AALL Spectrum Blog

  • Bookmark and Share

The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
3/17/2016 1:28:00 PM

DIGITAL EXTRA "AALL Legal Research Competencies 20-Question Self-Assessment Survey" | AALL Spectrum | March/April 2016 | Volume 20, Number 4

Legal Research Competency Self-Assessment
Created by Gail A. Partin

1. Differentiates between primary and secondary sources, recognizing how their use and importance vary depending upon the legal problem or issue.

2. Identifies and uses secondary sources to obtain background information to gain familiarity with terms of art, and to put primary sources in context.

3. Recognizes differences in the weight of authority among various types of secondary sources and applies that knowledge to the matter in which the information is utilized.

4. Understands the benefits and detriments of various resources and utilizes that understanding to make informed research decisions to change formats or search strategies as needed.

5. Understands the processes and the interrelationships between the branches of government on all levels: federal, state, and local.

6. Knows what legal information is produced, organized, and disseminated at all levels and for all branches of government and can identify appropriate resources to locate such information.

7. Understands and distinguishes between different types of primary law sources and the weight, reliability, and binding or persuasive authority of each source.

8. Recognizes basic similarities, differences, and interrelationships among and between the various types of legal regimes: international law, foreign law, and United States law. 

9. Recognizes that legal information is produced, organized, and disseminated differently within various legal systems and knows how to discover jurisdiction-specific legal information. 

10. Identifies and analyzes legal issues, knowing which primary or secondary sources contain appropriate and current content to facilitate research.

11. Knows how to validate the completeness, currency, and appropriateness of selected sources. 

12. Differentiates and effectively utilizes various types of access points and search strategies such as tables of contents, indexes, headnotes, finding aids, Boolean operators, and search engines.

13. Understands the costs associated with legal research, regardless of type, publisher, or format and is cognizant of the intersection of cost and efficiency in the selection of information format, exercising professional judgment in choosing the outcome that best serves the research parameters.

14. Knows the relative costs of choosing to search one database over another and is aware of free and low-cost alternative sources.

15. Documents research strategies and results by recording all pertinent information to facilitate research and writing.

16. Understands how to apply evaluation criteria to specific legal and non-legal sources of information to determine whether they are authoritative, authentic, and credible.  

17. Reflects on the successes or failures of prior strategies for integrating new information into the analysis and utilizes prior research experiences to continue the research process.

18.   Recognizes when sufficient research has been done to adequately address the legal issue or information need.

19. Demonstrates understanding of how courts or other legal decision makers have applied materials from other disciplines in the past, and determines when material from these disciplines might be persuasive in resolving a particular issue.

20. Where appropriate, locates background or supplemental information to help answer a legal issue or need. 

Posted By Heather Haemker at 3/17/2016 1:28:00 PM  0 Comments
3/18/2016 10:33:00 AM

DIGITAL EXTRA "Tips for Associate Success" | AALL Spectrum | March/April 2016 | Volume 20, Number 4

Tips for Success

1)      Ask Questions!

If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask. No one expects you to know everything right off the bat. Get clarification for anything you don’t understand in an assignment. Ask about sources that might be helpful. Find out if the assigning attorney wants you to use a particular source.

2)      Go to training.

Any time it is offered

3)      Remember the Ten-Minute Rule.

If you’ve spent more than ten minutes on Westlaw or in a book and haven’t found anything that looks right, STOP! It might be time to get some clarification.

4)      Remember to keep track of your time as you go.

It’s easier to keep track of time up front than to try to reconstruct. It will also help you figure out if you need to stop and try something different because you’ve spent a while going down a path that is not leading to answers.

5)      Try a book.

Westlaw and Lexis aren’t always the best place to start. If you know nothing about a topic, find out if there is a treatise or article that gives you an overview. Footnotes can lead you to good starting places. Don’t forget to try Am Jur or CJS to get started.

6)      Watch for repeats.

If you’ve seen the same case or found the same thing several times, you might be done. Once you’ve come back to the point where you started, it’s usually a good clue that you’ve found what you’re going to find.

7)      Remember that there might not be an answer.

Not every question you are asked has a definite answer. If you feel like you’ve looked everywhere, checked all of the obvious sources, asked for clarification, asked me for help and still haven’t found anything, it’s possible that there is no answer. Don’t be afraid of the possibility.

8)      Don’t rely exclusively on full-text searching.

Remember to use headnotes and topics and key numbers to find cases. The opinion writer may have used a different term or terms than you are searching. Don’t get too hung up on matching a fact pattern exactly.

9)      Have Fun!

Posted By Heather Haemker at 3/18/2016 10:33:00 AM  0 Comments