practitioner and student of law, the more comparative research I conducted in this sphere, the more I realized the extent of this “separation”. However, before going any further, here is a disclaimer. Although Trinidad and Tobago is my country of origin, the legal system there is almost entirely based on ECL, and in addition, I am an English-educated attorney and hence when it comes to law, England is my home country and hence the prologue.

Divya Maharaj

Amongst the many major differences, one that I stumbled upon recently was in the domain of Family Law–more precisely in the unpleasant arena of Divorce Law. Divorce in England and Wales, and by extension in Trinidad and Tobago as well, is guided by the Matrimonial Causes Act (MCA) 1973 pt 1, s 1(2), wherein, divorce can only be considered when a marriage has irretrievably broken, which again is determined if one or more of the following facts are satisfied: (1) respondent committed adultery; (2) respondent’s behavior made living together impossible; (3) respondent deserted for at least a continuous two year period; (4) the parties had at least two years of continuous separation if they have consented to a decree of separation; or (5) the parties had at least five years of continuous separation if there was no decree of separation. Even with the last two clauses, the law there is mostly a fault-based one and the divorce petition statistics also show that a vast majority of the petitioners rely upon fault as the ground for divorce, adultery and unreasonable behavior being the most popular ones.

However, from my research I have come to realize that there are quite a number of important differences between the laws of the US versus that of England and Wales. Some of the major ones are as follows. First, due the no-fault divorce law revolution of the 1970s, the overall framework in the US has tilted mostly towards no-fault grounds, even though fault grounds still exist. Second, marriage and divorce here is mostly guided by the state laws, therefore a single law is not guiding divorce for the entire country. Third, even though all fifty states now allow no-fault divorce, there are many different flavors of the laws. On the one end of the spectrum are the seventeen states allowing divorce solely on no-fault grounds (e.g. California, Washington, etc.). Case in point is California where, per California Family Code 2310, divorce can be granted on the following two grounds: (1) irreconcilable differences, resulting in marriage breakdown; and (2) permanent legal incapacity to make decisions. On the other end of the spectrum are the thirty-three other states allowing divorce on a mix of fault and no-fault grounds (e.g. Texas, Georgia, Utah, etc.). Case in point is Georgia, where, per Georgia Code § 19-5-3, divorce can be granted on the following grounds: (1) prohibited types of intermarriage; (2) mental incapacity; (3) impotency; (4) force, menace, duress, or fraud in the process of marriage; (5) wife’s pregnancy by someone other than the husband; (6) adultery of either party; (7) willful and continued desertion by any of the parties for one year; (8) conviction of either party for moral turpitude offense, resulting in two or more years of imprisonment; (9) habitual intoxication; (10) cruel treatment; (11) incurable mental illness; and (12) habitual drug addiction; and (13) the marriage being “irretrievably broken” (i.e., the no fault option). Fourth, regarding the no-fault divorce related separation clauses, there are differences between state laws on the duration based on whether the divorce is consent-based or unilateral. In many states, the parties can go for immediate divorce if it is consensual (e.g. Texas, Florida, etc.). For unilateral ones, the duration of separation varies from state to state as follows, with some of them allowing as short a duration as one month (e.g. Alabama), whereas some requiring as long a duration as two years (e.g. Illinois). Fifth, in a handful of states where fault-based clauses are still important, there are some unusual additional grounds as well. For example, New Hampshire, where joining a religious sect which destroys marriage can be a ground for divorce, or Illinois, where infecting a spouse with venereal disease can be a ground. Sixth, even with the existence of fault-clauses, the general trend in the country has been towards no-fault based divorce. Finally, in a limited number of states like Louisiana and Arizona, there is the concept of “covenant marriage” which does not exist in England. In this arrangement, parties opting for it are required to go for premarital education classes and promise to seek marital counseling in case of later problems to preserve the marriage, with no-faults no-fault divorce not available as an option.

After researching the legal frameworks, I also proceeded towards gauging the relative experiences with the highly fault tilted, versus the highly no-fault tilted divorce law frameworks in these two jurisdictions; note that when it comes to the US, by “jurisdiction” I mean the overall US. It was quite interesting to see the prevalence of “grass in greener on the other side” sentiment on both sides.

On the English side of the fence, a comprehensive and widely accepted study by Nuffield Foundation highlighted the following major challenges because of high reliance upon fault-based divorces. First, fault-based framework’s original objective of preserving the institution of marriage by making divorces difficult, has not really been satisfied. Second, a great degree of dishonesty has crept into the process because, irrespective of the reality, the parties have found that they can short circuit the process by using fault, thus avoiding the long separation period requirements and trigger faster divorces. Third, reliance upon fault has given rise to higher levels of acrimony in the divorce process, thus greatly increasing the suffering of children. Fourth, the fault-based proceedings are highly unjust towards the respondent in a high percentage of cases because of truth being taken out of context. Finally, reliance upon fault has, in many cases, resulted in protracted legal battles and has severely impacted the quality of life. A glaring example is the highly debated and publicized case of Owens v. Owens, where although it was found that the marriage has irretrievably broken after 37 years, the judge refused to grant a divorce on the ground: that the petitioner’s fault-based allegations (e.g. intolerable behavior) were just minor altercations which can be expected in a marriage; and that the respondent was also opposing the divorce. The petitioner’s further appeal was unanimously dismissed by the Supreme Court even though the judge expressed his “uneasiness”. The petitioner is still waiting before she can apply for a divorce on the basis of separation grounds, while living quite unhappily in a marriage which does not work anymore. As a result of all these, a strong push has come from various quarters of the society that the law, which has not seen any change since 1973, needs to be reformed towards a no-fault based one so that it is more in alignment with the laws in other developed western nations like the US.

However, on the US side of the fence, because of many decades of experience with the no-fault framework, some major challenges have been observed as well. First, no-fault has caused a substantial rise in divorce rates in the US, probably arising mostly from unilateral divorces. In fact, the US has one the highest divorce rates in the world. Second, in the absence of the conflicts arising from the need to prove fault, fights over custody and support have taken its place, and these have become more prevalent with the similar, if not higher, level of acrimony and humiliation in the process. Third, dishonesty in the process has shifted from falsification in order to prove fault, to falsification in order to get a favorable bargain on the collateral aspect of the divorce process, which is evidenced by a rise in the level of one of the party falsely accusing the other party of child sexual abuse in order to get the children’s custody. Finally, due to the shorter wait period for non-consensual divorces, the party intending to divorce may just wait and simply leave at the end of the waiting period, thereby possibly putting the other spouse who did not want to divorce at a considerable disadvantage, and thus having a higher bargaining power. As a result of these factors, a sentiment opposite to the other side of the Atlantic is prevalent in some sections of the US society. Although there has not been much success, here the detractors of the no-fault framework have been trying to bring fault into the mainstream again. One effect of this push can be evidenced in the introduction of “covenant marriage” in a handful of states as mentioned earlier.

In conclusion, I can only say that this ongoing research has broadened my knowledge horizon and made me realize that I definitely need to undertake more of these exploratory comparative research initiatives. All of the sudden, I see Hamlet appearing in front of my sleepy eyes and say: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” So, yes, my research will continue!

The Law From Here: What is Legal Research like in Venezuela?

by Mariana Griffiths, LLM Candidate

Welcome to another installment of The Law From Here, our globe-trotting series that gives you a chance to get to know GSU Law’s LLM students. Like many of our LLM students, Mariana Griffiths has considerable experience researching the law of another country–here, Venezuela. In Venezuela, Mariana worked as a legal coordinator. Currently, she works as corporate legal supervisor at UPS while she finishes up her LLM degree at GSU. In today’s The Law From Here, she offers her insights into legal research in the Venezuelan legal system, and how it compares (so far) to researching the law in the United States.

I received my law degree in Caracas, Venezuela at the Universidad Metropolitana or Metropolitan University at the age of 23 years old after finishing high school. In Venezuela it is not required: (1) to pursue an undergraduate degree before applying and start law school; (2) take a bar to practice law. As soon as you receive your law degree in Venezuela, you are licensed to practice nationwide if you register yourself with the Institute of Lawyers and obtain the registration number (which is equivalent to a bar number). However, there is no such requirement of passing the bar in the state where the attorney intends to practice law.

Mariana Griffiths

Venezuela’s legal system is governed by civil law, which is a codified system, meaning that the law is written and organized in codes for each area of the law. Venezuela is a centralized federalism in reality, but constitutionally it is a “Democratic and Social State of Law and Justice which holds as superior values of its legal order an actions those of life, liberty, justice equality solidarity, democracy, social responsibility and, in general the preeminence of human rights, ethics and political pluralism,” Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela [VE][Constitution]Feb. 19, 2009, Title I, art. 2

The U.S. and Venezuelan flags.

Even though case law is not usually considered a fundamental source of law in Venezuela’s legal system, judicial decisions have become more important in many areas. In particular, there are important decisions regarding public matters such as use of public land, eminent domain (called ‘expropriations’), and infrastructure. The most important cases are the ones decided by the Supreme Court of Justice, which is Venezuela’s equivalent of the Supreme Court of the United States, although there are quite a few differences in composition and operation. The Supreme Court of Justice’s decisions are more likely to be published and create precedents for specific legal issues. However, although that court’s decisions are the most prominent, for case law research, there is no strict rule of hierarchy.

The Constitution in Venezuela is the supreme law of the land, and in the hierarchy of the laws, it is at the same tier as international treaties and agreements. Below, there are the codes and laws enacted by the Legislative Power and the Law Decrees issued by the President, which can be related to any matter, at any time, without any restriction, whether there is a national emergency or not. These decrees often include modifications to current law, which makes practicing law in Venezuela very challenging. It is important to note that in the last twenty years, the numbers of decrees has increased considerably as a way to escape the legislative process. These decrees usually strike down one or more segments of the law in question, as an amendment, which means the attorneys must research different decrees and other sources in order to discern the valid statutory law. Perhaps an analogy can explain it better—it is akin to ‘shepardizing’ case law in the United States.

Before endeavoring to contrast the common law and civil law systems of the U.S. and Venezuela, respectively, it is important to note that both systems have evolved with society’s technological and legal changes. Civil law countries have been relying on case law and using precedent to maintain uniformity in the judicial system, which helps to limit frivolous lawsuits and provides a reference for practicing litigant attorneys. And common law countries use precedent to identify potential areas of the law where statutory law is needed for the same reasons, and for the efficiency of the judicial system.

In Venezuela, like in the United States, there is a  separation of powers. However, this is a similarity with a distinction, since Venezuela’s government has five branches: legislative, executive, judicial, citizen and electoral. This separation of powers of five branches is included in an amendment to the Venezuelan Constitution. In contrast, the United State maintains the classic separation of powers with three branches, characterized by the element of check and balances.

The interaction and relationship between federal and state law is also quite different. In Venezuela, even though each state is autonomous, the codified law apply to all the states. Not all the states even have written constitutions or different laws. States do issue ordinances (at the level of administrative agencies) for local matters such as traffic, business licenses and use of the land, but they do not occupy the same legal space as the federal law. In some ways, this is a simpler system than what we find with the overlapping systems of federal and state law that characterize the United States.

As you might expect, these differences add up, and legal research in Venezuela is pretty different. First, you need to know that, when researching the law in Venezuela, you won’t likely find all of the key primary sources in any one single place, like you do in the U.S. when using Westlaw of Lexis. There is a company called Microjuris that provides some resources for legal research similar to what you might see on those platforms, but it is less complete and less sophisticated. More importantly, Microjuris is not always up-to-date and has an outdated design that, personally, I do not find be user-friendly.

Second, the number of executive decrees which modify the codified law is enormous. Sometimes, in one month, there are more than twenty! That means it is important that means you be up-to-date, which you can ensure by checking the Gazette Official published by the Supreme Court of Justice (the “Tribunal Supremo de Justicia”). Generally, it is a large file; the good news is that it is available online.

Third, because it is a codified law system, legal professionals base their research on the civil codes as primary sources. To support their arguments for a legal memo or for a case in litigation, the use of jurisprudence to supplement the civil codes is critical. There are reputable and well-known authors for each subject, often former judges or academic teacher.

These differences in their countries’ legal systems have a big impact on the way that attorneys research the law in Venezuela and the United States. Although case law is less prominent in Venezuelan law, the added wrinkle of ensuring your research of decrees is up-to-date adds to the challenge of researching Venezuelan, as does the unavailability of a comprehensive or user-friendly service for doing legal research online.

What is a patent agent?

Agents of Invention, Part 1

by T.C. Deveau, Intellectual Property Correspondent & Law Library GRA

Welcome to the first installment of Agents of Invention, our new series exploring the exciting world of patent agents by the law library’s own T.C. Deveau. T.C. has a PhD in Neuroscience and has worked as a patent agent for almost 7 years. He’s currently in the final year of GSU Law’s part-time program.

Imagine helping entrepreneurs ensure that they actually own the exciting inventions that they’ve dedicated so many hours to creating. Imagine collaborating with attorneys and scientists in an environment that where your technical background can make an enormous difference. Imagine a career that helps prepare you for a sophisticated area of legal practice, but doesn’t require a J.D.

If this scenario sounds appealing, have you ever considered becoming a patent agent? A patent agent is someone with a science or engineering degree (i.e., bachelors, masters, Ph.D.) who writes and prosecutes patents on behalf of inventors.[1] Often, these patent agents/prosecutors work at law firms, but they can also work for other organizations, or even for themselves. 

The USPTO HQ in Alexandria, Virginia.

Patent agents have taken and passed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Registration Exam (the “Patent Bar”), which allows them to represent clients (inventors, companies, or other organizations such as universities) in front of the USPTO.  Patent agents can submit patent documentation to the Office and participate in the substantive examination of patents.  Basically, patent agents can help clients with anything relating to obtaining a patent from the USPTO. 

“Anything relating to…” sounds really broad, but it generally consists of the following:

  • Consulting with the client about their invention;
  • Working with them to determine a filing strategy that best fits your client’s interest (and budget);
  • Assisting with preparation and filing of the application;
  • Working with USPTO Examiners to get the application allowed; and
  • Working with the USPTO on procedural issues so that the patent is ready for publication and issuance.

For a given client, you may take a patent from start to finish in this manner, for others, you may only work on certain pieces of the puzzle.

While patent agent work is largely U.S.-centric, it’s important to keep in mind that the United States is not the only jurisdiction where intellectual property rights may be relevant or meaningful for a given client.  Patent agent duties often include, coordinating patent application efforts not only in the U.S., but in foreign jurisdictions as well, such as Europe, China, and Japan. This involves working with attorneys or agents in other countries to further your client’s interest in these jurisdictions.

At law firms in particular, the duties of a patent agent often overlap significantly with those of patent attorneys involved in patent prosecution, although an agent’s duties are more limited in scope.  While agents can help clients obtain patents, they cannot be involved in matters that involve giving legal opinions.  Aspects of the field that follow grant of a patent, including patent invalidity, infringement, and licensing, must be handled by attorneys.  When clients have questions like “what can I do with my patent after it is has been issued?” or “I think our competitor is infringing our patent, can you investigate it?,” it’s time to get an attorney involved.

A patent for a bass guitar.

Whether you’re interested in becoming a patent agent (remember, no J.D. required) or a patent attorney, GSU provides great opportunities to students looking to break into the field of patent prosecution.  GSU provides many courses tailored to patent law, both from a doctrinal and a practical experiential perspective.

It is common for patent agents in and around Atlanta to enroll in the part-time J.D. program at GSU and take the next steps towards becoming an attorney.  The part-time program provides a lot of flexibility for those looking to further their careers, and firms in the area even provide incentives to patent agents for going to law school (such as tuition reimbursement).  While at GSU Law, students can further immerse themselves in the world of intellectual property beyond patents.   GSU offers classes covering related topics like copyright, trademark, trade secrets, and contract drafting, all of which are quite helpful in becoming a well-rounded IP attorney.

Some of you reading this may be thinking, “but I’m already in law school—why do I care about patent agents?”  Well, it’s not uncommon for students at GSU to take the Patent Bar, skipping the agent position entirely.  Indeed, many students find GSU Law coursework—classes like Patent Law and Patent Drafting & Prosecution—to be a huge help in their Patent Bar prep (look for coverage of this in a future post).  

Today, I’ve given you an overview of the patent agent position, discussing what it involves and discussing some of the requirements of the field. Stay tuned for our next installment of Agents of Innovation, where I’ll describe a thrilling “day in the life” of a patent agent.  


[1] Did I mention that this position also allows you to call yourself a ‘prosecutor’? The ‘patent prosecution’ process refers to the process of applying for and pursuing patents.

Introducing the “Bioethics: Inclusive Voices” Video Series

The Center for Law, Health, and Society and the Law Library are excited to bring you Bioethics: Inclusive Voices, a series of short, high-quality videos exploring the diversity of the bioethics field.

Professor Leslie Wolf organized the project, which was funded by the Greenwall Foundation. Like so many of us, she had to adapt to the changing circumstances of Covid-19, turning what had first been conceived as a series of speakers into an innovative series of 6-12 minute videos on important yet under-discussed issues within bioethics.

Professor Leslie Wolf was the principal investigator for the project.

The videos fall into two distinct groups: ‘Career Journeys’ and ‘Diverse Scholars’. The former relay the personal stories of diverse scholars who pursued bioethics from different starting points, such as student activism or the practice of medicine. According to Wolf, the goal here was “to encourage more students form diverse background to consider bioethics as a career.”

In comparison, the “Diverse Scholars’ videos address a wide variety of diversity-related bioethics topics. Some are filled with highly practical insights, such as Fordham Professor Kimini Paul-Emile’s Dealing with Racist Patients, while others focus on vital big-picture issues, such as Professor Anderson’s Health Injustices Caused by Segregation and Housing.

A still from Professor Anderson's Health Injustice Caused by Segregation and Housing video.
A still from Professor Courtney Anderson’s Health Injustices Caused by Segregation and Housing video.

Although many different audiences will find these videos intriguing and useful, they are primarily intended as resources for teachers, at both the graduate and undergraduate level. As such, each features a set of discussion questions, as well as a list of resources for further exploration. Moreover, the high production quality on display here–in the form of the appealing visual aids that accompany each speaker and the professional sound throughout the series–will help ensure that students are fully engaged.

Bioethics: Inclusive Voices is one of the many great resources you’ll find in the Law Library’s “Reading Room,” our home for faculty scholarship, video recordings of important GSU Law events, historical law school materials, and much more. Check it out!

Meet Michelle Hook Dewey

This post is the continuation of an “in-depth” interview series with new librarians and staff at Georgia State University College of Law Library. See earlier installments here.

We introduce our new librarians and staff at Georgia State University College of Law Library with a questionnaire invented by Austin Williams, which is borrowed in spirit, if not in part, from Marcel Proust’s famous questionnaire.

photo.dewey3.Austin (if he were still here): What is your name and what do you do?

Michelle: Michelle Hook Dewey. I am the Legal Technologies Librarian here at GSU Law. In addition to teaching first-year legal research (Research Methods in the Law) and providing traditional library support, like reference, I will be working with the Legal Analytics & Innovation Initiative helping teach in and support that program.


A: How long have you been at Georgia State University College of Law Library? 

M: I started at the beginning of August, so just a few weeks.


A: What books are currently on your nightstand (or Kindle)?

M: Most Beautiful Thing. It is a memoir that tells the story of America’s first all-black high school rowing team developed on the west side of Chicago in the 90s. It is super interesting. I also read a lot of poetry and currently have Mary Oliver’s New and Collected Works and Faithful and Virtuous by Louise Gluck next to my bed.


A: What is an interesting fact about yourself that you would like to share with our readers?

M: I spent a few years in my twenties living in a fishing town in Alaska. I like to say it is a “small fishing town” because it was an island with only 8, 000 people. That said, it was the fifth largest city in Alaska at the time.


A: What is your favorite place in Atlanta (so far)?

M: I have lived in the greater Atlanta area for about six years now and I love Piedmont Park. I am a big fan of the botanical gardens, the farmer’s market there, and random Piedmont Park festivals and activities. My favorite is the International World Kite Festival every October. It is fun just to bring my kids to the park and fly kites with a few hundred of our closest friends (plus, food trucks!)


A: When you are not saving the world here at GSU Law Library, what do you enjoy doing outside of work?

M: I write and read a lot. I love to swim. I also enjoy cooking- but only for pleasure, not weeknight dinner! (Which I loathe the responsibility of making.)



A: Lastly, what is your favorite vacation spot? The place you go to leave it all behind for a few days.

M: Big trip- Carribean, especially the eastern caribbean. But, I love long weekends at a house on the beach or a cabin in the mountains. One thing I love about Atlanta is how easy it is to get out of town and disappear into nature for a few days.


There you have it, folks. The complete, unedited, behind-the-scenes interview with Michelle Hook Dewey.