7 Crucial Easy Ways To Fast Track Your Online Legal Research

legal research

Have you thought of how to go about that online legal research? Is the thought driving you crazy that you are about to abandon that awesome work? You are not alone in this.

I have written about 13 Free Legal Research Websites That Offer High Quality services for anyone looking for reliable websites that allow researchers to use their services for free. I listed these websites out of stock of other sites I use because of how flexible they are for an average user.

Online Legal research generally is a boring exercise, but there are several things professional legal researchers do to fast track their Research

I have taken time to state and explain in this post the crucial procedures you must follow if you want to get result in all the legal research you intend to do. I know I may be sounding very assertive; yeah I am because I have tested and applied these procedures and it worked for me. Today I am a smart legal researcher with lots of articles on legal writing

Do you want to make your online legal research easy? Here are the keys

1)  Consider The Purpose And Scope of Your Work


This is really the most crucial thing to do to fast tract your legal research. Understanding the purpose and scope of your work makes you picky.

 If you know the scope of your work, it will be faster and easier for you. In the course of your research, you will come across materials from diverse source where the authors addressed the topic from different perspectives. Adhering to the scope of your topic saves you much stress.  

What should be your purpose and scope of your work depends on what you are looking for. For instance, when I was researching for this post, I consider questions like
  1. How to do online legal research?
  2. What to put into consideration while conducting online legal research?
I consulted many materials and visited many websites where I gathered lots of information about this topic, but I still limited my research only on facts that address the above questions and just bypass other points that are not quite relevant for this post.

2)  Analysis Of The Facts And Issues  


I don't start online legal research for case laws without analyzing the facts and issues in the case. what I mean by "analyzing the fact" is asking myself: who are the parties in the case? where did the incidence occur? And when did it occur? and what are the issues in contention?. 

Because of the doctrine of stare decisis that is applicable in some states, it is paramount to look for case laws that have the same or similar facts and principles to the one you are looking for.

If you are not abreast with the facts of your case, the consequence is that you may be searching for wrong precedence and that will definitely affect your result.

There are amazing, affordable softwares that can help do proper analysis of the facts and issues of your case with ease.


3)  Plan Your Research  


If you want to make your legal research easy and faster, you need to plan your research.

I have seen many lawyers, legal writers and law students who commenced legal research for a particular topic but couldn't complete it because they started without definite plan and continued haphazardly until they were stuck somewhere along the line. The reason is because they failed to plan their research.

Most people who want to do online research do not even know how to go about it. They do not know the right websites to visit and how to navigate their resources and collections

This is the way I plan my research
Before I start,
  • I spend time to think about the topic and what it will cost me in terms of finance and time
  • I write down the topic keeping my eyes and thought on the keywords and legal terms.
  • I also think about the right source ( primary, secondary) to get what I am looking for.

4)  Visit Your Source


Online Legal research is not like every other research which sources are scattered every where. There are basically primary and secondary sources of law which you must make references to.

The primary sources are mainly enactments, decided cases. legislation and ordinances made by the law makers. Secondary sources are legal commentaries on the primary source, books written by prominent law writers, law periodic articles and journal.

Because my budget most time doesn't fit for a paid database like Fastcase, I use Google scholar, which is a free alternative, to search cases that I know their citations.

This is how I search for case laws in google scholar:

First, I go to google scholar home page and check case law which will quickly take me to the court that decided the case I am searching for.

Secondly, while still in the home page, I will enter the the citation of the case at the search page provided in the home page and click the search botton

Lastly, I will scroll through the search result for the case I am looking for and if the result is there, I go ahead and read.

The same procedure is applicable if you are searching legal commentaries and treatises. The only different is that at google scholar home page, you don't have to check case law.
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5)  Maintain Objectivity

Because of diverse opinion of various authors of materials you use as references in the course of your research, there are likelihood of getting a bias result if not well handle.

Authur Selwyn Miller, in his post titled The Myth of Objectivity in  Legal research and writing said, " Objectivity in Legal research is both desirable and attainable". Your goal should be clear and unique so you can avoid stuffing your work with opinion of others.

You need to stay neutral while reading and jolting opinion of other authors. Compromising research standard will really affect the outcome of your research. Tweaking a written work of another person without subjecting it to confirmatory test may lead you into making bias findings.

Select the relevant point you need and leave other unrelated facts.

6)  Consult a Librarian


You need a librarian to make your online and offline legal research easy. A librarian has an in-dept knowledge of all the collections and database of any platform you are using. He helps to direct and focus your research to a logical and faster conclusion

You won't break protocols if you contact a librarian on email or phone (which is often provided), and ask some questions on how navigate the collections or database for maximum results.

Some websites allows you to schedule consultation with a reference librarian by filling a contact form which is usually provided in a particular page.

7)  Use Catalog, Indexes And Citators


Catalogs and Indexes are vital tools which most legal researchers overlook. They make legal research generally easy and faster. Unfortunately, lots of researchers do not make use of library catalogs and case indexes.

Case index is use mostly if you are looking for a case laws that are unfamiliar. It is easier and faster to look at the case index first than to rush to a source without knowing the citation of the case and the year it was reported.

Citators helps you find additional authorities that supports the one you already have.

Also, citators helps you to identify and locate the treatise and periodic articles which relieves you of much work searching and surfing a whole text.

What I do when I'm using catalog to locate a text 

  1. I go through the catalog looking for texts that are relevant to the one I am looking for.
  2. I take note of the subjects assign to them.
  3. Then I run my search base on the subjects

Conclusion

    legal research, though a tasking work, is not as difficult as some people think. If you tactfully consider the purpose and scope of your research, analyze the facts and issues involve is the work, plan your research very well, visit the right source and maintain objectivity, you will see how easy and faster your research will be.

    I'd love if you can make an input by simply leaving a comment below