Goodbye FDsys, Hello Govinfo

fdsys v govinfo

That’s right, at some future undetermined date, probably late 2018 ,[1] everyone’s favorite government information website will be shut down and replaced by a new, modern (ish) version. This will be only the third GPO electronic information website in the last 25 years. In June 1994, the Government Printing Office (GPO) launched GPO Access. This was replaced by FDsys (Federal Digital System) in January 2009.  Now, almost ten years later, it’s time for the GPO, who has subsequently changed its name to the Government Publishing Office, to transition once again to Govinfo.

 

What is staying the same?

Content.  In the end, Govinfo will have the same exact content as FDsys.  The Federal Register, US Code, Congressional Record, and all other government information will be available with the same exact coverage as FDsys.

What is going to be different?

Interface.  The GPO has developed a completely new way to navigate the information formerly available on FDsys.  Govinfo was released in a beta version in early 2016, and taken out of beta in late January 2018.  This should mean that the site is fully developed and ready to go.  If everything stays the same, the initial landing page features a big search bar with some large buttons below.  The new site is mobile responsive and will work with smartphones, tablets, or however else you want to read your favorite title of the CFR.  The site also features modern looking search results pages with easy to navigate filtering options.

Is this a good thing?

Probably.  FDsys was rather dated, and it was easy to get stuck in a long series of sub-menus and pages.  That being said, when I used FDsys I usually navigated things from the upper right publication menu, which was conveniently located and easy to find.  FDsys was probably still workable in its final form, but it was ugly and aesthetics seem to mean more and more when we select information sources.

The thing I like best about Govinfo is the “A to Z” menu on the landing page.  As I said before, when I’m in FDsys I browse by publication, The “A to Z” menu makes it easy to find whatever you need.  If you’re feeling particularly wild, or have a few free minutes on a Friday afternoon, try browsing to the C.F.R.  List of Sections Affected.  It’s there, and it’s finally easy to find.

The search is better than I thought it would be.  The algorithm handles legal citations well.  I tried to put in some lazy citations like I would in Westlaw or Lexis, omitting punctuation, section symbols, and sub sections, and it reliably found the right section.[2]  It also has an effective advanced searching feature, which allows you to search by citation, collection, government branch, sudoc number, and more.  As I said above, I particularly like the new filtering options.  Searching is definitely where Govinfo feels the most improved relative to FDsys.

This isn’t to say that Govinfo doesn’t have its own difficulties.  It’s not really intuitive to use for first time users – what is an “A to Z” anyway? You also cannot search for certain publications.  I tried type in federal register to see if it would auto populate like some other databases, and it would not.  The search by citation feature is also somewhat clunky, and doesn’t handle sub sections well.  Using my example from above, 24 C.F.R. § 9.103, I couldn’t get the system to search for “103” and had to just search for 9.  It wasn’t a huge deal, but it took me a minute to make it work.

Overall, I’m happy with the upgrade.  The aesthetics were just so bad on FDsys, and I think people were hesitant to try navigating the system.  With the new modern upgrade, the GPO website looks and functions similarly to a modern information website.  Even with some of it’s difficulties, Govinfo is a big upgrade from FDsys.  A for effort GPO.

[1] https://www.infodocket.com/2018/01/24/gpos-govinfo-ends-beta-as-transition-from-fdsys-continues/

[2] I performed the searches “24 cfr 9,” “24”c.f.r” 9,” and “24 cfr 9.1.”  All three searches produced the same results listing the C.F.R sections in order 9.101, 9.102, 9.103 etc.

Volunteer

Summer is close at hand and you spent the entire year with your nose in the books – now is your opportunity to relax and start thinking about networking and getting legal experience to match your academic success.

Volunteering solves the problem.  Choose an area that interest you, meet like-minded attorneys, and get practical hands-on experience.

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Here’s a list to get your started:

Business law experience – ProBono Partnerships of Atlanta

“We match nonprofit clients with experienced corporate attorneys who help get them to the next level. From contracts to corporate governance, to intellectual property and employment, our attorneys assist our clients with their business law needs.”

https://www.pbpatl.org/for-attorneys/volunteer-opportunities/

Criminal law experience – Georgia Innocence Project

“GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT (GIP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit. The Project works to secure post-conviction DNA testing for Georgia and Alabama inmates where DNA analysis could prove guilt or innocence and adequate DNA testing was not available at trial.”

https://www.georgiainnocenceproject.org/about/

Not sure what type of law you like – Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation

“To create safe and stable homes and families by inspiring attorneys to fight for equal justice.”

https://avlf.org/volunteer-opportunities/

Additional links – The Atlanta Bar Association has an even more in-depth list at

http://www.atlantabar.org/?page=94

 

If you are not staying in Atlanta this summer – look at the local bar association in your area for volunteer opportunities and good luck!

Summer Lexis Access for Graduates and Continuing Students

Summer Lexis Access for Continuing Students

Students will automatically have unlimited access to Lexis Advance for the Summer. Lexis IDs may be used for any research purpose over the summer, for paid or unpaid positions as well as academic research.

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Lexis Access for Students Graduating May 2018

May 2018 graduates will automatically have access to Lexis as you study for the bar and for six months after graduation. The Lexis Graduate homepage will include learning resources and employment tools for graduates.

Summer Westlaw Access for Graduates and Continuing Students

BeachSummer Westlaw Access for Continuing Students

Continuing students can use Westlaw over the summer for non-commercial research. Students can turn to these resources to gain understanding and build confidence in their research skills, but they cannot use them in situations where they are billing a client. Examples of permissible uses for your academic password include the following:

  • Summer coursework
  • Research assistant assignments
  • Law Review or Journal research
  • Moot Court research
  • Non-Profit work
  • Clinical work
  • Externship sponsored by the school

Westlaw Access for Students Graduating May 2018 

May 2018 graduates have access to Westlaw for 6 months after graduation (June 1-November 30, 2018) through a program called Grad Elite. This program gives graduates 60 hours of usage per month “to gain understanding and build confidence in their research skills.” Grad Elite access cannot be used in situations when a client is being billed. Sign up for Grad Elite by logging into https://lawschool.westlaw.com/authentication/gradelite.

Please contact Sue Moore at sue.moore@tr.com for questions about access.

We’re Hiring!

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The Law Library is currently accepting applications for graduate research assistants (commonly known as GRAs) for the summer semester. We currently need one Reference and three Research GRAs.  Position descriptions are linked below:

http://libguides.law.gsu.edu/grahiring 

Eligibility

Law Library GRA positions are open to all GSU law students who have completed their first two semesters of classes. Part-time students are eligible. Students applying for Summer positions must be enrolled in at least 4 hours of Summer classes. Students may apply for both types of GRA position, but cannot be hired for both positions at the same time.

Submission
Applications are due at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 03, 2018.

Reference GRA applicants: Email one document which includes a 1) cover letter, 2) current resume, and 3) completed availability form (available in the link above) to Pam Brannon (pbrannon@gsu.edu). Include your last name in the file name.

Research GRA applicants: Email one document which includes a 1) cover letter and 2) current resume to Pam Brannon (pbrannon@gsu.edu). Include your last name in the file name.

Georgia State University Joins HathiTrust

Print Georgia State University is now a member of HathiTrust, a partnership between research institutions to provide online access to a vast searchable collection of materials digitized from libraries around the world. The HathiTrust Digital Library currently contains over 16 million volumes, of which approximately 37% are in the public domain.

Membership in HathiTrust means that Georgia State University researchers gain access to the full range of HathiTrust features, such as expanded full-text downloading of public domain and Creative Commons-licensed works, creation of custom collections, and special access to in-copyright materials for users with print disabilities. The HathiTrust Research Center supports computational analysis using the works in the HathiTrust Digital Library.

One of HathiTrust’s major collections is of federal government documents. As of January 1, 2018, the HathiTrust Digital Library contained over 1 million federal documents. These documents include a wealth of historical agency materials previously unavailable digitally. The ultimate goal of the HathiTrust U.S. Federal Government Documents Program is to build a complete digital collection of federal documents previously distributed to libraries in print.

Networking Tips

Networking is so uncomfortable for some of us.  So how does one get good at it?  How do some people breeze through it and really enjoy it?  Do they come up with things to talk about because their lives are more interesting?  Did their parents forget to teach them not to talk to strangers?  Are they just naturals?

 

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By geralt (https://pixabay.com/en/network-earth-world-63772/) [CC0 or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Some people probably are just naturals.  After all, a big part of networking is being genuine and some people are more open and talkative naturally.  The rest of it is just practice and confidence, and you know from experience that confidence increases with practice.   The law school provides us with a lot of great networking opportunities.  If you’re either skipping them or attending but not making connections, you’re missing out.  As much as you may not want to do it, the opportunities are there because it is important.

Networking moves you from being a piece of paper in a stack of resumes to “a great guy that Dave knows” or from being a brand new green associate among many to one who is getting referrals and bringing in new clients.

So what do you have to do?  How can you get better at it?

Change your attitude.  Think about the real definition of networking:  a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. – It recognizes that both sides are bringing something valuable.  That’s right.  One of the best things you can do is go in thinking about what you can offer, not just what you may get.  Yes, you need a job, but they need great new associates.  Yes, that lawyer is an expert in tax, but she has a question about her friend’s divorce and you just finished family law.  See where I’m going with this?   Go into it thinking about what you’ve got to offer.

Be willing to work at it until it comes naturally.  Prepare like you would for a class or interview.  Look at who is going to be at the event, learn some things about them or their group, and have some open-ended questions in mind as conversation starters.  You don’t want to get stuck talking about traffic and weather.

Find the bar.  Yup, really.  Don’t get drunk, but get a drink so that you have something to do with your hands, and sip it.  And hang out near the bar.  Everyone will go there and you’ll have a chance to strike up conversation with people coming and going.

Balance your talking and listening.  This is tough.  You’ve always learned that you should get people to open up and talk and that people love to talk about themselves, and it’s true, but you owe a little sharing, too, and you do need to let them know some things about you.  Try to keep the convo balanced by asking open-ended questions and responding with more than yes/no even if someone else’s questions aren’t as good as yours.

Smile.  This seems so easy, but it’s worth saying again because when we get nervous, or when we are listening intently, we tend to frown a little.  Consciously think about it and keep smiling!

Quality – not quantity.  You may believe that you are supposed to talk to every person in the room or hand out as many cards or make as many new acquaintances as you can, but no.  Talk to a few people and make real connections.  Networking is about a support system.  You will go to other events and meet everyone eventually.  Build a good foundation by making a few quality connections.

Bring a wingman.  Start the event with a friend.  You’ll both feel more confident right away and you’ll never be stuck without someone to talk to.  As you both get more comfortable, you’ll be able to break away and both speak with other people.

Be yourself.  Yes, you want to put on your best, but hopefully you are developing relationships and people will get you know you eventually.  If you start out being yourself, people will see that you are genuine and like you more for it.

Follow up.  Depending on who you meet and how formal or informal the event, follow up with the people you met with a phone call, note, or (when appropriate) social media contact.  People should know that you enjoyed meeting them, remember them, and would enjoy seeing them again.    Offer something to them without expecting anything in return.  It doesn’t have to be big, you could attach a link.  “Check out the article I found about (that subject we were discussing)” or something similar can jog their memory of you and set you apart from others who may also follow up.

Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your networking events so that they are a little less painful and eventually, even fun!

Are you a natural?  What advice do you have for the rest of us?