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Legal Research Made Simple

Apr 27, 2008
Attorneys and legal assistants researching information have many tools that weren't available twenty years ago. Gone are the endless days in the library stacks because much can be done remotely from the comfort of your own office. However, just because more material with better technology is available, does not mean that it's time-saving in the end. Understanding the resources available and right resources to utilize, however will save you time, frustration and end the end, money. Even more important than being acquainted with your resources and also having a plan.

Legal Research - Making a Plan

Start with a brief write up of what you hope to find. It is easy to get sidetracked as more information comes to light, so having a written goal to refer to will help you stay on topic. Then decide how exhaustive will your search be. Keep in mind how much information is really necessary. If you are working on a case for someone else and they really only want an overview, you don't want to waste time. If your client will be put off by certain charges such as Lexis or you need to worry about the amount of hours you bill, you'll need to keep that in mind as you develop your plan.

Now you can make a list of where you know you should start looking for the appropriate information. What jurisdiction is your case in? Will you need to examine federal or state, court or administrative decisions? Is it necessary to look at regulatory or legislative sources? Or will you need to look at a combination of these resources?

Supplement this list of resources with thoughts from the expert attorney on the case if there is one or consult a reference librarian. The librarian of course cannot help you interpret the text, but the librarian or an expert attorney may be able to direct you to the most recent articles and the books that are considered "bibles" of the topic into which you are delving. You can then add to your plan and adjust it as you go. If you stay organized, you will be more likely to be successful in your search.

General Legal Research

If the research that you need to do is not specifically legal, there is a tremendous amount of resources that are now available over the internet. Most public libraries offer their catalogues online, giving patrons the opportunity to not only check the stacks without leaving the office, but in some cases, giving them access to online databases. With a library card, patrons to some libraries can log on remotely and use even the for-pay databases.

If your research requires data on public figures, businesses, associations and similar information, with the right library access, you can do it all from your home or office. Digging up this type of information may be helpful in investigating the background of clients, an expert witness or the opposition.

Make a plan, talk to experts regarding available material, learn what is available at the law library, the public library and online and get to researching. To see actual examples of actual legal documents & clauses be sure to visit RealDealDocs and search for free.
About the Author
Mark Warner is a Legal Research Analyst for RealDealDocs.com. RealDealDocs gives you insider access to millions of legal documents drafted by the top law firms in the US. To find Legal Agreements, click here. Free Search!
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