A Guide to Conducting Legal Research for Students in Law Clerk Training

If you’re considering a career as a law clerk, your responsibilities will involve drafting legal documents, memos and reports, as well as conducting legal research. Conducting legal research is one of the most important aspects of a law clerk’s duties, as good research is an essential component in the preparation of legal documents. While this can be both a time-consuming and strenuous process, once you develop a system for conducting legal research, this task becomes both easier and more efficient.

If you’re wondering how to go about this process, read on for an introductory guide to conducting legal research. With these tips, you’ll be able to develop an effective system for gathering informative and relevant research for the legal question or issue at hand.

After Law Clerk Training, Take the Time to Understand the Legal Question

The first step in conducting legal research of any kind is to gain a complete understanding of the legal question or issue you are dealing with. You can start by identifying all of the parties that are involved in the case, and learning as much about them and the relevance of their identities to the case as possible. Next, consider where the events of the case took place, as the location can directly impact the case at hand. Lastly, put the events of the case in a logical order, as this will allow you to determine the full extent of the legal issues and arguments that are connected to the case. After completing law clerk school, organizing the information of the case will help you to understand the legal question you are working with, giving you a clearer vision of the research that needs to be conducted.

Ensure that you understand the legal question before continuing with your research

Create a List of Terms That Will Be Relevant to Your Research

Once you’ve attained an understanding of the legal issue you’re researching, you can move on to gathering information such as legal terms and keywords that will be relevant to the case. Use secondary sources such as legal periodicals and encyclopedias to find terms, definitions, and citations that will provide clarity in the case you’re working with. When compiling a list of terms, begin with a broad search and continually narrow the search terms based on what you learn. The more specific the search, the more likely it is that the terms you find will be pertinent to the legal question you’re researching.

Determine an Appropriate Statute

After compiling a list of terms, the next step will be to search for a statute that can be used for the case at hand. Finding a statute that fits the case you’re working with can be a lengthy process of trial and error, but by searching relevant keywords within legal databases, you will be able to identify a statute that fits the legal issue. If you have law clerk training, you might already know that there won’t always be a statute that can be used for the issue at hand, but it will aid your research process if you can find one.

Finding a statute that fits the case at hand will aid your legal research process

Conduct Case Law Research and Repeat!

If you’ve succeeded in finding an applicable statute for the legal question you’re researching, the next step will be to start gathering cases that have interpreted the statute you’re using. Identify the various case laws that mention the statute, and gather them together to determine whether they will be useful for the case at hand. Lastly, take the time to read and analyze the past cases that have used this statute. This will help you to understand the ways that the statute can be used as the basis of your argument. 

Once these steps have been completed, you can begin the process again. Run a fresh search using different terms, keywords, and topics to find statutes and cases that will further propel the argument of the case. In order to conduct a thorough investigation, continue this process until you have more than enough research to work with. As a law clerk, conducting research can be a difficult task, but by being methodical and exploring all possible avenues of research, you can ensure that no important facts are missed.

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