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Introduction to Legal Research

Computer Assisted Legal Research

  1. Two styles or methods of searching
    1. Source Searching – prefiltering method
    2. Select a source, jurisdiction  or database (WestlawNext, LexisAdvanced, BloombergLaw)
      1. Search using the Table of Contents or Index.
      2. Search using Boolean logic
      3. Filter by date
      4. Filter by subject
    3. Sourcing All Content (WestlawNext, LexisAdvanced) – postfiltering method
      1. Two step.  Search/Filter
        1. Step one: Search across all sources using words, concepts, terms of art, statutory cite, case cite, your home phone number.
        2. Step two: Refine/Filter
          1. In the vast majority of instances, filters are based on what is referred to as fields or segments.
            1. Documents are divided into segments called fields.  The types of fields will depend upon the type of document.
            2. Have any of you ever searched using a field?  Ever looked for a book by its title?  What types of field s would your casebook be divided into: Author, Title, Publisher, Copyright date, Subject.
    4. Boola Boola.
      1. Use Boolean logic.  Your searches will be more efficient and more effective.  Go to GoogleScholar.  Limit your search to cases (Is this a ‘Source Search’ or a ‘Content Search’ – Hint: you just choose a database).  Enter the terms run more eat less.  I retrieved 5,510 results.   Look through the results to find the case using the phrase: run more eat less (just kidding, DON’T DO THIS).
      2. Run the search again using the Boolean operative for a phrase: “run more eat less.”  You should have retrieved one case: Gorran v. Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.
      3. Which was the more efficient, effective search.
  2. Citable
    1. .pdf (portable document format).  The goal is to have authority that you can present to the court which allows the court to find in your clients favor.   A document in the pdf format can be cited to the court.
  3. Search Engines
    1. Can you construct a sophisticated search?  The simplest method of searching is to pile search term upon search term until you find relevant documents.  A more sophisticated search allows you search for a phrase, define the relationship between terms or search only one segment of a document.
    2. Can you search across databases?  State Supreme Courts put their opinions on a website maintained by the court.  But what if you wish to search all the opinions of all the State Supreme Courts on a particular subject.  Unless someone has a ‘database’ consisting of all State Supreme Court cases (Bloomberg Law, Lexis Advance or WestlawNext) then you would have to visit the website for every state’s Supreme Court.
  4. Advance Search
    1. Most Site will present you with two options, a single search box where most people pile on the terms and advance search option which allows you to use a more sophisticated search.  The advance option will allow you to utilize fields.