Anybody who is even remotely related to the legal sphere can vouch for the fact that the phrase they hear most often, by far is the terminology of “legal research”. Legal research is an indispensable asset for law students and legal professionals.
What is legal research?
The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines research as “the act of searching into a matter closely and carefully, inquiry directed to the discovery of truth and in particular, the trained scientific investigation of the principles and facts of any subject, based on original sources of knowledge”.
Legal research in particular is related to the research in the field of law and its associated institutions. Legal research has been defined as the process of identifying and retrieving information necessary to support legal decision-making.
In its broadest sense, legal research includes each step of a course of action that begins with an analysis of the facts of a problem and concludes with the application and communication of the results of the investigation.
How to conduct legal research?
There is no definite methodology or set pattern for conducting legal research and each lawyer devises their own method that is suitable and convenient for them to carry out. Some lawyers prefer traditional ways of conducting legal research and some lawyers rely on legal software for lawyers to conduct legal research online.
Role of technology in Legal Research
With digitalization, there has been a huge impact on the legal research domain. For lawyers, the development in field of information technology has truly been a boon, but yet there is a long way ahead. There are software for lawyers that allow them to conduct legal research in minutes.
There are various legal databases that filter out the type of case, citation, enactments used in a case, clauses applied, etc. all over the world which makes the legal research process much easier than what it was earlier. Even in courts, nowadays, citations can be online citations as well.
There are case management tools that enable lawyers to manage their cases in a single place, access all the case-related documents, manage cases online on a cloud based system and conduct legal research in seconds!
Importance of Legal Research for lawyers
There are many interrelated reasons why lawyers need software for legal research and case management to facilitate the entire essence of being a lawyer.
1. The need to be conversant with the main ingredients of a case: A lawyer can only be conversant with the following ingredients of a case when he/she conducts extensive legal research regarding them.
Facts of the case: Legal research shall help not only in knowing the background of the case but also the way to crack the problem. The facts of the case are researched upon to determine any fallacy.
Point of law in disputed issues: The point of law can easily be found by legal research by browsing through the primary and secondary sources of information. Cases, statutes and regulations comprise the point of law and may also extend to include precedents or earlier judicial decisions which may be of persuasive or even authoritative value.
Arguments: Lines of logical argumentation used in earlier cases can be found and replicated in cases of a like kind. Also, new grounds for argumentation can be found in some long-lost statute, code, regulation, etc.
Evidence: After close analysis, research can clearly lay down the evidence and points to substantiate the case for the lawyer and his client. Online software for lawyers and e-discovery tools based on predictive analysis enable lawyers to manage evidence in a case in minutes.
2. It supplements the area of practice: It adds value to the area of practice, by backing up whatever is being quoted from different credible sources.
3. Complete knowledge about issue: When a matter comes to Court, very obviously it is presumed that the lawyer representing the interests of a particular party is supposed to comprehensively have answers to every question that is put up to them. Whether it is a question of fact or law, the lawyer should have knowledge, otherwise it shall reflect poorly on him.
In any case, it is not the work of the judge to point out which legal provision should be applied but rather the lawyer has the duty to inform the court about all the provisions that could be applied.
4. Persuasive value judgments/ cases: Good legal research can land one up with not only good binding and authoritative cases but also judgments delivered, having persuasive value. Extensive research allows a lawyer to substantiate the matter on the best possible grounds.
5. Underlying principle/ basic structure of the law of the land can be drawn out: On close analysis by lawyers, they can extract out the underlying principle of any case, judgment, statement by a public figure, etc. This can happen if there is some concrete legal research that has been done.
6. Legislative history found: World happenings particularly relating to the stand taken by different countries for determining concepts like public morality can be found by primarily their legislative history and by historical events over the years. A lawyer may make use of this to indicate the enforcement of a provision since it is acceptable in the international domain.
Domestically as well, we can determine the nature of our law by considering the trend of our legislative history.
7. Assists in solving complex legal issues
8. Gives complete answers: This happens because legal research enables a lawyer to fill in all the loopholes and gaps.
9. Analyses the principles generally followed in a state and the critical examination of statutes
10. Helps in the appreciation of the moral and social values
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