Paralegals are to attorneys what nurses are to doctors; basically, attorneys and doctors would have a very difficult time doing their jobs without the support paralegals and nurses provide!
One of the ways paralegals support attorneys is by doing legal research. Legal research is the important foundational work to building strong legal cases for clients, and can often be time-consuming and costly, depending on a number of factors. But there are plenty of tips and tricks to becoming an efficient and effective legal researcher!
WHAT IS LEGAL RESEARCH?
Before delving into the tips and tricks, it’s important to understand why good legal research is so important. Cornell Law says, “the purpose of legal research is to find ‘authority’ that will aid in finding a solution to a legal problem.” This authority can come in the form of “primary authorities,” which are the rules of law, and “secondary authorities,” which are the commentaries on the laws. Being able to support a client’s case with superior legal authorities can often make or break a case.
While pursuing a degree or certification in paralegal studies, you will have at least one course in legal research. In a legal research course, you will learn the necessary research tools and techniques to find actual laws, along with various secondary materials that help in the research process. Law firms and other legal organizations often use online databases like LexisNexis and WestLaw to help in the research process. However, these subscription databases can be costly, especially if you’re not well-acquainted with a particular area of law.
3 TIPS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR LEGAL RESEARCH:
Develop a list of keywords, phrases, and terms. This is especially helpful if you are researching a topic you are unfamiliar with. Write these down, and narrow your list as you go and become more acquainted with the law at hand.
Use Google Scholar before legal databases. Legal databases, like the ones mentioned above, often charge on the number of searches and documents clicked, depending on your subscription plan. Start with Google Scholar and other free resources to narrow down what you are looking for before using a paid legal database.
Contact a representative/librarian for the paid legal database you subscribe to. Many of these databases provide help via legal librarians or representatives who can help you with your search – for no extra fees! Give them a call and ask for help narrowing down your topic and resources. They can help you find the exact documents you need while being more time and cost efficient.
Your legal research professor will teach you the many of the ins and outs of research techniques, resources, and materials, but they are constricted by limited class time, so don’t be afraid to venture out on your own and figure out better research methods. One of the keys to being an indispensable paralegal is feeling comfortable figuring things out on your own and being resourceful; these traits will serve you well in every facet of your legal career.
If you’re interested in pursuing a paralegal degree or certification, visit www.theparalegalinstitute.edu today! With over 50 years of experience in training paralegals, you can expect an excellent education that will lead to excellent employment options.