Before you start researching laws and court opinions, you must first define the scope of your legal research project. There are several key questions you can use to do this. Given that legal research is a complex process, it`s probably no surprise that this guide can`t give you everything you need to know. As laws change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it can be difficult to keep up with every legal evolution. Equally intimidating is the ability to track and obtain information on stakeholder strategies and legal responses. Without quick and easy access to the right tools, the legal research on which the case strategy is based can be confronted with costs, staffing and litigation outcomes. When it comes to practising law, we often think of legal experience. But even the most successful legal argument will eventually fail without solid legal research. Legal research is well known to take a lot of time and effort, and accessing online legal research databases can be expensive. Therefore, law firms and other practitioners may, with due regard to ethical concerns, turn to external legal research providers to outsource their legal research needs.  Then, use the critical information in your case to determine your legal problem. By determining your client`s legal issues and ideal outcomes before you begin your research, you can create a clearly defined framework that allows you to: If you`re using a Citator, focus on the negative material (when reviewing a case in a Citator, you can look for indicators that indicate a negative history).
In particular, use a quote to make sure you don`t miss a case that invalidates your argument – which could undermine your credibility. Alternatively, lawyers may need legal research to simply provide clients with accurate legal advice. And in the case of law students, they often use legal research to fill out memos and briefs for the class. However, these are just some of the situations where legal research is needed. 1. Determine your law firm`s online search needs You`ll never know what to look for if you don`t know what your legal problem is. Does your client need help recovering money from an insurance company after a car accident involving a negligent driver? What about criminal proceedings that exclude evidence found during an alleged illegal stay? How should I use technology to improve my legal research? Knowing where to start a difficult legal research project can be difficult. But if you already understand the basics of legal research, the process can be considerably simpler, if not faster.
However, it is important to remember that digital research and analysis tools should be seen as enhancing the legal research experience, not crowding out a lawyer`s review, analysis and judgment. A lawyer uses his knowledge of his client, facts, precedents, expert opinions and his own experience to predict the likely outcome in a particular case. Digital research products improve this process by providing more data on a wider range of variables, allowing a lawyer to examine even more information. Learn more about the best free legal research tools available. Finding tools allows a researcher to find and interpret legal authority. First, many researchers use tools that provide summaries of a particular area of law. Some examples are legal encyclopedias, treatises, and American Law Reports (ALR). Law journals and law journal articles provide interpretation of the law as well as detailed articles on specific legal topics. These interpretations can be found through indices such as the Index to Legal Periodicals.
Reformulations provide detailed summaries of what the law is in general or what the rewording authors believe the law should be. Citations from other authorities and notes in legal encyclopedias, treatises, American Law Reports, law journals, and law journals are an important part of their value in the research process. One of the most important steps in any legal research project is to verify that you are applying a “good” law, that is, that a court has not declared it invalid or struck down in any way. After all, it probably won`t be good for a judge if you cite a case that has been overturned or if you use a law that has been found unconstitutional. This does not necessarily mean that you can never cite these sources; You just need to take a closer look before you do. Similarly, a corporate lawyer can conduct legal research to determine whether a proposed new policy would expose the company to liability. This may include research into building codes, labor laws, or federal environmental regulations. Many online legal research services take public, proprietary information (purchased from institutions such as Equifax and TransUnion), store it in their databases, and allow users to search for aggregate information. Folders are a powerful search tool that allows you to search through connections to support your argument. Stay up-to-date on routing slip updates with the Create Alert option on Bloomberg Law. Learn more about Bloomberg Law`s comprehensive legal research resource enables smarter, faster decisions and confident action for your clients, practice, and organization There`s a reason there are comprehensive courses in law schools and countless books focused solely on legal research methodology. In fact, many lawyers will spend their entire careers honing their research skills – and even then, they may not have perfected the process.
Each of the three types of legal sources you work with has a purpose in the legal research process. Here`s a quick overview: Primary legal sources are essential to legal research, as they determine the current law on any legal issue you work with. Primary sources you can find by searching legal research databases such as Fastcase or Casetext include: The purpose of legal research is to find an “authority” that helps solve a legal problem. Primary authorities are the legal norms that bind courts, governments and individuals. Examples include laws, regulations, court orders and court decisions. They are generated by legislators, courts and administrative authorities. Secondary authorities are legal commentaries that do not have binding effect, but help explain what the law is or should be. The resources available to find a legal authority are extensive and complicated, so many law schools require students to take a legal research course. See Legal Education Don`t cast your net too far when it comes to legal research, i.e.
you should focus on the relevant jurisdiction. For example, does your case deal with federal or state law? And if it is the law of the state, which state? You may find a case in California state court that goes straight to the point, but it won`t be much help if your legal project involves New York law. In addition to important background information about your legal topic, secondary sources save time: instead of starting from scratch, you can use the expert work you`ve already done. Whether you`re a student still in law school or a seasoned lawyer with years of experience, strong research skills are essential to making a winning argument. That`s why it`s so important to know how to conduct legal research, including where to start and what steps to take. While new cases are preferred (after all, they are more likely to reflect current legal changes that could impact case law – and are therefore less likely to become obsolete), timeliness is not mandatory. Primary sources: A document that sets out the law on a particular subject, such as a decision decision or a legislative act. This is the most important step in the legal research process. You can support arguments with primary sources because they are not only authoritative, but also set precedents and control.
Find out about cases, laws and regulations that are relevant to you. So if it`s primary law that you want, it makes sense to look over there first, right? Not so fast. While you need primary sources of law to support your case, in many cases it is much easier – and a more efficient use of your time – to start your research in secondary sources such as how-to guides, articles, and legal articles. Secondary sources of law explain or interpret legal principles in detail or summarize current legal status – thus a particular area of law is better understood. Secondary sources are also useful for identifying the primary sources of your case (more on that later). Legal research is the process of discovering and understanding all the precedents, laws, regulations and other legal authorities that apply in a case and influence a lawyer`s modus operandi.