About the Blogger

Legal Beagle's picture

The Legal Beagle’s favorite book and that of dog lovers everywhere is Every Dog’s Legal Guide: A Must Have Book for Your Owner by Mary Randolph (KF390.5 .D6 R36 2005). His favorite movie is about the crime fighting pooch, Underdog! His current hero is Uno, the beagle who won Best in Show at the...

Affordable Excellence at RWU LAW

Legal Beagle's Post

Keep It Simple! (Advice from the Experts on Conducting Legal Research)

Posted by Library Blog on 05/21/2008 at 12:00 AM

When you are given a legal research assignment for which you will be paid, the first thing to do is to take a deep breath and remember to keep it simple!  Keep in mind that legal research is a skill which improves with practice.

Here are some survival tips for conducting legal research:

Make sure you allow enough time.  Good legal research takes time to thoroughly check all the appropriate sources and to update the citations.

If you are researching an area with which you are unfamiliar, use sources such as hornbooks, nutshells, and treatises to obtain background information. 

Write out your key concepts and terms before beginning your research.  This will save you time when using any resource (print or electronic) by allowing you to easily switch between a variety of terms/searches while avoiding wasting time through repetition. 

If you are unable to search full-text databases on LexisNexis or Westlaw, use the indexes to the sources (codes, digests, periodical literature, legal encyclopedias, and American Law Reports annotations).  When using the West Digests, note both the Topic and the Key Number.  A Key Number without a Topic is useless! 

Read carefully what the appropriate legislative body, administrative agency, or judiciary has to say.

Update, update, update!  Look for pocket parts and pamphlet supplements.  Shepardize any cases or statutes upon which you may be relying.  You always want to be citing good law.

Last, but not least, do not hesitate to seek the assistance of librarians!