The ultimate guide to conducting legal research

The ultimate guide to conducting legal research

We run through three basic steps that will help lawyers conduct effective legal research, showing them how to create research plans, gather effective information, and review that information.

Legal research is defined as the process of identifying and retrieving information to support legal decision-making. It is essential to lawyers at all stages of their legal careers. It helps students to study for exams, graduates to prepare for careers, and seasoned lawyers to find effective case law to back up their motions, support the over-arching narrative of their case, or refute an opposing argument.

Every lawyer, regardless of their position, should practice legal research. The benefits are obvious. gives you access to the best facts and knowledge, helps you to form coherent arguments and find effective solutions using the latest information, supports the decision-making process, allows you to curate up-to-date and relevant teaching material for students, and much more.

In short, legal research is essential. But the value you gain depends on the way you conduct the research. In this article, we are going to explore the steps lawyers and legal counsel can take to boost productivity and maximise value with legal research, starting with the creation of a research plan.

Creating a research plan

The first step is finding out what you need to find out. If you are trying to identify and understand the facts of a case, for example, start by recording what you know in a case management tool, such as . That will help you develop a course of action, narrowing down the research.

You鈥檒l then need to build on the initial facts. First, identify where you鈥檙e planning to search. Lawyers and legal counsel too often rely on free services like Google to find information. Indeed, the 成人影音 2022 Bellwether report found that a concerning 74% of lawyers use Google for research.

The problem is that Google often provides information that is unreliable and outdated. And that can prove problematic and time-consuming, as lawyers and legal counsel will need to cross-check and fact-check the information they find, ensuring that it is accurate 鈥 or finding that it is inaccurate.

A better option is to find a trusted platform. Take the legal tech tool, Lexis+庐 UK, for example. Lexis+庐 UK offers quick and accurate answers using practical guidance and provides leading legal content. It allows you to start with a natural language search or question and offers loads of incredible optimisation features that help lawyers quickly sift through primary and secondary sources.

Once you鈥檝e figured out where to search, you will need to work out what to search. You might want to start by asking yourself questions, such as: What are the main issues that arose when gathering initial facts? What鈥檚 the most helpful case law or practical guidance on those issues? Are there any significant gaps in my knowledge? And so on. The answers will define the start of your legal research.

Gather the best information

The next step in the process is to gather all the best information to help you meet your objective. For lawyers working on cases, that usually means gathering relevant sources of law. You should start with secondary law materials, which will help ensure you are up to date on what the experts have to say about a particular topic before you start the (slightly more laborious) task of reading primary sources.

Secondary sources are vital 鈥 and one of the massive benefits of legal research tools. Secondary sources include, among other things, practice guides, legal treatises, legal guidance, review articles, journals, legal news, legal dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and some more obscure resources.

are, simply put, educational materials that describe or interpret the law. Students can read them to understand how lawyers might analyse a particular case. Lawyers can use secondary sources to build a case. Teachers can use them to show students about the merits of a case.

Then you will need to look at primary legal sources. These are formal documents officially issues by the body that establishes law. They are, in short, the law. , among other things, case law provided by the courts, legislation passed by parliament, tribunals and statutes, court records and court decisions, government documents, and other elements issued by official bodies.

Studying primary sources is the most authoritative act of research, but often time consuming, as the documents can be challenging to read, particularly for students and graduates early in their careers. But you can use secondary sources to make more sense of the primary sources, cross-referencing and cross-checking, exploring interpretations and analysis to simplify the act of research.

Once you鈥檝e checked out the secondary and primary sources, you should have built a strong portfolio of information. At that stage, the legal research process is nearly complete. You鈥檒l just need to review.

Review your information

The final step is the quickest one. It is mainly about practicing caution and ensuring you adopt a thorough approach. You just need to ensure that the legal sector broadly considers the information you have gathered reliable. You may want to double-check, for example, that case law has not been overturned or questioned. Or you may want to check the information you have gathered is up to date.

The above is an easy task, especially if you are using legal research software. Legal software often offers a quick and easy option to view how cases have been treated in court, for example, or view analysis of legal developments, allowing you to double-check information with the click of a button.


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About the author:
Dylan is the Content Lead at 成人影音 UK. Prior to writing about law, he covered topics including business, technology, retail, talent management and advertising.聽 聽聽聽