Google: Search like a competent lawyer


Google is a good starting point for doing legal research, as long as you bear in mind two things:

1. Who is providing the information?

  • You have to make a considered decision regarding the reliability of the source of the information you are retrieving using the Google Search Engine

2. Is that information the most up-to-date?

  • You must use a citator service to  update information found on the free Web

Beyond these basics, if you are going to use Google to do legal research, particularly if you are doing this to save money, you should learn how to search in the most efficient and effective ways, and that means learning the tricks, tips and shortcuts, including how to do a Boolean Search.

A good handbook for using Google in your law practice is:

Levitt, C. A., & Rosch, M. E. (2010). Google for lawyers: Essential search tips and productivity tools. Chicago, Ill: American Bar Association, Law Practice Management Section.

Which you may borrow  from the TJSL Library.

Some basic things you should be aware of:

You can use “site:.gov” to limit your searches  to government websites

  • Or replace .gov with any domain name eg. About.com to limit search results to the about.com website

You can use Boolean connectors and this will give you more precise search results more quickly, saving you time and this is less legal research time you will have to try to convince your client to pay for.

  • The more productive you are, the happier your clients are and the more money you make in the end.

Use Google Advanced Search to:

  • search for keywords in a particular part of the page
  • restrict your search to dates
  • search for a particular file type, eg. Pdfs
  • search for results aimed at a particular reading level
  • Find similar items once you find one good one

Other Useful Google Search Tools:

You will be expected to use Google to :

  • search for facts that lead you to solid evidence, and
  • to be cost effective about performing preliminary legal research on a topic.

Learning how to use Google skillfully is part of learning to be a competent lawyer. Browse the resources linked to above to start improving your Google search techniques.

How will you change the way that you use Google to do research?

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