5 Case Law Research Tips for Stronger Legal Arguments

Improving the depth, accuracy and quality of your case law research means you can get on with the job of making strong legal arguments backed by supporting authorities. Here are five key case law research tips to help get it there.

FirstPoint is an online case law research tool that provides reliable summaries of important cases, easy subject-based browsing and access to Australia’s largest collection of authorised and specialist law reports.

1. Quick turnaround

FirstPoint’s editorial team adds the point-of-law classifications, litigation history and case relationships to more than 90 per cent of cases within two days of receiving the judgment from a court or tribunal. In addition, case status flags allow you to investigate the subsequent consideration of each decision. Because the editors are Australian based, with local legal qualifications and experience, you can be sure you’re getting the most accurate, up-to-date information and commentary.

2. Currency and quality of content: Case status flags

Efficient research relies upon being able to access current cases and accurate case law updates, and requires an understanding of how to check whether a case is still considered ‘good law’, and how to find cases by topic.

By using case status flags, you can find out as quickly as possible whether a case authority has been doubted or overturned. FirstPoint’s team of Australian legal editors update the flags within 48 hours of receiving a citing case. Strict editing guidelines and point-of-law summaries (digest) ensure you have access to current and reliable content.

Another key feature when you’re pressed for time is FirstPoint Verified. This means the legal editors have highlighted the most significant case and legislation references for you. You’ll get more from your research if you can hone in on current content and ‘good law’.

3. A helping hand: Digest notes

Legal practice is demanding at the best of times and practitioners may not have time to scrawl through hundreds of judgments or thousands of pages when researching a specific topic.

FirstPoint’s editors assist students and practitioners in digesting case law and narrowing their focus from a large number of potential cases to a small selection of relevant authorities on their chosen legal issue.

The case digest notes offer a snapshot of the relevant points of law covered by a decision, providing point-of-law summaries to assist with your legal research. FirstPoint also lists key details such as the name and date of a judgment, presiding judges, litigation history, cases, legislation, words and phrases judicially considered, plus cases and journal articles citing the case.

Individually, each full-time legal editor averages about 10 to 15 digest notes and about 30 to 40 cases classified per week, which can vary depending on the case length, the level of treatment required and the degree of difficulty. The helping hand of qualified editors will assist you in maximising your case law research efforts.

4. Respected source: Largest library of authorised and specialised reports

FirstPoint is the gateway to the largest library of law reports across four of the six Australian states and two territories including WA, NT, SA, NSW, ACT and Tasmania. Drawing from the resources of Australian Case Citator and Australian Digest, it contains links to full-text law reports and unreported judgments, as well as full-text law reports in PDF format (subscriptions required) including the Commonwealth Law Reports, Federal Court Reports, Australian Criminal Reports, Federal Law Reports, Industrial Reports and the Local Government and Environmental Reports of Australia, among others.

5. ‘More cases like this’ classification scheme

FirstPoint is more than just a citator. Building upon the well-respected historical archive of the Australian Digest and Australian Case Citator, it uses a unique classification scheme to help researchers locate more judgments (including obscure ones) on a particular point of law.

You can narrow the focus of the research down to a selection of on-point authorities and you can use the ‘find more cases like this’ functionality with the certainty that you’re capturing every piece of case law on that topic.

The fact that leading Australian courts utilise this system should give you confidence that your research is reliable and derived from respected sources.

 

Sources

Interview with John Carroll LLM – Senior Legal Editor, FirstPoint Firstpoint Editing: Behind the Scenes

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