“As advisor, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications” (Preamble: A Lawyer’s Responsibilities, Model Rules of Professional Conduct).
The primary task of a lawyer is to explain to clients how the law applies to their case.
After passing the Bar Exam, and becoming a lawyer, how will you know the practical implications “of the client’s legal rights and obligations” (MRPC)? You will have to research it. In order to be sure that you are correct in your assertions to the client, you need to be sure that you know all the law applicable to the situation. This could mean finding a statute and the relevant cases interpreting it, and then ensuring that the information is complete and up-to-date.
How will you know whether the research you have done is complete and up-to-date?
Research Strategy and Research logs
You need to have a research strategy and a research log so that you can tell what research you have done, and what you still need to do to be sure your research is complete and up to date. For billing purposes, you will want to log the time spent doing research, in addition to the cost of the legal research. For cases that take place over a long period of time, it helps to log the date of your research, so that you will know when enough time has passed that you may need to update your research.
Ways to Improve Research Skills
There are several ways to build your legal research skills. One way is to do an internship with a law firm, often partners will give you legal research tasks related to actual cases. It is a good idea to consult reference librarians to get help with your research.
At TJSL, the law librarians teach brief workshops and full length courses that you can take to improve your legal research skills. Look for advertisements for these brief classes at the Fourth Floor Circulation Desk, in the Advisor and on the touch screens.
- June Mac Leod’s mini-classes
- Hadas Livnat’s – Working Tour of Library Resources
- Catherine Deane’s – General Tour of the Library
TJSL also offers an Advanced Legal Research course for two credits. It will be offered this Fall 2011, and the sections will be taught by Interim Director Patrick Meyer, and Reference Librarian Catherine Deane.
If you are unable to attend any of these classes, you can still brush up on your legal research skills by taking CALI Quizzes. These Quizzes vary in length, and cover a wide range of topics. Maybe pick a short one to start with, some are as brief as 20 minutes. Start to work this into your routine. For instance, when you are working on something challenging and you want to switch to something else while still being productive, do a short Quiz on a legal research topic and improve your skills. Alternatively, you could set aside one hour a week to take a quiz or two on a legal research topic.
Email Reference Librarian Catherine Deane to get the Student Registration Code to access the CALI Quizzes.
Which class will you work into your schedule to improve your legal research skills?
The Next Mini-Classes are offered on Tuesday July 19th at 10:30 am and cover:
- How to Research
- How to Find Cases