Doing legal research is exploring the law, including statutes, cases, regulations, and other sources. The term “research” implies that you are trying to learn something new by testing out theories or concepts.
In fact, when most people think of legal research, they imagine looking up someone else’s case analysis or argument. This kind of research is definitely valid, but it is not what most lawyers do during their careers.
Most attorneys instead choose to do internal legal research or analytical legal research. With internal research, you use the rules and principles of law as a framework for analyzing situations. For example, once you have determined that a wrongful action took place, you then apply the laws pertaining to causation to determine who is responsible.
Analytical legal research looks at the components of an issue independently of any overarching framework. For instance, we could analyze whether requiring employees to work through lunch breaks is illegal discrimination against Muslims. Or we could look at how court decisions are influenced by personal relationships in and outside of work.
Reasons to perform legal research
Doing some basic research can save you time in the future by helping you identify what is and isn’t allowed under current laws.
Legal research also helps you develop an understanding of how the law works so that you can apply it properly. This happens when you study sources past and present, including cases, statutes, and regulatory materials.
By doing these things, you increase your knowledge of the law and strengthen your ability to use it effectively.
Steps to perform legal research
Finding information in the law is called _legal research_. There are several ways to do this. You can use printed sources, or you can use an online source like Google or Bing to search for terms and see if anything comes up.
The hard part of doing legal research is knowing what keywords to look for! For example, searching for “how to prepare chicken” will not usually bring up how to make chicken salad. Using the wrong keyword can easily confuse the reader.
Knowing the basics of both science and the law makes it easier to know which keywords apply to each field.
As mentioned before, legal research is investigating past cases to determine what laws apply to a situation and how those cases are similar or different from your current one.
When doing legal research, you will need source material (aka documents and examples) that contain information relevant to your topic. These can be written materials like an article or lecture, notes taken during the meeting between you and your client, or a formal document such as an affidavit or contract.
Legal research does not have hard and fast rules for how many sources you should review- it depends on several factors including the length of the essay question, the level of complexity of the topic, and the time constraints. General guidelines suggest looking at around eight sources per page, but this number may vary depending on the academic setting.
Many students find using Google Scholar their most effective resource for finding sources.
The average person probably knows what legal research is, but they may not know how professional lawyers do it. Luckily, there are many good online resources where you can find legal information!
Public access to court records, statutes, case law and other sources of legal knowledge have been around for quite some time. People all over the world use public databases to do legal research, and their availability has increased dramatically in the past few years due to the growing popularity of Google, Bing and Yahoo!
These search engines make it easy to locate any type of resource using their powerful software. In fact, most now include powerful legal research tools that help you identify relevant content quickly and easily.
By utilizing these services, you no longer need to visit your local library or consult with colleagues at work to do legal research.
For example, let’s say you are looking into whether it is legal to put red dye in your hair. You could spend hours searching Google or doing an online search through public libraries, but you would probably run out of steam before finding anything definitive.
That’s when someone else comes in and puts all that information in a repository for you. A private research database contains pre-compiled results from various sources so you don’t have to go hunting for them.
Legal research often includes things like court decisions, legislation, state statutes and regulations, and other materials. Because these resources are organized and easy to find, people use them to do some much needed homework.