National Pro Bono Week

This week (Oct. 21-27, 2018) is the 10th Annual National Pro Bono Week! Legal organizations across the country have planned events to celebrate and educate pro bono attorneys in their communities, and the Harris County Law Library is no exception. On Thursday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m., we’ll offer our first session of Free Legal Tech for the Public, which is designed to help pro bono attorneys and self-represented litigants make sense of all the great online resources available to help individuals representing themselves in legal matters. Everyone is welcome to attend this Hands-on Legal Tech Training from the Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute and Texas attorneys can earn 1.0 hour of CLE credit. Click for details and registration information.

Hats Off to Houston Volunteer Lawyers!

In the tradition of celebrating excellence in pro bono work during National Pro Bono Week, the Law Library would like to give a hat tip to Houston Volunteer Lawyers! HVL attorneys staff the “Library Booth,” which is a legal information booth where self-represented litigants with limited means can speak with a licensed attorney for free. The Library Booth is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the lower level of our downtown Houston location. Working in close proximity with HVL attorneys, our law librarians see the positive impact it has on our patrons to have ready access to pro bono attorneys who can answer basic questions. With guidance, self-represented litigants can make better use of the Law Library’s collection and have improved access to justice. Visit to see all the ways HVL supports pro bono.

Further Reading

Latest & Greatest – U.S. Congressional Serial Set

Congressional Serial Set.png

HeinOnline has recently announced the release of Phase I of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set. The digitization of these documents was and is a vast undertaking, considering that the set spans more than two centuries and includes more than 17,000 bound volumes. The ability to access these documents in one database is of great importance to legislative history researchers and history buffs alike.

For those of you who may not know, the U.S. Congressional Serial Set is comprised of House and Senate documents, reports, and journals, first published in 1817 for the 15th Congress. Examples of congressional documents include letters submitted to the House or Senate, presidential messages, patent decisions, diplomatic papers detailing the foreign relations of the United States at a given time, and Senate treaty documents, to name a few. The release also includes access to the American State Papers, legislative and executive documents published between 1789-1838 in 38 volumes. The documents contained in the American State Papers predate the U.S. Congressional Serial Set and comprise the 1st through 25th Congresses. The papers are divided into 10 classes: Foreign Relations, Indian Affairs, Finances, Commerce and Navigation, Military Affairs, Naval Affairs, Post Office Department, Public Lands, Claims, and Miscellaneous. Of note: the very first document in the set is the inaugural speech of President Washington delivered on Thursday, April 30, 1789.

With the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, researchers also have access to these additional resources:

  • Congressional documents and reports from the 114th-115th Congress (2015-2019);

  • American Indian Documents in the Congressional Serial set 1817-1899;

  • Overview of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set;

  • Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research, and

  • U.S. Congressional Serial Set: What It Is and Its History.


As with other HeinOnline databases and libraries, searching the Serial Set could not be easier. There is a Volume & Citation Quick Locator for those who already know the volume or particular citation. Researchers can also browse through the list of Congress numbers to find the desired volume. You can also search by Congress, document number, keywords, title, volume and/or year and narrow your search to specific sections, including congressional bills, House reports, Senate reports, Senate treaty documents, etc. HeinOnline has also provided direct links to specific Serial Set volumes that are not yet available on its database but have been digitized and are accessible at the HathiTrust Digital Library.

Latest & Greatest – Patent It Yourself: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Filing at the U.S. Patent Office

By David Pressman and David E. Blau  Published by Nolo Press  KF 3144.6 .P74 2018

By David Pressman and David E. Blau

Published by Nolo Press

KF 3144.6 .P74 2018

Do you think that you’ve created the world’s greatest invention, the thing that will be talked about for ages to come? Or perhaps, it’s not something so grandiose, but nevertheless useful. At any rate, no matter the invention, you want to protect it or commercially market it. So, what can you do? A good place to start is Patent It Yourself: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Filing at the U.S. Patent Office. Now in its 19th edition, Patent It Yourself guides its readers through the patent process: from the patentability search through the preparation of the patent application to the filing of the necessary paperwork.

The book begins with an introduction to patents and the other types of intellectual property, such as trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets before moving onto the nuts and bolts of submitting an application for a patent. The authors, two patent attorneys, also present some questions to consider when filing for a patent or when thinking about filing for one: will the invention sell? Is it patentable? Is a patentability search necessary, and if so, how is it done? The authors also address issues that may arise after a patent is issued, such as supplemental applications; use, maintenance, and infringement; and ownership, assignment, and licensing of the invention.

Aside from the information contained in the text, there is a lot of useful information in the appendices:

  • a list of government publications and patent websites;

  • glossary of technical terms;

  • glossary of legal terms,

  • a quick-reference timing chart, and

  • forms.

There is also a Quick-Start Guide at the front that points readers to specific chapters depending on the task at hand. Before you send that application off to the Patent Office, be sure to have a look at Patent It Yourself: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Filing at the U.S. Patent Office. It can make the process much easier to navigate.

Wills and Probate Resource Month - October 2018

Wills and Probate Resources Book Graphic 2018.png

October is Wills and Probate Resource Month at the Harris County Law Library. All month long, you will find materials on wills, estate planning, and probate and trust administration on display in the Law Library and online.

Self-Help Guides from Nolo Press

Nolo’s Plan Your Estate is your go-to estate planning guide. With coverage of common estate planning goals, such as leaving property, providing for minors, planning for incapacity, avoiding probate, and reducing the estate tax, it is a go-to source for easy-to-understand estate planning information. Another useful Nolo resource is Estate Planning Basics. Both of these Nolo titles can be found in our Self-Help Collection in the Law Library. For assistance in finding these guides, please ask a member of the reference staff.

TexasLawHelp Wills & Estate Planning is an incredibly useful online legal research tool for the general public. Take a look at their Wills & Estate Planning resources for information about filing a small estate affidavit, a transfer on death deed, or an affidavit of heirship. Also find a link to the Texas Probate Passport, a publication of the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association.

Harris County Law Library Research Guides

Visit our Research Guides page to download a free copy of our Probate, Trusts, and Estates Research Guide. This topical guide helps you quickly find the most practical resources available at the Law Library, including the Texas Probate System, a State Bar of Texas publication, and O’Connor’s Texas Probate Law Handbook (both of which are pictured above).Ask for these and other titles at the Law Library reference desk.

Register to vote... at your local public library

Register by October 9

Tomorrow, October 9, 2018, is the last day Texans can register to vote if they intend to cast a ballot on November 6, 2018 (per the Texas Secretary of State). If you’ve waited until the last minute, your local public libraries, including the Harris County Law Library, are here to help.

Texas Public Libraries = Voter Registration Agencies

Under the National Voter Rights Act of 1993, states can designate “voter registration agencies” to distribute and accept voter registration forms (see NVRA Q&A from the US Dept. of Justice). Texas has designated all public libraries as voter registration agencies in §20.001 of the Texas Election Code. That means you can find voter registration applications on hand at the Harris County Law Library and other libraries open to the public like Harris County Public Library. You can also complete and submit the form in your community at your local library, which makes it easy and convenient to get ready for election day on November 6, 2018.

Further Reading

#Shelfies: Go Astros! and Book O'Lantern, oh my!

For the month of October, the Harris County Law Library will offer a pair of #shelfie opportunities for all to enjoy. Snap a photo, post it on social media, and tag us!

Go Astros

The first celebrates the start of another playoff run for our hometown, World Series champs - The Houston Astros! Best of luck to our down-the-block neighbors as they take on some team from Cleveland today. Everyone cheering for orange and blue is welcome to take a #shelfie with our “H” in the stacks, provided they don’t cheer too loudly while taking it… This is a library, after all…

Getting Spooky in the Stacks

Our very first Book O’Lantern will haunt our shelves now through Halloween. Snap a #shelfie with this bookish ghoul and take a look at our Spirit of the Law exhibit, which showcases early patents for jack o’lantern carving techniques, scary cases, and more! And for the real legal eagles out there, see if you can spot the CFR volume containing a definition of “pumpkin” that makes up part of this festive design. Happy October!

Renewed On-Demand Learning Opportunities from the Legal Tech Institute

The Legal Tech Institute at Harris County Law Library is happy to announce that one of the most popular programs in our LTI Lecture Series is once again available on the LTI On-demand Learning page. The Robot Lawyer: Artificial Intelligence in the Practice of Law can be viewed on our YouTube channel, accessible via our Legal Tech Institute web pages. Licensed Texas attorneys can earn 1.0 hour of CLE credit from now until September 30, 2019. Guest speaker, Saskia Mehlhorn, Director of Knowledge Management & Library Services for Norton Rose Fulbright US, provides a basic overview of AI in the legal profession, gives specific examples of tools that incorporate AI technology, and discusses opportunities for lawyers and other legal professionals to benefit from the power of AI technology.

While visiting our On-demand Learning page, be sure to check out our other recorded CLE programs, which carry a total of 3.0 hours of CLE credit and .75 hours of ethics credit. Included in the series are the following:

Finding & Formatting Legal Forms (1.0 hour CLE)

Legal Practice Technology (1.0 hour CLE)

The Ethics of Cloud Computing (1.0 hoiur CLE, .75 hour ethics)

The Robot Lawyer (1.0 hour CLE)

Don’t forget that we also offer a Hands-on Legal Tech Training session every Thursday at 2:00 pm in the Law Library’s Legal Tech Lab. Join us!

Quiet Spaces in the Law Library

Looking for a quiet place to read, study, think, research the law, or do legal work? The Harris County Law Library is the place for you! We do have a lot of patron traffic at the reference desk — more than 6,000 people visited the Law Library in month of August alone! — and we work hard to give each patron the time, attention, and resources they need. We also receive more than 400 phone calls each month. Each of these interactions generates a certain level of noise that may be disruptive to some library patrons. Fortunately, there is no shortage of quieter work spaces throughout the Law Library.

Reading tables at the east end of the library provide quiet work spaces away from the action at the reference desk.

Reading tables at the east end of the library provide quiet work spaces away from the action at the reference desk.

Study carrels in the computer area offer work space with privacy.

Study carrels in the computer area offer work space with privacy.

The Legal Tech Lab provides nine quiet work spaces tucked into the library stacks.

The Legal Tech Lab provides nine quiet work spaces tucked into the library stacks.

  • Reading tables at the back (east) end of the Law Library are situated quite a distance from the the activity of the reference desk. These tables are popular spots for library patrons who prefer to be away from the activity of the reference desk.

  • Study carrels, available in the computer area, provide a slightly more private work space. Library staff occasionally assist patrons at the computer work stations (helping pro se patrons access and download legal forms on our legal research databases, for example), but the bank of study carrels in the computer area is generally a quiet place to work as well.

  • Nine seats in the area that we’ve designated as the Legal Tech Lab are another quiet work space option. Hands-on Legal Tech Training classes are held in the Legal Tech Lab every Tuesday at 2:00 pm, so this seating area is occupied during that time, but otherwise, this space is accessible and provides a less active work space tucked into the library stacks.

  • Finally, as a courtesy to other patrons, cell phone use is prohibited in the Law Library, helping to maintain a quiet environment for all library visitors.