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The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
9/9/2013 11:22:49 AM

Book Review - The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law

The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law, by Nathaniel Burney.  Jones McClure Publishing; 2012, 260 pages.  Paperback, $24.95, ISBN 9781598391831.

 Are you interested in criminal law?  Are you taking criminal law?  If yes, then The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law is the book for you. 

The author, Nathaniel Burney, is a defense attorney and former prosecutor.  Burney first started this project in blog format as a way to debunk the myths surrounding criminal law (“You know, an undercover cop has to tell you if he’s a cop.  Otherwise, it’s entrapment.  NO.”)  The blog was well-received, and Burney turned his project into a full-length graphic novel.

The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law is broken down into six sections: introduction on crime and punishment, the purposes of punishment, guilt, inchoate crimes, defenses, and concluding thoughts and examples.  Burney uses plain language, wit, and illustrations to break down some of the more complicated pieces of criminal law. In addition to explaining terms and concepts, Burney creates fact patterns (similar to something one might find on a criminal law exam) to explain the interplay between each concept.   Burney purposely avoids citing or discussing case law to make the book more accessible to the general reader.

This book is a must-have for law libraries as well as university libraries and public libraries.  For law students, this book makes an excellent study aid, and for the general public, it is an easily read introduction to criminal law.

Rebecca Mattson is the Collection Development Librarian at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Posted By Rebecca Mattson at 9/9/2013 11:22:49 AM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews
8/26/2013 4:23:47 PM

Chapter Newsletter Highlights: ALLUNY and MAALL

This post describes some articles in AALL chapter newsletters that are likely to be interesting to librarians outside those chapters.

The June 2013 issue of MAALL Markings, the newsletter of the Mid-America Association of Law Libraries, contains an article detailing a print inventory project at Oklahoma City University''s law library. The piece gives a concise but thorough look at what was clearly an ambitious undertaking. The issue also has a short, colorful piece on art exhibits in law libraries.

The July 2013 issue of ALLUNY Newsletter, the publication of the Association of Law Libraries of Upstate New York, has a fun article on an exhibit and poll on the best lawyers portrayed in film. It was enjoyable to read about law librarians creatively integrating law into new contexts.

Posted By Benjamin Keele at 8/26/2013 4:23:47 PM  0 Comments
8/8/2013 3:27:01 PM

Lost in Translation: Effective Legal Writing for the International Legal Community

Lost in Translation: Effective Legal Writing for the International Legal Community. By Kevin J. FANDL. New Providence, NJ : LexisNexis, 2013. Pp. xv, 139. ISBN 978-0-76-985746-6 (paperback) US$59.00.


The intended audience for this book is foreign law students & practitioners who need to communicate professionally with U.S. based English-speakers. However this short and hastily (read sloppily) edited text provides nothing new or valuable. The book itself did not necessarily shape itself to the particular needs of non-U.S. law students or practitioners and the advice seemed generic and at times patronizing. Overall I was completely underwhelmed.


Chapter 3 Making Your Writing Effective

Chapter 8, Part IV: Editing in Nadia Nedzel’s Legal reasoning, research, and writing for international graduate students (2012), and the CALI Lessons on Punctuation and Grammar, are in my opinion preferable resources for learning U.S. Legal Grammar than Fandl’s Chapter 3.

Chapter 4 Drafting Correspondence

Fandl’s 2 pages of bulleted and numbered lists provide the reader with tips and an outline for writing a letter to a client (including a statement, 3c., on p. 31 containing the first of several typos that I, unfortunately, noticed in this book on professional legal writing). This was followed by 5 pages of detailed explanations and blurry greyscale screenshots illustrating how to use specific features of MS Outlook. That this is not a problem specific to a foreign audience, is demonstrated by the existence of the ABA Publication The Lawyer's Guide to Microsoft® Outlook 2010 (2012). For a generic understanding of professional email drafting, Lee, Hall, & Barone’s American Legal English: Using Language in Legal Contexts (2007) provides email writing tips and activities starting on p. 184.

Chapter 5 Drafting Legal Memoranda and Case Briefs

A particularly disappointing chapter, not only is it so mundane as to merely echo the basic tenets in any legal writing text without adding anything that would be of particular value for a foreign audience, but vague and imprudent advice is given in the section on research strategy. Fandl instructs readers to start with secondary sources, but makes no mention of using them to find references to the most relevant primary sources.  He also provides an example of how the user should search LexisNexis® to find relevant statutes and case law by doing a broad jurisdiction specific keyword search. Not only is that an ineffective way to search LexisNexis®, for topic specific primary law, but his description of how to do that search is unclear. For superior instruction on drafting legal memoranda and case briefs and for general in-depth explanations of U.S. research techniques aimed at a foreign audience, again, I point you to Lee, et al. (2007) and Nedzel (2012).


The editor seems determined to make the use of these exercises as difficult as possible for the reader.

At the end of each exercise is one of two statements intended to lead the user to the sample answer. The reader is told either "Suggested solutions can be found in Appendix A" or "sample <insert noun here> can be found in Appendix B".

In each Appendix the materials are lettered [A] etc.

  • the text does not refer the reader to solutions on a specific page number or even section letter within each Appendix
  • the solutions titles are haphazardly listed
  • solutions are not provided in the same order in which the exercises themselves appear in the text
  • nor are they in alphabetical order
  • the titles of the solutions do not always match exactly the titles of the exercises

This creates the frustrating experience of trying to flip back and forth between the text of the exercise and the Appendices, trying to find the right solution. If it was difficult for a native English speaker, how much more challenging must it be for someone speaking English as a Second Language (the supposed target audience of this book).

This whole fiasco could have been avoided in two simple ways.

1. Put the solutions to exercises on the page after the exercises themselves.

2. Provide actual page numbers when directing the reader to a sample document in Appendix B.


The index did not have page numbers, instead referring the reader to a chapter and a lettered section, sometimes followed by a numeral for a subsection. This method is useful for a loose-leaf publications but unnecessarily confusing for a book that has page numbers.


This book attempts to teach the reader a strange combination of skills related to professional U.S. legal writing. The writing lessons in Chapter 3 are nothing that could not be gleaned from a fair read of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (2012) or the relevant chapter section in Nedzel (2012). The legal writing exercises in Lee, et al. (2007) are more appropriate for the audience, easier to use, and with more than twice the content, it’s less than half the price of Fandl’s book.

If Fandl’s ethnocentric and misleading title (which could have been corrected by adding the words “in the United States”, See eg. Deborah H. McGregor & Cynthia M. Adams, The International Lawyer's Guide to Legal Analysis And Communication in the United States) rubbed me the wrong way when I first cracked the book open, the lack of organization of the answers to the exercises proved the death knell.

I give this book two thumbs down for being a waste of perfectly good trees. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an earlier draft freely available online in non-tree killing pdf format.

Posted By Catherine Deane at 8/8/2013 3:27:01 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book review