CBA Record January-February 2020
Diving into the Deep End of Legal Research By Caryn Suder, CBA Record Editorial Board T he CBA Young Lawyers Section convened a panel of legal research experts to explain how to develop
with proximity connectors to find phrases that might have some intervening words. Follow a research pathway, which can be either source driven – which begins with a known source on the topic – or content driven, which begins with a database search. Take notes during this process: write down citations, as well as key num- bers and notes about content. Note the terms and filters used in searches (some databases have functions that help with this). Also, consider adding notes about any preliminary analysis. Finding too many sources indicates the need to narrow the search. Finding too few sources likely indicates a need to broaden the search. It is critical to understand the legal problem; consulting a secondary source may be helpful before going further. Repeatedly finding the same references, or an approaching deadline, are good signs to stop researching. Lastly, update sources using KeyCite or Shepard’s. Be sure to look at history and subsequent treatment for each point of law used in a case. Free and Low-Cost Sources Anne Hudson, Senior Faculty Services Librarian at DePaul College of Law, addressed the use of free and low-cost sources. Free resources are particularly good for finding a specific case or statute. Government sites with this information are updated almost immediately. Free and low-cost resources can be more difficult to use than fee-based services. Many don’t have the helpful tools, such as tables of contents for statutes, key num- bers, and summaries, that fee-based ser- vices have. Judicial opinions are published chronologically. Illinois regulations that are available free online have no date on the main page for readers to assess currency. It therefore may be wise to use a fee-based
service in some instances. When using a free or low-cost source, it is critical, just as when using fee-based sources, to know the relevant facts, issues, and jurisdiction. Also, because many help- ful tools aren’t built in, it is even more important to generate multiple search terms for a topic (e.g., dog, canine, pet) than when using fee-based sources. Hudson provided multiple helpful free sources, including the following: • For primary authority, go to https:// www.govinfo.gov for federal material (but sometimes the name changes) and https://www2.illinois.gov for Illinois material. • For secondary authority such as treatises and journal articles, good sites include Google Scholar, https://scholar.google. com, and HeinOnline, https://home. heinonline.org. • Worldcat, https://www.worldcat.org, shows which libraries have which pub- lications. • General legal websites such as the Legal Information Institute, https://www. law.cornell.edu, Findlaw, https://www. findlaw.com, and Justia, https://www. justia.com, allow one-stop shopping for a wide variety of materials. • ABA and ISBA members have access to blogs and podcasts; CBA members can access the @theBar podcast as well as Lexology. • Law library research guides, which list topic-specific resources, can also be extremely helpful. DePaul College of Law’s Rinn Law Library offers a research guide listing the above free sources and more at https://libguides.depaul.edu/ freelegalresearchsources. Transitioning from Law School to a Law Firm The final panelist, Deborah Rusin, Library
and execute a legal research plan, how to use free and low-cost sources for research, and what to expect when transitioning from law school to a law firm. Allen Moye, Associate Dean for IT and Research at DePaul College of Law, addressed use of a research plan. Before beginning research, be able to answer the following questions: How much time is allotted for the assignment? What form of final work product is expected? Are there limitations on sources to be used? Does anyone in the office know of good resources to use? What background infor- mation is important to know about the law or terminology? Is there anyone who should be consulted about the matter before getting started? Once those questions are answered, follow a step-by-step strategy. First, ana- lyze the facts. Dean Moye suggested using the TARP model to assist in thinking of search terms. “T “ is the thing or subject. “A” is the cause of action – the claims or defenses involved. “R” is the relief sought, and “P” is the parties or persons and their relationship, such as employer/employee or physician/patient. Next, frame the legal issue. What is the general area of law at issue? Contracts? Torts? Employment? Then, what is the subject within that area of law? Negligence? Toxic torts? Lastly, what is the type of law and what body issues it (statutory, regula- tory, or case law)? Then, execute the research. Look at facts, and search using terms that relate to the core legal question, as well as terms that focus on relationships. Look at doctrine, and use legal terms of art. Then decide which terms and connectors to use. Group synonyms together, and search for phrases
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To watch the on demand video of “Diving into the Deep End of Legal Research” (10/18/2019), visit www.chicagobar.org/cle for more information.
CBA RECORD 13
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