What is legal research
The ability to conduct legal research is essential for lawyers, regardless of area or type of practice. The most basic step in legal research is to find the leading case governing the issues in question. As most researchers know, this is far more difficult than it sounds.
The advantages of legal research is the lawyer’s understanding and analysis of a case often begin in the research stage when she identifies the relevant facts and determines the legal issues that must be researched. Another advantage of legal research in this analysis continues and is refined as they decide where, how, and what to search. As they find seemingly relevant legal materials, they must understand them and how they apply to the facts of their case. This research provides a crucial analytical foundation that will inform their decisions for the remainder of the case.
Legal research can have various sources:
- Primary Source
Primary authorities are the rules of law that are binding upon the courts, government, and individuals. Examples: constitutions, statutes, regulations, treaties, court orders, administrative regulations, policy material.
- Persuasive Primary Source
Commentaries on the law that do not have the binding effect but aid in explaining what the law is or should be. Examples: primary authority, which is not binding on the courts, viz. opinions of the judges, attorney General, law minister, a ministry of parliamentary affairs, primary authorities from a foreign jurisdiction.
- Secondary Source
Commentaries, law journals or periodicals, articles, textbooks, a legal encyclopedia, legal dictionary, annotations, legal opinions, surveys, legislative history Secondary sources are important in legal research because they point the researcher to primary sources of the law
Research is considered to be the more objective, methodical, well-determined scientific process of investigation. Through research, a decision-maker can quickly get a summary of the current scenario, which improves his/her information base for making sound decisions affecting future operations of organizations. It is useful to accelerate the decision-making power and it alone can make possible the identification of the determinants.
Importance Of Legal Research
- To locate relevant “authority” that will help in finding a solution to a legal problem or issue.
- To analyze the law by reducing, breaking and separating the law into separate elements: It can be as simple as examining and explaining new statutes and statutory schemes or as complex as explaining, interpreting and criticizing specific cases or statutes.
- To blend the distinct elements of cases and statutes together into coherent or useful legal standards or general rules: The product of this research is the legal standard that is consistent with, explains, or justifies a group of specific legal decisions.
- To look at doctrinal or theoretical issues: The research finding is applied in advising courts or clients about the application of legal doctrine to specific cases, transactions, or other legal events. It may also criticize judicial opinions and in the case of conflicts between the decisions of a different court, suggests the resolution to those conflicts.
- To provide teaching materials for students: The end products include books and modules. This is to understand the legal doctrine and the law as it is.
- To acquire an understanding of the legal subject while arguing for a better way of doing things: A researcher who performs this type of research critics and comments legal doctrine and practices from the perspective of different sciences likes economics, politics, and sociology
The key to success in researching legal issues is realizing that research is a process. You cannot memorize a million cases, and you are not looking for a needle in a haystack. But you can master the overall process of research. As a lawyer, you need to base your analysis on the law: judicial opinions, statutes and constitutions, and administrative law.
Legal research will be unlike any research you have previously done because legal research requires you to use legal analysis. This analysis will tell you which issues to research and how to use the sources you find to solve the client’s problem. Without understanding legal analysis, you may be able to perform the mechanical functions of research, but you will not be able to understand the results of the research. Another unique aspect of legal research is that often there will be no clear answer to the question you are researching. Instead, you will find pieces to a puzzle, and you will have to use legal analysis to fit the pieces together.
There is no magic to it, just an interwoven process of research, analysis, and writing that enables you to be called a lawyer.