The Importance of Legal Research Skills for Practice

Nearly all law schools are focusing on preparing “practice-ready” graduates. This approach to legal education was advanced in the 1990’s with the McCrate Report, and it has really taken hold within the last few years. A major part of preparing practice-ready grads is teaching effective, efficient legal research skills. For the past couple of years, survey after survey has shown the continued importance of legal research skills for practice.

In 2013, Steve Lastres, Director of Library & Knowledge Management at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, analyzed the results of a recent survey conducted by The Research Intelligence Group called the “New Attorney Research Methods Survey.” Survey respondents “included 190 young attorneys equally represented by large and small law firms across a variety of practice areas. Nearly forty percent of the respondents were 28 or younger, in practice for five or less years, and a quarter of the respondents were recent law school graduates from the class of 2011 or 2012.”

Key findings from the survey included the following:

  • Newer attorneys spend more than 30% of their time doing legal research
  • Approximately 50% of associates think legal research should be a larger part of the law school curriculum
  • Over 80% of associates use an extensive range of content from traditional primary law and secondary materials to News, Court Transcripts, Verdicts, Dockets, Public Records and more.
  • Legal Classification systems are rarely used (only 12% begin with a legal classification system)
  • Attorneys use free online research resources but spend most of their time, over 8 hours per week, using paid-for online research services.

Additionally in 2013, the Wall Street Journal blog posted the results of a focus-group study with legal employers where the results showed that employers are looking for expert researchers with people skills. According to this study, “[t]he focus-group participants said ideal job applicants have a strong work ethic, can work independently without excessive ‘hand holding,’ and would bring a positive attitude to the workplace.” The other important skill was the ability to research. 

“Employers, particularly those with more years in practice, rely on new attorneys to be research experts. The employers in [the] focus groups have high expectations when it comes to new hires’ research skills, i.e., ‘[t]hey should be able to adequately and effectively find everything that’s up to the minute.’” Susan Wawrose, What Do Legal Employers Want to See in New Graduates?: Using Focus Groups to Find Out, 39 Ohio N. U. L. Rev. 505 (2013).

The legal employers noted that “[b]eing a research expert also means knowing how to scour books, not just websites. ‘Statutes, treatises and encyclopedias, and desk books are the sources employers still use in paper form. For this reason, new attorneys may want to be familiar with these paper sources.’” Id.

Last but not least, BAR/BRI recently released the first of what it intends to be an annual survey on the “State of the Legal Field.” The objective is to “evaluate industry perceptions about the state of the legal field” and establish benchmarks related to student practice readiness, employment expectations, employment trends, and law degree return on investment. Faculty, law students, and practitioners were surveyed.

Key finding number 2 from the BAR/BRI report stated that “[f]aculty placed very little importance on research, with just 4 percent citing it as the most important skill for recent law school graduates. In contrast, 18 percent of attorneys named research the most important skill a new lawyer should possess.”

These surveys offer proof from practitioners that legal research is a necessary skill for practice.

*This post was originally published on the RIPS Law Librarian Blog.

Arthur Miller Articulates the Importance of Legal Research

Arthur R. Miller CBE is this nation’s leading scholar in the field of civil procedure and is co-author with the late Charles Wright of Federal Practice and Procedure, the legendary treatise in the field. Professors Miller and Wright are among the most-often cited and well-regarded law treatise writers today. Their multi-volume series is an essential reference for judges and lawyers.

Below, Arthur Miller articulates the importance of legal research for practice:

And here:

As you consider the importance of legal research, don’t forget the 4-step legal research strategy for effective and efficient results.

Open Source Access to Scholarly Research

Legal Publishers and others are making it tough for law libraries to maintain many of their collections. For example, Since 1996 Thomson Reuters (West) has dramatically raised the prices of its print titles, both for new sets and, more significantly, for upkeep. Svengalis in his 2016 Legal Information Buyer’s Guide and Reference Manual, tracks 24 popular Thomson Reuter titles and provides a supplementation upkeep cost over a 21 year period, 1995-2015. The average price increase over the 21-year period was 779%. Svengalis also track 20 selective Lexis titles, which increased 299% over the same period. By comparison, the consumer price index rose only 58% during the same time.

With such dramatic increases by commercial publishers, open-source advocates are finding ways to combat the high cost of publications. Wikipedia defines open source access as “. . . online research outputs that are free of all restrictions on access . . . and free of many restrictions on use . . .” Two such entities include the Open Access Button and Unpaywall.

open access buttonBoth are open-source, nonprofit, and dedicated to improving free access to scholarly research. Both scour thousands of institutional repositories (like our ScHOLAR), preprint servers (i.e., SSRN), and other websites to see if an open-access copy of the article is available.

The Open Access Button (OAB) is a browser bookmarklet that is invoked when users hit articles behind a subscription-based site. The OAB will search open access sites for the piece. Both OAB and Unpaywall work similarly.

unpaywallHowever, unlike OAB, Unpaywall uses extensions, which are currently available for Chrome and Firefox. When an Unpaywall user lands on the preview page of a research article and will see either a green unlocked tab or a grey locked tab.  If the tab is green, he or she can click on that tab to view the PDF. See graphic below.

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Research Guide Series

With the Spring 2017 semester starting back up, it’s important to keep in mind all of the resources that the library has to offer! One of these resources are the Research Guide Series, also known as Libguides. The link to the Libguides can be found on the law library website under Research and Reference, titled “Research Guide Series” or by clicking on the link here.

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The Libguides offer all sorts of instructional materials as well as helpful links and other resources that may help you throughout law school! There is a Student Services Libguide as well as a Faculty Services Libguide that outline our services to both groups and provides a ton of helpful information!

I would suggest that everyone go and take a look at our Libguides to see if there are any resources listed that can be helpful to you!

If you have any questions, please contact a Law Librarian for more information!

Easy New Way to Locate Government Documents

The U.S. Publishing Office has a new way to locate government documents. They have created the “Catalog of U.S. Government Publications” or CGP for short.  While the name may not be exciting, the search engine is pretty neat.

This search engine will let the user search for a government publication by name, author, subject, keyword, or government document number.  Use this search engine to locate a government document published anytime from the 1800’s to present day.

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Once you find a document, the record will let you know where the document is located.  If there is a link to the electronic copy, you can access the document immediately.

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If the document is only available in paper or you need to see a paper copy, you can search to see where the closest Federal Depository Library is that owns the document. Once you know where the document is located you can go and view the document.

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This is a great site for anyone who needs to locate a government document.  Many of the documents published today have electronic versions so these items are just a click away!

Just in case you didn’t realize, Texas Tech University is a regional depository library, which means they own everything!  Well….they own an extensive collection of government documents.  This is great news, since it’s highly likely that any government document you are looking for will be available online, in the Law Library, or at the Main University Library.

Good luck hunting for government documents!  Remember, if you need help finding a document you can always contact a Law Librarian for help.

 

Subject Compilations of State Laws Now Available in HeinOnline

http://www.heinonline.org/HOL/Welcome 

According to the W.S. Hein website, this HeinOnline library “features a database giving you access to bibliographic records from Cheryl Nyberg’s Subject Compilations Bibliography Series. Many records contain extensive annotations with links directly to articles and other documents residing in HeinOnline. In addition to a searchable database, HeinOnline also includes the exact replicas of the original bound volumes.”

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You are able to browse the materials in two different ways.  You can browse the list of subjects that are contained in the database and you are able to browse the actual volumes that have been published since the first volume was published in 1981.

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Browse by subject:

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Browse by volume:

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If browsing isn’t your preferred method, then you can also make use of the various searching methods provided such as Keyword, Title, Subject and even Cases or Court.

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Sample results from a keyword search for “water law.”  If available, the results will directly link you to publications that are available within the HeinOnline collection of libraries.

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For further information or assistance with using this resource, please visit the Quick Reference Guide or contact one of the librarians here in the Law Library.

New Collection Available on HeinOnline!

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A new collection, Brennan Center for Justice Publications from NYU School of Law, is now available in HeinOnline. This collection includes more than 210 titles and 11,000 pages of material that is available through the Law School Library’s subscription.

The Brennan Center’s law and policy collection is largely written by attorneys and covers a variety of topics. The Center’s publications are nonpartisan; most works are stand-alone journal-length articles. Once a year, the Center publishes a book-length volume, Democracy and Justice: Collected Writings, which compiles excerpts from the year’s shorter scholarship and includes new material for that publication.

The Center’s collection undergoes rigorous review by other scholars and legal practitioners who are experts in the report’s field. In that way, the Brennan Center’s Scholarship is more scholarly than traditionally edited student law reviews.

Check out the collection here!