Switching to private practice and need help with legal research

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Anonymous User
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Switching to private practice and need help with legal research

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 15, 2017 2:03 pm

This is probably a silly question, but what steps do you take when you have a legal research assignment? Normally, I first try to find a secondary source, if not then, I just search Lexis with terms and connectors and hope to find an on point case, or at least find a similar headnote and see what other cases have said. Anyone do anything different?

An example of one I am currently working on is seeing what california law says about warranties on remodeling project, and whether that warranty extends to a third party purchaser. It seems easy enough, but has been harder for me to determine that I would've imagined.

IExistedOnceBefore
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Re: Switching to private practice and need help with legal research

Postby IExistedOnceBefore » Sun Oct 15, 2017 2:13 pm

I start with Google and Wikipedia.

Then I go from there to bounce sources. I go into lexis and westlaw after that.

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runinthefront
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Re: Switching to private practice and need help with legal research

Postby runinthefront » Sun Oct 15, 2017 2:36 pm

Even for something as specific as that, I would probably google search "third-party remodeling warranty law" and then just click around for a few minutes to see if there's any website that speaks to the generic law. Hopefully, browsing articles on the generic topic will give you some ideas for what to use as search terms + connectors.

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landshoes
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Re: Switching to private practice and need help with legal research

Postby landshoes » Sun Oct 15, 2017 3:09 pm

I've found that it's easy to get too specific, especially when you're getting into areas of law that have a long history, and areas of law that are almost exclusively state-level. Real property is definitely one of these areas. Sometimes the background law is rarely (or never) explicitly mentioned because it's assumed. Sometimes the state has a quirky legal term for the concept, or a case that they use as shorthand without ever describing what the case says.

I don't know if that's the issue here, but I have found that zooming out to the most basic, generic terms is often really helpful. In this case, if I weren't finding much for the specific topic you're describing, I'd start by googling something extremely generic like "real property warranty" or "warranty law California" until I got a better idea of what exact terms were in use in CA law.

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landshoes
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Re: Switching to private practice and need help with legal research

Postby landshoes » Sun Oct 15, 2017 3:11 pm

I also occasionally look at 1L casebooks or hornbooks/supplements, if they're convenient.

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rpupkin
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Re: Switching to private practice and need help with legal research

Postby rpupkin » Sun Oct 15, 2017 5:53 pm

What kind of work did you do in public practice? Legal research isn't really different in private practice.

ur_hero
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Re: Switching to private practice and need help with legal research

Postby ur_hero » Mon Oct 16, 2017 7:08 pm

1.) First, make sure you actually understand what's being asked of you. Especially when I was new (and back in law school) I could spend hours researching a bunch of tangential law (in addition to what was relevant) simply because I didn't ask follow-up questions to clarify what the Partner wanted to know.

2.) Now, assuming you think you get what they're asking. Google and stuff first, as was suggested above. If you're lucky, you'll come across blog post or something that will give you a good idea of the scope and issues that people actually care about (i.e., what's relevant and important) and get a hint at how to organize the information logically. If it's a somewhat obscure issue that doesn't come up, however, do your best with secondary sources. Honestly, a lot of it is just becoming familiar with the relevant code sections

3.) Often blog post or other "update" style publications are incomplete or over-simplified (whether intentionally or not), however, so the next step would be to then look at the relevant law for yourself. As you already suggested you do, treatises and then the actual cases/relevant code sections are the next thing to look at. In what you're doing, the relevant statute is probably your best friend so I'd (a) find the applicable code section and review that (ideally, step #2 will lead you to this or the Partner can tell you what they think it is - otherwise you have to find it yourself); and (b) check the table of contents of that statute or area of the code and look for any exceptions, qualifiers, other relevant stuff (again, hopefully step #2 will point you toward this, if any). If it's not clear in the statute (or your other research has led you to believe there is case-specific law around this topic), then I would turn to researching cases. Again, presumably some case names may pop up in Step 2. That being said, often you don't need more than the statute. If after doing everything up to this point you're unsure, clarify it with the partner if they didn't tell you from the start.

4.) Draft your findings [really, you do this as you go]. Organization will differ based on whether they just want an "answer" versus a thorough memo. If you haven't already gotten to know the Partner's preferences - ask to clarify whether they just, for example, want a couple paragraphs or a few on-point bullets nicely drafted out in an email, or a thorough analysis memo. My bet is more than 9/10 times its usually the former (and it sounds like the case here), unless you are working on a brief or something for ongoing litigation. Don't write a treatise. Always give the partner something they could theoretically copy and paste to a client, whether or not they intend to.

Hope this helps.




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