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How to conduct different types of legal research

As a law student, commencing legal research immediately feels like your emotions are on trial. Let's start with the denial that you must begin the assignment immediately, or even if you do- where do you start? You have a vague idea of what parts of the statute you want to interpret, and you've brushed up on how to approach your legal essay. But what about the mechanics of your research? For once, you're more invested in Google turning up results about something that isn't a cat obsessed with ciabatta bread.


Legal research is crucial for law students, lawyers and other legal professionals. It is essential to success in legal studies and throughout professional careers. There are several reasons why developing your legal research skills is so important. Because there is too much legislation and case law for you to learn all of them at law school, it is often hard enough to remember what we did three months ago. Let alone two or three years ago. Another reason why legal research is essential is that what you learn in law school or your years as a lawyer can easily change and become outdated or superseded. For example, the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) has three volumes and is nearly 700 pages; to date, there have been approximately 50 amending laws. Legal problem-solving and research enable you to learn about new areas of the law and stay current throughout your studies and career.


What is legal research?

Legal research is many things. Essentially, research is about critical

interrogation. It requires a careful search for relevant questions and appropriate answers. It is a dynamic and iterative process. Since practitioners use legal research, it is considered a professional rather than an academic exercise. The type of legal research conducted by legal practitioners or law students (when facing legal problem-solving exercises, exams and assignments) is doctrinal research.


Doctrinal research seeks to apply the relevant law to the facts of a problem. For example, it “provides a systematic exposition of the rules governing a particular legal category, analyses the relationship between rules, explains areas of difficulty and predicts future developments”. This kind of research, for example, looks for precedent, examining the ratio and obiter of a case and finding ways to draw analogies or make distinctions between your “fact scenario” and the material your research uncovers.




Different types of legal research

Legal research is an essential part of the legal profession, as it helps lawyers and law students find the information they need to build strong cases and make informed decisions. There are many different methods of legal research, each with its advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we'll explore some of the most common forms of legal research.


Case Law

Case Law Research One of the most important legal research methods is case law research. This involves searching for and analysing past court cases that are relevant to the legal issue at hand. Case law research is crucial because it can provide precedent for future cases, helping lawyers and judges understand how similar cases have been decided. Several resources are available for case law research, including online databases such as LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law. These databases allow users to search for cases by keyword, case name, jurisdiction, and other criteria.


Researching Statutes

Statutory research involves searching for and analysing the text of statutes, which are laws enacted by legislative bodies such as Congress or state legislatures. Statutory research is essential because statutes can override common law and provide specific guidance on legal issues. Statutory research can be done using online databases such as LexisNexis, Westlaw, or Austlii.


Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources Secondary sources are resources that analyse and interpret primary sources such as cases and statutes. Secondary sources can be helpful for providing context and background information on legal issues, as well as for identifying relevant primary sources. Secondary sources include legal treatises, law review articles, and legal encyclopedias. These sources can be found in print or online through LexisNexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline.


In conclusion, legal research is an essential part of the legal profession, and many different methods are available for conducting research. By understanding and utilising these methods, lawyers and law students can find the information they need to build solid arguments and make informed decisions.

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