Legal Research and Skill Development (Basics)
This article is meant for those who are Law students and are stuck as to how they should start with the research. The main intent is to give you all/readers an idea of what Legal Research and Skill Development is and what are the basic steps one should keep in mind while doing research.
1. Identify the scope of the legal question.
The first thing one should do is to identify the scope of the legal question on which your research is going to be based upon in future. For that purpose, you should do the following:-
Ask specific questions to identify:
(a) the relevant jurisdiction
Which court has the jurisdiction over the topic/law on which you are about to research.
(b) key sources and search terms.
What are your key sources of information and the terms you should search to find the relevant information.
(c) the applicable time
2. Begin your research by consulting a secondary source.
Core texts, PLDs, MLDs, SCMRs, YLRs etc key articles (news articles), can give perspective on how your specific issue fits into a broader legal context and will assist you in finding on point primary authority These are particularly useful if you have no experience of the area of law as they will act as a background. Note references to pertinent statutes and case citations. Search for articles on the topic using the main legal journal indexes. These include the Legal Journals Index (on Westlaw and LexisNexis), Index to Legal Periodicals via Oxlip+ and Google Scholar. You can also widen the scope of your search to outside the legal indexes and search the Social Science Citation Index as well.
3. Identifying the Relevant Statutes
If you located an applicable statute in your review of secondary sources, review the annotations for the applicable provision in statutes for example, Contract Act, CrPC CPC, Transfer of Property Act, Guardian and Wards Act. All of these Acts/Statutes are available online Browse the contents of the statute to identify any other pertinent sections. Browse the contents page to find other relevant statutes Look at any analysis documents available on the databases. All you need to do is to find the provisions in the statutes and on the databases such as Pakistan Law Site etc.
4. Identify the cases that are on point for your specific facts
When reading secondary sources, note cases that relate to your set of facts. Follow up the cases, checking headnotes and reading judgments that seem applicable. One good case can be a great starting point for research on narrow topics.
5. Use digests and databases to find more cases.
Digests provide another excellent resource to identify relevant case law. The Digest is a good source for finding English and Commonwealth cases by topic. It has the same subject structure as Halsbury’s Laws. You can also search for cases on the databases using subject terms. You may need to think about your search terms carefully as the database are very large. Use Boolean operators and connectors when possible to increase the accuracy of your results.
6. Confirm that your authority is still good law
Use Westlaw Case Analysis, Lexis Case Search or a print citator to check that your cases are still good law and provide the most current, direct authority available for your set of facts.
This can be related as in Pakistan, PLS has thousands of citations and after every few days there is a new citation related to that same fact about which you had searched earlier. So as your duty towards the court and towards your client, you must ensure that you are well aware of the recent judgements which may be relevant to your case.
7. Search other online sources to fill any gaps in your research.
Again, this not so common in Pakistan, as we lack the online resources, we have just few law sites where we can go and do our research.
8. Keep a record of your research trail.
Document all sources reviewed, including all sections and page numbers, regardless of whether you located relevant materials in them This will help you later when you write up your research and need to check points.
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