Part one of a two-part series
Thinking back on his education, award-winning judicial educator and practicing attorney Jim Wagstaffe says his favorite subjects were geometry and civil procedure. “More recently I’ve decided they are very much the same course,” he told us during an interview recently. “It’s about how things fit together and work.” Civil procedure requires a clear focus on essential facts and principles, along with the ability to put the pieces together.
Attorneys engaged in civil litigation also need tools for advancing cases in a practical way. With that in mind, Wagstaffe worked with colleagues to create a legal navigation tool that serves as a figurative GPS, telling lawyers the next steps to legal topics they haven’t explored recently—for example, litigation concepts like removal, venue, personal jurisdiction and subject-matter jurisdiction. As primary author of The Wagstaffe Group® Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial,* Wagstaffe and his co-authors provide insights, tasks, checklists and even online videos to help lawyers navigate to vital information.
Of course, civil procedure is more than navigating the law and appreciating its geometry, so to speak. To Wagstaffe, it’s also effective storytelling. The son of a small-town attorney, Wagstaffe was six years old when his parents took the family to see To Kill a Mockingbird. So for him, Atticus Finch became a standard of integrity in helping others, and Wagstaffe became fixated on becoming a lawyer.
“You know, stories are about settings and characters and plot and climax, and so is litigation. I’m sure I’ve watched the closing argument of Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, a hundred times in my life as he tells the story of his client, Tom Robinson, and why justice should be done.”
Geometry, storytelling, civil procedure and the GPS: from Wagstaffe’s perspective, librarians have a critical role in helping it all come together for civil litigation attorneys. Take a look at some insights Wagstaffe shared in a recent interview.
Information professionals at the hub
“I’ve had the great honor of speaking to law librarians across the country,” Wagstaffe said, adding, “In helping with research materials and litigation tools, many times librarians become the hub of the wheel for attorneys,” providing a central resource for a wide variety of needs.
When librarians know the value of The Wagstaffe Group Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial, they can help attorneys experience many advantages. “Law firm attorneys, government attorneys, general counsel and law students all want and need faster navigation tools that will lead them quickly to the reliable destination,” said Wagstaffe. “Like a GPS, it’s a guide to the answers. It has checklists, practice tips and examples, along with clear and concise writing, to help our users comprehend and implement the subject matter.”
The Wagstaffe Group Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial was written by practicing and winning attorneys, active judges and court clerks. “We’ve got all the perspectives in the writing of this practice guide,” said Wagstaffe. “And it’s national in scope. So a small firm, a large firm, corporate counsel and federal government lawyers will all be able to see how we’re teaching the judges and the lawyers.”
This guide is new but has already been cited by federal judges. It’s up to date, providing weekly current awareness information on important new cases, changes in the law and issues that come up in practice. “That means you’re not just getting citations from last year or the year before; you might be getting a citation from a week ago. When we defend issues, we drive people to case law. People can cite to the practice guide, and judges will see it as a reliable source.”
Plus, 170 embedded videos in the online version, available exclusively via the Lexis Advance® service, make it faster and easier for lawyers to learn and recall what they need quickly.
Said Wagstaffe, “My theory is you use all available tools to assist those who are learning or looking for reminders. So it’s videos, it’s practice tips, it’s updated information, all in a single location. All those things facilitate synthesized learning so people can implement immediate benefit.”
Helping attorneys take a test drive
If you have a Lexis Advance subscription, you may already have The Wagstaffe Group Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial, that new GPS. If not, your organization can add it to your subscription. Once you have this resource, how can you help attorneys get comfortable with it? Think of a quick demo as a test drive.
You can keep commonly asked legal questions ready. For example, an attorney might tell you, “I need to be sure whether we can notice an out of-state-plaintiff’s deposition here in the forum state.” In response, you can share just a few steps.
Your LexisNexis® account representative has a range of practical sample questions you can use to demonstrate this resource.
The YouTube generation
“Today we have to accept the reality that so many people are looking online on their phones while doing something else, or they are checking emails during a meeting,” said Wagstaffe. “The attention span for rigorous learning has been shortened. That’s a challenge … how are you still able to communicate your stories and help people learn in a way that can be synthesized? We use videos to help manage and conquer that short attention span.”
Even experienced lawyers today are becoming part of the YouTube generation. When we want to quickly know how to do something at home or at work, we may look for a YouTube video. Lawyers are no different, Wagstaffe noted, adding, “So much of litigation and lawyering in both state and federal courts is about things you have to do. You might want to remove a case to federal court. That’s a very practical thing to do. When you need to know how to do it, the practice guide explains what to do and provides a video that explains how to do it—here are the steps, and here’s a checklist.”
Most of the videos are two to three minutes long. They provide clear, concise visuals that amplify what Wagstaffe says. Users can select a closed-caption option and also access a searchable transcript directly under any video. Said Wagstaffe, “The videos are designed to provide compact learning in a way that’s easy to follow—like a good story or a good closing argument in a jury trial.”
In states throughout the country, the videos help people learn how to litigate, not just in federal court, but across state and federal litigation practice. They also help people navigate the choice between state and federal court.
How important are visuals today? Wagstaffe has been trying jury trials for 36 years and has succeeded in trials with verdicts exceeding $10 million. “I’m trying a major car accident case in a month,” he said, “and the animations are essential to the re-creation and understanding of this accident.”
In terms of helping attorneys navigate, Wagstaffe added, “The videos are part of our GPS. They provide the visual rules of the road. You read the motor vehicle guide, and you also look at the street signs.”
The videos complement the full text—they do not replace it. “They reinforce what you’re reading in the written materials online or in the book,” Wagstaffe said. “In addition to fast learning, lawyers also want to have the confidence they are not missing anything. That’s the confidence that 3,000 to 4,000 pages of text in the full publication gives you.”
Watch for the rest of the story in the January 2018 issue of LexisNexis® Information Professional Update.
For more details, contact your LexisNexis account representative.
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