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Strategies for Success with Legal Research  

Steps for conducting efficient and effective legal research
Last Updated: Jun 30, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Always Have a Plan

The single most important concept of successful legal research is the need for a PLAN. Before you begin, think about what you want to accomplish. Make yourself an outline describing what you know, and then make another outline describing how you will go about finding the information you do not know.


Maintain Notes

Construct a useful note taking system. Take notes on your sources as you go along. Pay attention to which terms proved useful, which did not. Try not to duplicate your efforts.  Summarize information relevant to your case. Write down full citation information as you go so you don't have to go back and check again for a cite you missed.


Know When to Ask for Help

If you get stuck, take a break, or move on to something else. If you find yourself moving in circles, ask a librarian, advisor or colleague for their opinion of your strategy. You will not always be able to find an answer. Much of lawyering concerns cases of first impression, so sometimes what you are looking for simply does not exist.


Have a Back-up Plan

Remember also that much of the law is found in more than one source. Always consider alternatives in case the source you are seeking is unavailable.


Develop a Strategy that Works for You

The strategy in this guide will not fulfill everyone's needs. As you get more sophisticated and knowledgeable in a particular area, your strategy will change.



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