6 Ways to Improve Your Legal Research
The right research is what makes the difference on any case. One of the most common lawyers’ complaints is that the law school didn’t really prepare them for the practical side of the lawyer’s career. To be exact, they enter the job market without having been taught the essential research skills needed for when the case is on the line. Sure, doing your homework on legal briefs and moot court competitions may help a little. However, that’s a lot like comparing reading a DMV manual to actually driving a car. When it comes to the success of a real case and of your career, be sure you employee these essential skills:
1) Free legal resources can only help you so much
Particularly for new lawyers, using free online resources can be essential when you need to keep the costs down. The problem is that these free services can cost you in different ways. More often than not, the information they contain is not up to date or accurate. Not only that, they may not have the essential features such as search tools and filters to help you find the relevant information you need.
2) Work from general to specific
Before you try to find exact cases that match yours, it’s better for you to get to know the subject on broader terms. Most cases are decided on individual rulings so it’s not as if you can use many examples as precedents. Instead, get a grasp on the subject from a broad perspective. By getting an overview, it will put these different cases into context so you can better tailor your legal strategy.
3) Bypass censorship and hidden information
The internet is a treasure chest full of essential information. However, depending on where you live, certain information may be classified or censored. Skipping the overall politics of this, these websites may contain the essential knowledge you need to win your case. For this reason, you should take advantage of a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPNs allow you to bypass restrictions through anonymizing and encrypting your connection. You can have both mobile and desktop VPN enabled.
How does it work? You connect to a third-party server, which then connects your computer to where you want to go. These have been essential tools for researchers needing access to the deep web where it’s possible to find key info such as websites where whistleblowers release information.
4) Take your time and dig deep
With deadlines and pressure to be ready by hearing dates, along with juggling other cases, it may be tempting to skip the legwork and find quick, straightforward examples. Although this might save you time in the short run, it can hurt once you get in court.
You need to “chase the rabbit down the hole” and find everything that relates to your case. You never know where exactly you’ll find that perfect gem you need. This will make all the difference between a winning and losing motion.
5) Westlaw is your friend, but don’t become too reliant on it
Westlaw is an amazing service you’ve probably already used. It’s an online legal research service available in the US and the UK. Instead of you digging through endless cases, trained legal research professionals do that for you.
While this can be helpful for new lawyers, it’s a lot like getting CliffsNotes on a novel. You’ll know the story, but if you won’t be able to quote the specific. Use Westlaw as a starting point, but once again, you need to dig into the research.
6) Keep your research and data private
Another essential reason for using a VPN is making sure that your research is kept private. These days, it’s not uncommon for ruthless lawyers to use hackers so that they can get a glimpse into their opponent’s potential arguments.
Likewise, if you have found some juicy nugget that you want to keep from prying eyes, it’s important that no one can check out your internet history. Use a mobile VPN service and make sure the company you choose follows a “no logs” policy. This means that they don’t keep a record of your browsing ensuring your information is truly private.
Doing the right research to win the case
The ability to do excellent research is the backbone of a great lawyer. So take your time and dig deep. With the strategies described above, you’ll be able to tackle any case that comes your way.