Are you stuck with your legal research work? Do you feel researching is a cumbersome task?
Lawyers have too many matters going on simultaneously, so the workload is huge. Daytime is usually spent in courts. Then you are supposed to go to your office and prepare for the cases listed for the next day.
Seniors are busy in meetings, plannings, etc. and research work is usually given to junior lawyers and interns. You have to get your research done in less time without compromising the quality.
You usually start randomly from somewhere and may end mixing up things. Even if you get what you want, you may take more time than required for that task.
This article will help you conduct your research with fewer efforts than you normally take and also save your precious time.
Wait!!..don’t rush to find relevant sources for your research. The first thing you must do before finding sources is…
#Analyse the legal Problem.
Read the whole case or whatever facts you currently have. Get a clear picture in your own mind about, what you need.
Get answers to questions like:
- Who are the parties involved in the case
- Is the location important? If yes then what is the location? why is it important? Sometimes, objects may also be important, especially in criminal cases.
- At what stage is the legal proceeding?
- What are the general areas of laws involved?
- Are the Locals laws involved? If yes then which one?
- Which Court has the jurisdiction?
Get answers to Some more why’s and what’s related to your case, if you can.
Then, put all the data in a chronological order. And try to come up with a solution to the problem.
What is the relief sought? Evaluate the legal remedy. Think about, how will your client be entitled to the relief sought.
Then think about the legal issues involved.
#Prepare a basic research plan.
Always plan your task, to be more efficient. Keep a deadline.
Divide your work further into smaller tasks and time yourself.
Keep somethings always with you, like a pencil, bookmark tags, a notepad.
Also, Keep a law dictionary handy.
#Start Your Research
Planning is important, but it must not take much time. More time must be given to implementing what you plan.
Now, you have a brief idea about the legal problem, you clearly know what do you want to search, and you also have a plan ready. Now, just START your work.
Consider which of the three groups may have established the law on this issue: the legislature, the courts or the executive branch. It is quite possible that two and possibly all three groups have touched this topic. Then look for the statute, case or regulation that applies.
Go through the primary sources –
- Find out applicable Statutes & relevant sections.
- Go through the Index of the Statute.
- Read all sections relevant to your case.
- Read the Explanations & illustrations under those sections.
- Exceptions given for those provisions.
- Check for any other provisions which will help you understand the above provisions.
Then go for secondary sources –
Read commentaries, Judgements, Research papers, Rules & Regulations, etc.
You may not completely understand the sections from the bare acts. Most of us don’t understand because of the language used there.
In the secondary sources section, first, start with Commentaries. Secondary sources are easier to read and understand than the primary sources. So, after reading specific portions from some secondary sources you will surely get some clarity, which will help you understand & interpret the law.
While reading the commentaries, you will also get the case laws relevant to your legal problem. Make a note of them.
Don’t keep on jumping from one source to other at the same time. This will lead to nothing but confusion. Take some time and read one source at a time, then look for some other source.
While reading Judgements be sure that, you are reading cases that explain statutory provisions in relation to your case only.
Below are few points which you must remember while reading case laws:
- Read the Headnotes, this part is very useful to skim through the judgement. As judgements are usually lengthy and it may take a lot of your time if you keep on reading the whole of it.
- Look at the facts of that case and compare it with your case.
- Determine, how the area of law is related?
- Review the current state of law. Make sure that they have not been amended or repealed.
- Support your proposition with your case laws.
- Also, check out case laws which oppose your proposition.
After that do the second reading of secondary resources & discard irrelevant stuff. The second reading may help you get you some point, which you would have missed in your first read.
The Internet is a key tool for any research, so don’t be stuck in your court or office library and switch on the computer.
List down keywords…both(broader & narrower). Then, Google those keywords, you will get many relevant research articles, scholarly papers, news, government websites, etc. If you are in a hurry and cannot read the whole article which is important. And you found this article after investing a lot of time, then you just bookmark it using a ‘star’-like symbol in your browser.
Skim through the articles and go straight to the relevant portion. Use the “Ctrl+F” command and type your keywords, by this method you will be able to directly go to the relevant portions of that article.
If you need to rush somewhere, but you found an important article which you can read during the journey, then you can print any webpage or any online document by using the Print command. Or if you don’t want to print but want to read it offline(without internet), then you can save it in a pdf.
Just right-click on whatever online page you want to print/save in pdf and follow the below steps.
If you want to print then select the Printer from which you want to print in the destination section.
Check out some videos related to the topic of your case.
There are many websites which will be helpful in your research, some of them which helped me are as below –
- SCCOnline – It is mainly used for finding case laws & statutes. It is a paid service. They have many plans having different features and also have an offline CD-ROM edition. A free trial of their Web Edition is provided by them.
- Manupatra – It’s an online database of case laws & bare acts. They have different paid subscription plans & provide a free trial, which will give you access to the entire database for a period of 24 hours from time of activation.
- Indiankanoon – Online database for case laws & bare acts. The database is free for everyone but they have some special features on their website available to only premium members, which is a paid service. You can know about those features from the video below which they have uploaded on Youtube.
- Nyaaya.in – This site explains Indian laws in a much simpler language. A very useful website for law students and also for common citizen of this country.
Don’t forget to make notes while doing all the above things. If you don’t make proper notes, then eventually you are going to again research for the same thing.
Note the page numbers & paragraph numbers from the primary & secondary sources you referred.
Write down some points which you feel importantly related to those sources.
Note the URLs of websites, videos, etc with imp details.
Be critical on the evaluation of sources (especially online).
You can make these notes on a physical Notepad or using an APP/Software on your mobile/Computer. Use the method which suits you.
I would suggest you use OneNote or EverNote. Both are good for making notes with lots of features. You can add images, videos, links, attach documents, type text, draw things and much more. And the main thing is that you can access your notes from anywhere on any device you use. Below are some snippets of some important features of One Note.
Now that you have taken so much efforts to make such awesome notes, you must keep it safe and organized. So, arrange all the files into a folder and create a subfolder if needed. Give proper and relevant names to the files and folders, so that you will come to know whats in it just by reading the name.
Doing these things will reduce confusion. Also, in your absence, if any of your colleagues need to go through it then even they can refer to it easily.
#Ask for Help
Don’t go solo, ask for help when needed from your colleague, friend or senior. Ask a librarian or any other person familiar with the topic and ask for suggestions.
Ask according to your helper’s preferred method of you asking for clarification and guidance. It may be through…
- Or a call when a question arises.
#Time to Stop.
Research is never going to end. You may keep on finding new sources, keep digging in different books & websites.
After going through the process above, you will surely get sufficient information.
So, stick to your plan and deadline you had set earlier.
One of the important quality of a lawyer is “Accuracy”.
So make sure, you recheck all the points from the notes of your research, before presenting it to your boss.
If you follow this guide, you will surely be able to complete your research more efficiently.
Do you have some more tips?
Please comment it below and help your fellow colleagues 🙂