Legal research is a procedure that helps in making a legal decision. This legal decision can only be made when the right information is available. Thus the entire process of analyzing the problem, identifying the required information, retrieving the information and finally using the information to support the case all comes under the scope of legal research.
Common law countries like USA, India, England Canada and Australia use the case citation methodology that specifically needs to finds similar cases from the past. Understanding and creating the perfect citation is the biggest challenge faced by legal research.
Legal research can be done online and offline. Offline search for citations may be required for certain official documents which are not available online, though nowadays most of the legal documents and citations are accessible using online legal portals like Findlaw, LexisOne, Loislaw, Lexnotes and more. Online libraries are also quite resourceful.
The legal research process basically goes through the following stages,
- Identifying the key issue in the case and the specific topic for research
- Search keywords have to be developed for online search
- Determine time limit for research and choose between quick or detailed search
- Identifying the right jurisdiction
- Decide on the file format depending on one’s available infrastructure
- Locate and refer to secondary sources
- Searching and refer to statutes, regulations and court records
- Search and identify relevant legal procedure rules
- Repeating the above process till satisfied with results