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GreenEggs

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Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby GreenEggs » Tue Nov 15, 2016 10:35 pm

(Feel free to move this to a different board if I posted it in the wrong place)

Looking to get some general feedback and insights on how practicing lawyers "figure out the law."

From my summer gig, and currently doing about 70% Clinic work this semester. I find myself exploring every legal question at the start. I go to the statute, read it, look at relevant notes on the statute, look up all major cases, shepardize them to read further cases, etc. This is all good. I'm learning things, getting better at finding what I want faster, etc. but it seems unsustainable as a practicing lawyer. Do lawyers frequently use treatises or other secondary legal materials to first get familiar with a topic? If you are in a small firm, do you heavily lean on these? Just trying to get a sense on what practice looks like...
Last edited by GreenEggs on Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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zot1

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby zot1 » Tue Nov 15, 2016 10:57 pm

Unsustainable how?

If you need to look at different sources to understand something, you do. If one case gives you the answer, you stop there. But if you're briefing something, you might need more than one case.

To answer your question, it depends.

GreenEggs

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby GreenEggs » Tue Nov 15, 2016 11:28 pm

zot1 wrote:Unsustainable how?

If you need to look at different sources to understand something, you do. If one case gives you the answer, you stop there. But if you're briefing something, you might need more than one case.

To answer your question, it depends.


Unsustainable in the sense that anytime there's a small legal question are you looking up all the relevant statutes, then finding all the relevant case law, or if it's some settled manner do you just look up some hornbook law? Not talking about briefing something or even filing a motion. A client calls up and says "hey any idea if I could do this?"
Last edited by GreenEggs on Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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rpupkin

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Nov 16, 2016 12:21 am

I'm in lit and I use secondary sources all the time. It's borderline malpractice not to do so.

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby bk1 » Wed Nov 16, 2016 12:25 am

@OP: it sounds like you're reinventing the wheel every time. Some things are complicated, some are straightforward. You don't need to spend a shit ton of time researching when there is an easy answer.

bluthmodelhome

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby bluthmodelhome » Wed Nov 16, 2016 12:42 am

Not an attorney, but I am a law clerk that works at an in-house office with a handful of attorneys. One of them uses/directs me to use the Rutter Guide on westlaw all the time, for finding elements of causes of action, discovery rules, motion practice, etc.

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Nov 16, 2016 12:47 am

Yeah, I use secondary stuff all the time. Frequently it points me directly to the established rules and central cases, from which I can quickly find jurisdiction-specific stuff. Frankly in my practice (which isn't biglaw) a lot of the applicable law is not that complex and relatively settled, so I'm not doing extensive research to figure out what the legal rule actually should be. Instead I'm just trying to figure out if there are cases with analogous facts so I can make smart arguments about whether a given rule does/doesn't apply to my specific facts. (I mean that's kind of an oversimplification but it's much truer than I would have expected out of law school, where you're doing the whole "what IS the law and should it be what it is" kind of debate much more often than you apply the law to facts.)

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Nov 16, 2016 1:15 am

I work for the courts, and I use treatises all the time for procedural stuff or if an issue is really poorly briefed. Still have to look at (and cite) cases, but it really cuts down on reasearch time for settled law.

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Avian

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby Avian » Wed Nov 16, 2016 1:32 am

I usually start by Googling and that often gives you the leading case or at least a good starting place if the issue has come up recently or has been written up somewhere. If I don't find anything there, then I would look for a treatise.

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Wed Nov 16, 2016 8:46 am

With additional experience, I find myself using treatises and secondary sources more and more. Not only is it more efficient, but if you're giving an answer to a senior attorney, it gives them much more comfort that you have the right answer if you can tell them that your research is consistent with the treatise written by someone smarter than you.

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby timmyd » Wed Nov 16, 2016 11:03 am

I'm in litigation and always start my research with secondary sources. The key is using the right source. For example, a federal court litigator would be wise to begin research on procedural questions with the Federal Practice and Procedure treatise. With respect to state law, I practice in Louisiana and frequently use the civil law treatise series. The only pitfall stems from the stagnant nature of the treatise. Unless your firm has the resources to update it every year, be weary of changing law.

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby sawyercb » Wed Nov 16, 2016 11:18 am

I'm in tax and I constantly use secondary sources. If you are a tax attorney, you basically live on a database called "Checkpoint." I use Checkpoint nonstop to find secondary sources that allow me to more quickly figure out the law / issue.

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby FSK » Wed Nov 16, 2016 11:25 am

Read the curmudgeon's guide to practicing law. He advises, and I follow to good effect, start with the treatise.

E.g., if you don't look up the rule you're drafting a motion from for civpro in freer, you've wasted hours of time.
Last edited by FSK on Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

GreenEggs

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby GreenEggs » Wed Nov 16, 2016 11:48 am

This is super helpful. Appreciate all of you giving your input. Didn't know if treatises were academic exercises or things that practicing lawyers used.
Last edited by GreenEggs on Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby favabeansoup » Wed Nov 16, 2016 12:49 pm

rpupkin wrote:I'm in lit and I use secondary sources all the time. It's borderline malpractice not to do so.


^

Secondary sources are love, secondary sources are life.

My firm, and most, has a flat rate for westlaw searches monthly. However, the contract price changes each year based on the previous year's usage. The amount of money I would cost the firm and clients year over year by searching for every statute/case/shepardize them would be astronomical. I get mostly all of that with one click to a secondary source.

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Re: Practicing lawyers: How often do you use secondary legal sources?

Postby AVBucks4239 » Wed Nov 16, 2016 12:52 pm

My research usually goes through the following progression:

1. Google. Sometimes you'll find a random website (e.g., Avvo) that will lead you to buzz words you may have forgot, which then makes your research easy.
2. Find a credible secondary source. These people have already researched the issue and are likely smarter than you on the topic.
3. Actual legal research.



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