3 Tips for Legal Research

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.  

The Paralegal Industry and Its Job Outlook

Though often overlooked, paralegals are an integral part of all legal organizations—and non-legal organizations have taken notice. While traditional employment within the legal industry continues to grow, non-traditional work options in various fields are expanding job opportunities for current (and potential!) paralegals and legal assistants.

INDUSTRY OUTLOOK

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of paralegals and legal assistants will grow around fifteen percent from 2016 to 2026, which is more than the average of all other occupations (as seen in the graph below). As law firms and other businesses strive for more efficiency and less cost for clients, they are turning to paralegals to help them achieve this goal.

Because of these market demands, paralegals and legal assistants are not only taking the place of entry-level lawyers, they are also taking on hybrid roles, where legal secretary duties are combined with paralegal responsibilities. As a result, the need for paralegals with technological and database skills has increased.

While employers typically prefer employees with an associate degree in Paralegal Studies, job-seekers with tech proficiency and a paralegal certification will likely find themselves in the enviable position of being quite hireable in today’s tech-drive workforce.

NON-TRADITIONAL JOB OPPORTUNITIES

Law firms and government agencies are the most common employers of paralegals, but businesses outside the legal industry are increasingly switching to in-house and contracted legal counsel. Many companies in finance, tech, and healthcare are either hiring or contracting paralegals as consultants to fulfill their basic legal needs in compliance and regulatory areas. Amazon is one such tech company that retains an in-house legal team in their offices all over the world and is constantly hiring for paralegal and other related positions, which you can find by searching on Amazon’s job site.

The healthcare industry, with its complicated regulatory and compliance needs, often seeks in-house legal help; health insurance companies, like Aetna, also hire in-house legal aides. Since this sector often requires more specialized knowledge, employees with medical backgrounds are highly sought after, such as Legal Nurse Consultants and Nurse Paralegals.

Large finance companies like J.P. Morgan Chase also hire paralegals to assist their in-house attorneys all over the United States. A quick search for jobs with J.P. Morgan Chase reveals a need for paralegals in cities across the country.

And, of course, in the 21st century’s pervasive gig economy, freelance paralegals are able to make a comfortable living on flexible terms, allowing them to raise families and attend to other needs they might have. However, it is advisable to have a few years of experience before becoming a paralegal freelancer.

PARALEGAL SALARY

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2017 the median wage for paralegals was $50,410, with the bottom ten percent making less than $31,130 and the top ten percent making over $81,180. Your location, work experience, industry, and specialized knowledge will, of course, contribute to how much you earn, with paralegals in the utilities and healthcare industries making more than those in the retail or advertising sectors.

The paralegal occupation, overall, is an excellent career choice that does not require a four-year (or more) degree with crippling student debt. With a bright industry outlook and great salary potential, those interested in the legal field but not in the law school sticker price should consider enrolling in a paralegal program.

The Paralegal Institute at Brighton College offers an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies as well as a Paralegal Certificate Program. The Paralegal Institute offers all courses online, along with affordable tuition and an emphasis on employability after graduation. For more information, please check out our website—we look forward to hearing from you!