With two librarians in my family, I think my mom would be proud that I am asking, “What would a librarian do?” in studying ways for cost-effective legal research. In Thinking Like a Librarian: Tips for Better Legal Research, Richard Buckingham, the Electronic Services and Legal Reference Librarian at Suffolk University Law School, offers practicing attorneys ways to improve their legal research.
The first tip—to understand the research assignment—echoes another tip in a Lawyerist post, Outsourcing Series, Part 3: How To Find and Hire A Contract Attorney to “be clear and precise” about the project. Buckingham encourages those who receive an assignment to ask questions, even if the questions seem basic. The researcher should also ask if the assigning attorney has any suggestions for cases or law review articles as a starting point. I have also found that my best results in working with hiring attorneys happen when the attorneys are open to my questions and we talk throughout the project to refine the issues.
I also found it interesting that librarians will start with secondary sources, including annotated statutes, as a starting point for their research. It justifies my fondness for my subscription to Westlaw’s Results Plus, which will pull up relevant secondary sources. Although the articles it pulls up are not always on point, it certainly saves time when I can read an article that summarizes the issues with cites to key cases.
There are other tips in the article—in fact, I am now more likely to call up my old law school library—but even just following these two tips should result in getting to the heart of the issue more efficiently.
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Thanks to Legal Writing Prof Blog for pointing out Buckingham’s article.