[blindLaw] Reading the U.S. Code

Singh, Nandini NSingh at cov.com
Sun Oct 2 20:45:48 UTC 2022

Here are my general recommendations:

First, I like to understand the universe of laws for the sub topic. For example, I did some background research to orient me to the basic statutes relevant to a pro bono immigration matter I had involving expedited removal and visa revocation. The visa laws and regulations can get quite detailed. That basic research can be Google searches or else diving into a treatise. I imagine that there are some foundational tax treatises that provide you overviews of the major topics, including the most cited statutes and regulations. I like to download the treatise entry, so I can refer back to those statutory citations.

Second, I enter the full statute or regulatory cite into Westlaw. I am a big Westlaw fan, so most of my explanation pertains to it, but Lexis should give you similar results. At this point, you should keep the basic format of federal law in mind for a statutory section: lower case letters, numbers, capital letters, Romanettes, etc. Beyond Romanettes, it can vary a bit. Between the treatise entry and the U.S. section, I can usually locate the relevant part of the statutory subsection if I take my time. The treatise often gives me a phrase for which I can do a "find" command. I can also return to the treatise to double check myself.

Third, depending on how big the statutory section is, it is useful to download the section into Word format. Westlaw makes this part easy. Once I have the Word document of the statute, I locate the specific subsection, sub-subsection , or whatever and mark up the document. Earlier, I put a star or "at" sign near the relevant text. I now use the native comment or bookmark features in the Word program. The comments are great if I want to write myself a note about the section. Bookmarks are nice because you can mark up the document with as many bookmarks, but they remain invisible to sighted people. They are also a separate element of the document, so they do not interfere with standard JAWS navigation commands. That being said, JAWS offers you a shortcut (alt-insert-B I believe) to pull up the entire list of bookmarks in your document.

Fourth, rewrite and/or copy-and-paste the relevant parts of the statute, employing ellipses as needed. At some point you will do this especially if you have to produce a memo or a brief for someone. Unless you are quoting a definition, nobody is going to want to see the full subsection (very junior associate move), as they would have expected you to have completed that step already. You may as well become comfortable with the law and also save time when you eventually have to draft a document for someone else.

Fifth, practice. I think once you have spent a few years wading through long statutes or regs, it becomes easier. You feel more confident breezing over material that is clearly irrelevant. Usually, only a short phrase or a couple of sentences are at the center of the analysis you end up conducting.

Sorry for the long response, but I hope something here helps you.

-----Original Message-----
From: BlindLaw <blindlaw-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Caleb E. Smith via BlindLaw
Sent: Saturday, October 1, 2022 8:30 PM
To: Blind Law Mailing List <blindlaw at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Caleb E. Smith <ces2266 at columbia.edu>
Subject: [blindLaw] Reading the U.S. Code


Hi all,
Perhaps this has been asked before, but what tips do people have for reading long, long sections of U.S. code that have many sub, sub-sub, sub-sub-sub sections, etc?  I just started with a tax department and some sections of the code get quite ridiculous. And obviously th*e advice from s*ome lawyers in my firm, that they like to pull out the physical book so they can better skim it and see the indentations, is not helpful.

Between JAWS, various services like Bloomberg, or using Word or other resources, I don't know if folks have found a good way to read the code or to arrange it to make it quicker to find things and jump around within a given section.

Caleb Smith
BlindLaw mailing list
BlindLaw at nfbnet.org
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for BlindLaw:

More information about the BlindLaw mailing list