Mastering the 5 Ultimate Steps to Supreme Legal Research Skills

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legal research

Nothing comes easy when it comes to the practice of law. Even the simplest cases fall flat without good legal research. From identifying to checking each and every case law applicable, solid legal research is the main factor that makes the case winnable.

Legal research services allow one to build their cases based on analyzing and fact-checking all information as well as determining the case laws that can be applied. As a matter of fact, no lawyer or even a student pursuing law can have a successful legal career without having solid legal research skills. Before we get into the best practices to perform legal research, let’s get into what legal research is!

Legal Research

Legal research often involves looking deep into the cases and uncovering legal facts and information that can be applied and may assist in building a stronger case. Legal research is not necessarily performed for clients’ cases but it can also be carried out for the firm’s benefit.

Initially, when one starts their legal career, their very first encounter will be with legal research services. Not exaggerating but, in the absence of rigid skills of research, the entire career in law may fall down to nothing!

Legal research services involve understanding legal criteria, case laws, rules, and obligations that may be relevant to the proceedings. It is important because when one carefully studies the lawsuit and all applicable case laws, one may find new facts about it. It also involves informing the attorney in action about the same.

Legal research services demand in-depth investigation of every case law that one finds relevant and sometimes even looking into the judge’s past rulings in relevant lawsuits.

Importance Of Legal Research

  1. Helps in analyzing laws for a better understanding
  2. Helps in breaking down different elements of the case and picking out the important ones.
  3. Helps to look into the case from different perspectives and aspects.
  4. Helps create a certainty of what might be thrown into the face and therefore, lawyers can prepare accordingly.
  5. Helps in getting the facts right!
  6. Helps in acquiring a better understanding of the litigation subject.
  7. Helps to build a well-prepared argument.
  8. Helps gain complete knowledge of the issue.

Steps To Follow For Effective Legal Research

An individual already knows the basics of legal research. It is one thing to know how to perform legal research and a totally another thing to leave a mark through legal research services. Every lawyer or law aspirant knows the feeling of performing their task with such effectiveness that the outcome is applaudable. Here is a little guide that might assist you on the way to providing amazing legal research services.

Assemble And Understand The Facts

Before lawyers deep dive into the process, they gather all the facts of the case and understand them properly. When bestowed with a case, it is normal to jump into research on similar cases. But for a lawyer and their case’s best interest, one should collect all the necessary facts and understand them deeply beforehand. It will not only make the research process easier but they will know what they are looking for and therefore it will also save some time.

Details like who, what, when, which, whose, how, etc. of the case build the foundation of the whole research procedure. The goal is to get into the depth of every fact even if it means asking questions, taking notes, or even interviewing the client. Ask about the background, or about the incidents, or anything that is important for better understanding, no matter how simple or dumb the question is, just ask it and take notes of everything that is discovered and every fact is learned. One might not know this but this will even help in new discoveries.

Diagnose The Legal Problem

One will never really know what case laws or case rulings to look for if they do not know what actually is the legal problem. Moreover, they will never know where to start if they are not aware of the legal issues they are facing. Is it a money dispute? Or the client is facing criminal charges? Or is it something related to any new evidence discovered?

Whatever the legal issue is, first one needs to diagnose it before they go further. Figuring out where to start the research is difficult but when we have a problem it becomes much easier to find a solution. The legal issues that are being faced will determine the area of research and the case laws that one needs to look for.

Set The Aim

After the case is understood and the legal issues have been figured out. The legal research will become much easier once the goal is decided. This means one needs to set their mind toward the outcome that is desired out of this litigation suit. One might also want to check in with their client and their requirements from this case.

The desired outcome can be a settlement or compensation or it can be a win. It can be anything, just put your mind to it and stick with it.

Start The Legal Research

Finally after reviewing and understanding the case and setting a goal, now start looking for everything that is needed. Whether it’s case laws or previous rulings of judges on similar cases. Just get to it and use everything and every source to help find what is needed. There are two types of sources that can help with the legal research. These are:

  • Primary source:
    • case laws which include discussions and opinions of the court.
    • statutes or legislation.
    • regulations made by the court
    • constitution (federal or state), etc.
  • Secondary sources: These include articles, blogs, journals, practice guides, etc.

In our opinion, start with the secondary source to get an idea but never actually rely on just that. The primary source is the solution to the legal research problem, the secondary source is just to catch an idea.

Analyze The Research

The most important step is to verify the research. After a lawyer has found out which law applies to their case, they make sure that it is up-to-date and binding. Compile everything that is and ensure it is correct and does not have any gaps. In a very simple manner, ensure that one has summoned their information from a trusted source and the information is correct. This is because one simply cannot afford to have any blunders in court otherwise they might have to lose the case or sometimes even their license.

For this purpose, use “citator.” Citators verify a case’s authority and give everything that is needed on that specific case. For example, a list of case laws, legal sources, etc., and the value of those sources as well. Although it is totally a lawyer’s decision to use this technology and trust its outcome it is definitely a lifesaver.

While using Citator you have to look out for the following flags:

  • A red flag indicates that a case or regulation is no longer good or has been overruled in court.
  • A yellow flag indicates that the case might have a negative history but has not been necessarily overruled in court.
  • A blue-striped flag warns you that the case has been appealed in the United States court.

how to improve legal research skills?

Whether a lawyer is new or has been providing legal research services for a while one thing is applicable to all, “there is always room for improvement.” As we move forward in our careers we learn some and lose some. But it is best to learn a lot and lose a little, at least we all prefer this, and to achieve this in legal research we need to learn how to improve our skills. Here is something that might help:

  1. Try to make an area of research, more efficient: Many legal research services provider fails to deliver the best outcome because of the physical location barriers. Since we are modernizing and so is technology, legal researchers can easily use the cloud-based system to expand their research sources from local libraries to the whole world.
  2. Make good use of legal research AI: For effective legal research, use AI that will not only help with the research but will also assist in increasing the efficiency and the accuracy of the outcome.
  3. Practice makes a man perfect: The more experience one has, the better. So while starting a career, just practice and learn legal research services for the better.
  4. Secure your research: What you have discovered is very precious and it took a lot of hard work. Make sure to store the research in a secured document that can only be accessed by oneself.
  5. Start with secondary sources: Though some people prefer primary sources, the best option is to start with secondary sources for legal research services. It helps save time and aids in grasping the issue.
  6. Select the trusted sources: Many a time, there will be situations where we get information from sources that are not trustworthy. Just go with the instinct and drop their information. Choose a trusted source for legal research services.
  7. Take clear notes: Whatever one finds and thinks is relevant, they should take note of it no matter how small the information is. It is very crucial to write everything down and one will not miss out on any fact or discovery.

legal research

Here is a list of apps and websites that might help you in the legal research process.

  • Absolaw
  • Casemaker
  • Casetext
  • LexisNexis
  • Westlaw

Legal research is a very vast and complex process. There is a reason why there are countless books focused on legal research solely. This guide will not consist of everything one should know in legal research but it will definitely help to some extent or will give a kick-start.

If you are just getting started, don’t worry. Take a deep breath, you have a long way to go but do not get discouraged. There are a lot of ways to perform legal research services effectively but the key is to calm down, be careful, and keep an eye out for details. If you can do this, then you are good to go.

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