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. Day time 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 less 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 for 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 implement 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 too lengthy and it may take a lot of your time if you keep on reading 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.
Internet is the keytool 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.
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.
Checkout 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 – for case laws (paid service)
- Manupatra – for case laws & bare acts (paid service)
- Indiankanoon – – for case laws & bare acts (free service)
- Nyaaya.in – This site explains Indian laws in a much simpler language.
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 important related to those sources.
Note the Urls of websites, videos, etc with imp details.
Be critical on evaluation of sources (especially online).
#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..
- 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 compete your research more efficiently.
Do you have some more tips?
Please comment it below and help your fellow colleagues 🙂