Legal Research Tips and Tricks

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Renzo
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Re: Legal Research

Postby Renzo » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:44 pm

Good idea, and I hope the thread develops. I don't (as yet) have anything to contribute, however.

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arhmcpo
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Re: Legal Research

Postby arhmcpo » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:53 pm

Tag for awesome thread idea.

though i too have nothing to contribute yet, not surprising given my LRW grade last semester :shock:

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jp0094
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby jp0094 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:21 pm

betasteve wrote:Thought I could get a tab going to discuss various legal resources available, tips and tricks, etc..

My one tip, stolen from xoxo - When you find a case on your issue - pull the briefs (making sure they are from somewhat reputable firms). You've then got a ton of resources and arguments.


Also, anyone see the demo for WestlawNext??? It looks LE-GIT


Is there quick link through westlaw/nexis directly to the briefs from the case itself?

Anonymous Loser
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby Anonymous Loser » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:35 pm

More of a Westlaw tip than a general research tip, but the field search options are solid gold if you are doing a lot of statute-driven research, and it seems like very few people understand them.

Words-phrases (wp): This field contains legal terms and phrases defined within statutory text. For example, to retrieve Ohio statutes defining the term taxpayer, access the database OH-ST and type the query wp(tax-payer).


Perfect for figuring out who is a Responsible Party under OPA90, etc.

Credit (cr): The credit field contains a list of the session laws affecting the section. Searching this field is helpful when you are trying to find a list of sections enacted or amended by a session law or public law. For example, to retrieve all sections of the United State Code that were enacted or amended by Pub.L.No. 102-90, access the United States Code database (USC) and type the query cr(102-90)


The (cr) field is very helpful for journal work: I find that authors often cite to the session law in circumstances when citing directly to the statute is actually the correct Bluebook format, and this is often the quickest and easiest way to see what is going on.

Use of the other field options is also highly credited, but not as obviously helpful as these, you sort of have to fool around with them to see when they might be helpful.

Ignatius J. Reilly
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby Ignatius J. Reilly » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:55 pm

Learn how to use the terms and connectors search. Then when you find a good case, use the headnotes and shepardize. Also, if it's an issue you're not real familiar with, start with the encyclopedia, which will give you a really good overview of the law and provide case citations. If you're dealing with a statute, make sure you research the annotated code. Law review articles can be helpful at times as well. Bottom line: don't just jump straight into case law unless you are already familiar with the law.

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JPeavy44
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby JPeavy44 » Wed Feb 03, 2010 12:33 am

Starting with a secondary sources, I love the ALR, really helps searching a general subject.

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sarlis
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby sarlis » Wed Feb 03, 2010 12:47 am

Thanks for the educational thread!

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thesealocust
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby thesealocust » Wed Feb 03, 2010 12:50 am

edit: never mind
Last edited by thesealocust on Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Grad_Student
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby Grad_Student » Wed Feb 03, 2010 1:56 am

If you are researching a statute, start at the statute itself. At the bottom of the statute is a list of cases and how they applied the statute.

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nealric
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby nealric » Wed Feb 03, 2010 9:41 am

Learn to use the terms and connectors in Lexis. They can seriously cut down on an otherwise lengthy search.

For technical areas of law (like tax), treatises are usually the place to start. Don't just spend hours pouring through treasury regulations.

dreman510
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby dreman510 » Wed Feb 03, 2010 9:56 am

good thread...thanks!

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reasonable_man
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby reasonable_man » Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:04 am

As a young associate, much of what I do is LRW. If anyone has specific questions, I'm always available to discuss via here or pm (just don't violate your honor code; if you ask, I'll assume you're responsible enough to police yourself).

When I'm working in an area that I know a great deal about, i.e. one of my primary practices, I may skip to case searching on westlaw (my firm is a westlaw shop).

However, when working in an area that is not necessarily your primary practice, secondary sources are always the best. For LS, I loved ALR and the like. However, in actual practice, these become less useful. You really want to develop some go to sources in your jurisdiction. For NY, I like McKinney's, New York Jurisprudence, the New York Practice Series, and, of course, Siegel's New York Practice (the bible for the NY Civil Practice Laws and Rules). Starting with any of these resources and then working your way in is almost always a good way to go.

When you're working in an area heavily controlled by statute and you have access to westlaw, etc., utilize the cases included within the commentary of the statutes, they tend to be very helpful.

Always look at supporting cases within cases you like.

Google Scholar is Google's new legal research engine. Its 'ok' and certainly a good resource for very quick access to information, but should only be used in conjunction with west or lexis for serious research.

For federal cases, the ALR and the like becomes more useful when you're working in an area that is not well defined by State law.

The Cornell LS libraries on the FRCP and the FRE are very useful for quick research and should not be overlooked.

If you have a case before a rather famous judge (district court cases are good for this), and you find a trial court decision on point authored by that particular judge, USE IT. Nothing like being able to say at an oral argument, "Your honor, I'd direct the Court's attention to X v. Y, a case decided by this very Court, wherein your honor held that xyz is defined as...."

Don't forget where you are going. Always look at the big picture... If you find a case that says exactly what you want it to, that's great, but make sure it truly supports the position you want to address.

Don't dismiss your opponents cases out of hand. Sometimes its better to lend some credibility to the case cited by your opponent and then distinguish it, rather than come out guns blasting and say, "This case is entirely inapplicable" etc.

Keep good stuff you do handy and then revise it as things change. It saves time. Just always remember to go back and keycite/sheperdize.

Realize you don't always have the winning case, but you do always have an argument. Its in there somewhere, you just have to find it. You may not always like your position. Lawyer Joke: How do you decide which argument has merit? Easy, the one that best supports the position of the people paying me obviously has merit.

Don't fall in love with your positions, always view your argument from your perspective and then from the perspective of your opposing counsel. Think about the weakness your opp-counsel will try to exploit (by thinking about the way you would attack your own case). When you're done, you should be able to switch sides and argue the other way on a moments notice.

Trade journals, periodicals and practice reviews are great for new ideas. When you start to practice in particular areas, pick one up from time to time and stay current.

Above all else (and this is why no one should ever be solo out of school), TALK TO OTHER LAWYERS. Partners that know I have expertise in certain areas will come to me for guidance without even thinking about it. I go to other associates and partners for advice when needed or to bounce ideas off of them. Lawyers talk to each other, a lot. Its the single best way to get a fresh perspective on an issue and to get yourself pointed in the right direction. Other associates or partners might work in an area all the time that is relatively new to me. How foolish would it be to ignore that resource?

Renzo
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby Renzo » Wed Feb 03, 2010 12:04 pm

betasteve wrote:^ Now that was largely the type of advice/tips I was hoping this thread would bring out. This thread officially delivers.

Also, and I think r_m made reference to this re: NY, but TX also has consolidated causes of action series that summarize the law very, very well. An example of this is Dorsaneo's Texas Litigation Guide (Available in the TX Secondary resources in Lexis).

Also, something that worked well for me once already - Just google the issue. Sometimes you can luck out and get some info or a good start that way. Of course, I wouldn't rely on any lay article from there, but it may give you a very fast brief overview of what you are looking for.

I have found google immensely helpful, if nothing else, for finding keywords before you dig into Lexis/WL.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:10 am

If you find a case on-point, check cases that have cited it. And as said, in the on-point case, follow the thread of reasoning - trace the cases. Then you get good cites like:

A v. B., 1 U.S. 1, 7 (2009) (citing X v. Y., 9 U.S. 9, 12 (1901)) (discussing evolution of doctrine X).

tikitavi
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby tikitavi » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:54 pm

betasteve wrote:
My one tip, stolen from xoxo - When you find a case on your issue - pull the briefs (making sure they are from somewhat reputable firms). You've then got a ton of resources and arguments.


I did this for my brief due next week, and did get some ideas and cases. I am wondering if it is necessary to cite to a brief if you use it in this way.

solidsnake
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby solidsnake » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:29 pm

Question for reasonable_man:

How necessary is the CREAC paradigm to professional legal writing? How important is it not to combine/interweave rule application with rule explanation? I'm not talking about the quality of analysis or anything substantive for that matter; rather, purely the form in which substance is conveyed. I honestly think my lrw prof fingerbangs while thinking about CREAC.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby reasonable_man » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:42 pm

betasteve wrote:
solidsnake wrote:Question for reasonable_man:

How necessary is the CREAC paradigm to professional legal writing? How important is it not to combine/interweave rule application with rule explanation? I'm not talking about the quality of analysis or anything substantive for that matter; rather, purely the form in which substance is conveyed. I honestly think my lrw prof fingerbangs while thinking about CREAC.

Our whole LRW staff of profs does this.


This is a good question.. I always thought of it as CRAC, but in reality, CREAC is really more like it..

All of the rules you learn in LRW are really important for learning the process. They also serve as functional guidelines to follow. However, in actual practice, whether you are using CRAC, CREAC, IRAC or something completely different will depend very much on the situation, the type of court you are arguing before (or the function of what you are writing), etc. If a point is very complex, I may spend additional time talking about how the rule works to reinforce for the Court the reality of the rule, so that I can later come back and hammer my point home.

At the end of the day, these are only guides and no one acronym utilized by the LRW staff will work in all situations. However, they drill them into your head because at the very least, they are functional in most situations.

solidsnake
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby solidsnake » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:52 pm

Thanks for the reply. I'm not as concerned with the acronym so much as the strict boundaries between each letter (i.e., finish all of C before R, all of E before A, etc.). Will a judge think less of an attorney's brief if the rule's application interweaves somewhat with its explanation? Lrw profs tend to stress the necessity of adhering to the paradigm. If E and A, for instance, are mixed, the brief, then, will be lost upon the court. Truth?

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MeTalkPrettyOneDay
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby MeTalkPrettyOneDay » Wed Feb 24, 2010 12:09 am

Great thread idea. I don't have much to contribute yet... but +1 to secondary sources being an awesome starting point. Pulling the major on-point cases out of the secondary source and shepardizing/keyciting them turns up a lot of relevant cases quickly, and gives you a pretty good idea of the general spread of the law before you launch into more in-depth research.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby reasonable_man » Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:24 am

solidsnake wrote:Thanks for the reply. I'm not as concerned with the acronym so much as the strict boundaries between each letter (i.e., finish all of C before R, all of E before A, etc.). Will a judge think less of an attorney's brief if the rule's application interweaves somewhat with its explanation? Lrw profs tend to stress the necessity of adhering to the paradigm. If E and A, for instance, are mixed, the brief, then, will be lost upon the court. Truth?



Once you know what you are doing, you'll know where and when to walk away from the LRW crutches. In short, no. The court will still follow good writing, irrespective of whether it conforms to the strict CREAC format..

engineer
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby engineer » Wed Feb 24, 2010 9:49 am

I don't mind reading, so what I do is a broad search on WestLaw/Lexis initially. I'll try to generate a list of about 100-200 cases. I'll then do a focused search to bring the results down to a managable 30-50 cases. Once I have that list, I'll read the briefs and weed out the off-point cases. Once I have a list of about 10-20 on-point (or semi-on-point) cases, I'll download every case that cites those cases, every case cited by those cases, I'll look up every headnote, etc. If there are statutes on point, I'll look up those and find cases that cite to those statutes, etc.

Once I have a couple *good* primary sources, I'll do a search for all court briefs associated with those cases. Many times, and especially for legal writing assignments, lawyers have already done the heavy lifting; in the limited number of assignments I've completed, I have been blessed to find absolutely amazing resources and whatnot. Seriously, case briefs are often replete with points/counterpoints that you may otherwise miss in your analysis and application of cases.

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mac.empress
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Re: Legal Research Tips and Tricks

Postby mac.empress » Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:12 pm

engineer wrote:I don't mind reading, so what I do is a broad search on WestLaw/Lexis initially. I'll try to generate a list of about 100-200 cases. I'll then do a focused search to bring the results down to a managable 30-50 cases. Once I have that list, I'll read the briefs and weed out the off-point cases. Once I have a list of about 10-20 on-point (or semi-on-point) cases, I'll download every case that cites those cases, every case cited by those cases, I'll look up every headnote, etc. If there are statutes on point, I'll look up those and find cases that cite to those statutes, etc.

Once I have a couple *good* primary sources, I'll do a search for all court briefs associated with those cases. Many times, and especially for legal writing assignments, lawyers have already done the heavy lifting; in the limited number of assignments I've completed, I have been blessed to find absolutely amazing resources and whatnot. Seriously, case briefs are often replete with points/counterpoints that you may otherwise miss in your analysis and application of cases.


Brilliant.




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