6 Ways to Raise the Bar on Your Legal Research

Behind every successful Barrister and sole practitioner is a depth of experience and expertise that not even the smartest technology could replicate. But in building the foundations of a strong legal case you also need access to impeccable case law research. Factors contributing to best-in-class legal research include trusted sources, ease of use to save your valuable time and breadth of database information. 

If raising the bar on your case and precedent search methodologies form part of your 2020 goals, you’re on the right page. We’ve pulled together six ways to help advance your legal research. Pick and choose from the ideas detailed below and your clients are sure to reap the benefits. 

Keep your searches simple

While preparing for a complex case, it’s not uncommon for research methodologies to get overly complicated. One scenario you may have experienced time and again is filling out multiple fields to help narrow down your search results. While this is one way to go about it, it’s not the most efficient. An hour may go by and you still haven’t found the case you were looking for! The best approach? Keep it simple. If your legal research tool does not offer you a straightforward way to pull up search results, consider alternatives. Some paid research technologies in the market are built with refined smart technology, enabling you to search intuitively for whatever you start typing in the search box, yielding accurate results. Of course, there may be times where you have a niche research requirement, but your first port of call should always be to simply type away. 

Query cases quickly 

As part of your legal research, you’ll often ask yourself whether the case, statute, regulation or administrative decision you are reviewing is still good law. The less clicks to achieve this, the better.  

Some legal research platforms rely on foolproof systems to flag problems and can alert you to anything related to the decision. Making use of such features in your research tool helps you connect the dots quickly and build good evidence. If you want to stay up to date on an ongoing case, your research tool (whether free or via a paid subscription or licence) may offer you alerts, so you are in the loop on relevant case law developments moving forward. This could make or break a case for you in court, so ensure you set this up in advance and leave no stone unturned when it comes to being across related cases in your area or areas of law. 

Advance your research skills

As professionals, it can be hard to seek help when we hit a roadblock. Ideally, a problem shared is a problem solved. So, if you are a sole practitioner or Barrister who pays to access legal research, reach out to your provider when you get stuck. Generally speaking, there should be a customer care team to chat with when needed. 

You may even have access to a training course that provides granular tips and tricks on getting the most out of your legal research solution, which can also offer a new avenue for networking. The outcome of actioning help in this way will raise the bar on the quality and efficiency of your legal research outcome, which is a win for you and your clients. 

Speed read efficiently 

So far we’ve talked about cutting down the steps and the time it takes to get to the answer. Well, once you reach the right precedent or case, reviewing materials more efficiently can make all the difference in certain moments. This is not to be mistaken for rushing things. While your clients expect due diligence, this doesn’t mean spending your time inefficiently. 

Drawing on features offered within your legal research tool, such as “reading mode” and text search can help you speed read. Of course, the same goes for your note-taking as part of the speed-reading process. While you are speed reading, pause and investigate flagged text your legal research provider has included in the body of writing. By combining the passive act of reading with these active reading tools you can digest huge parcels of relevant information, enabling you to represent your clients more effectively in court.

Reap the benefits of case law browsing

Earlier we considered the advantages of removing unnecessary steps to reach the case law and legislation you are looking for. While this is best practice, sometimes you’re looking to get a broader view of the topic to keep yourself up to date on the latest cases, or your search may be very narrow and you just don’t know where to start. This is where the benefit of subject matter browsing comes in. 

Some research portals showcase a range of practice areas or topics that you can scroll through with ease, prompting you to drill down to the specific issue or relevant area of law. Traditional search engines typically don’t offer this, but this is a great way to easily connect with exactly what you need. Being able to navigate the databases in this way can dramatically reduce response time. 

Customise the experience

To give your legal research experience that valuable edge, it’s a good idea to make full use of the features your research provider offers, such as advanced customisation. Your search patterns and needs will differ from your peers, as will those of your clients differ from each other. One approach is not going to be the answer for everyone.

Customisation is designed to recognise and respond to these patterns and needs, making your research requirements for certain matters and clients a breeze. Also, instead of having multiple tabs open at once, opt for the legal research tool that remembers your last session. That way, you can pick up your research right where you left off. 

Another customisation tip is to set your research portal as your browser’s home screen or save customised databases by area of law or client. Finding the right legal research tool can make all the difference to you and clients. Raising the bar on your legal research may be just one click away!

How will you raise the bar on your legal research in 2020? If it’s in the form of investing in robust legal research software, simply review the new Westlaw. For further reading you can also access our latest report on what law firms practitioners are really thinking about legal research.

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