As a law student, lawyer, or legal professional, legal research is a fundamental skill you need to master. Legal research is the process of finding relevant legal information to support legal arguments, advise clients, or make decisions. However, legal research can be a daunting and time-consuming task, especially if you don’t know where to start or what tools to use. But fear not! In this article, we’ll share with you 7 legal research hacks that will help you streamline your research process, find better sources, and gain an edge in your legal research.
- Use Boolean Operators
Boolean operators are words (or symbols) that you can use to combine search terms to broaden or narrow your search results. The most common Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT. For example, if you’re looking for cases that involve both “breach of contract” and “damages,” you can use the operator “AND” to combine the two terms and get more specific results. On the other hand, if you’re looking for cases that involve either “breach of contract” or “tort,” you can use the operator “OR” to broaden your search.
- Use Google Scholar
Google Scholar is a free search engine that indexes academic articles, case law, and other legal documents. It’s a great tool for legal research because it allows you to search for legal cases, legal articles, and legal opinions from courts all over the world. Moreover, Google Scholar has a feature called “Cited by,” which shows you the articles and cases that cited a particular source. This feature is useful for finding additional resources that are relevant to your research.
- Use Online Databases
Online databases, such as Trellis, Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg Law, are subscription-based legal research platforms that provide access to a vast collection of legal documents, including case law, statutes, regulations, and secondary sources. These databases are an excellent resource for legal research because they offer advanced search features, such as filters, advanced syntax, and natural language processing. Moreover, online databases provide access to primary sources, such as court opinions, that may not be available on free websites.
- Use Secondary Sources
Secondary sources are materials that analyze, interpret, or comment on primary sources, such as cases, statutes, and regulations. Examples of secondary sources include law reviews, treatises, and legal encyclopedias. Secondary sources are useful for legal research because they provide context, background information, and analysis on legal issues. Moreover, secondary sources can help you find relevant primary sources that you may not have considered.
- Use Social Media
Social media platforms, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit, can be useful for legal research. For example, you can follow legal experts and organizations on Twitter to stay up-to-date on legal news and developments. Moreover, you can join legal groups on LinkedIn or Reddit to ask for advice, share ideas, and discuss legal issues with other legal professionals.
- Use Google Advanced Search
Google Advanced Search is a powerful tool that allows you to refine your search results by using various filters, such as site, language, date, and file type. For example, you can use the site filter to limit your search results to a specific website or domain, such as a government website or a law firm website. Moreover, you can use the date filter to search for documents that were published within a specific timeframe.
- Use Citation Managers
Citation managers, such as Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote, are software tools that help you organize and manage your research sources. Citation managers allow you to import references from various sources, such as online databases and websites, and automatically generate citations and bibliographies in different styles, such as APA, MLA, and Chicago. Moreover, citation managers allow you to annotate and tag your sources, search within your library, and collaborate with others. Using a citation manager can save you time and ensure the accuracy and consistency of your citations and references.