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									Principles of Legal Research
Fall 2008
Week 2: September 15-19

                         Cecilia Tellis, Law Librarian
                         Brian Dickson Law Library
    “Research is formalized
  curiosity. It is poking and
    prying with a purpose.”
Zora Heale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)
 Brian Dickson Law Library website
   – Catalogue
 Library tour
 Importance of legal research
 How legal research differs from research in other
 Categories of legal research materials
 The legal research process
 Types of legal research
 Paper vs. electronic: advantages / disadvantages
 Deciphering legal abbreviations
 Exercises
Brian Dickson Law Library website

 A quick tour of:
  – Focus on the catalogue
Library tour
 To point out specific services and
Importance of legal research

 Rules of Professional Conduct
    • Rule 2: Relationship to Clients
       – “competent lawyer”
Cases where (lack of) legal research
1. Lougheed Enterprises Ltd. v. Armbruster
  (1992), 63 B.C.L.R. (2nd) 316 (C.A.).
2. World Wide Treasure Adventures Inc. v.
  Trivia Games Inc. (1987), 16 B.C.L.R. 135
3. Gibb v. Jiwan [1996] O.J. No.1370 (Sup.
  Ct. of Justice – Gen. Div.)‫‏‬
Attributes of good of legal research:
Four Cs

How legal research differs from
research in other contexts
 Awareness of legal material & relationships
  between these materials
 How does the source apply to the subject matter?
 Need multiple sources and different techniques
  for each source
 Often requires comprehensive primary authority
 Is the law you found up-to-date?
   – Law is organic
Categories of legal research materials
 Primary authority
  – presents information in its original form
  – judicial or administrative decision
  – enacted legislation (statutes, regulations, codes)
 Secondary authority
  – an interpretation of case law and/or legislation
  – encyclopedias, periodicals, case comments, textbooks
 Finding tools
  – Library catalogue, periodical indexes, search engines, legal
    gateways/portals, case digests
The legal research process
 Basic steps:
  – Identify the legal issue(s)
  – Work with specialized legal and non-legal research
    tools and sources
  – Apply the law you find to solve legal problem
“FILAC” Approach
   Facts                 Identify relevant relevant be
                      Correctly identify the issues tofacts –
                      sometimes obvious, sometimes facts,
                     researched. These arise from the not
                               Find the relevant law.
   Issues              usually stated sources – broad
                     1) Use secondaryin the form of legal
                        overview. that the client about
                     But what if I don’t know enough needsthe
   Law                               answered.
                                   subject at hand?
                     2) Narrow in on primary sources.

   Analysis/Application of law to facts
   Communication
                              Apply the relevant law to the facts to
                              Communicate results of the research
                             analyze the way a judge would decide
                             problem – given the same set of facts.
                             the matter be clear, accurate, concise.
The legal research process
Types of legal research
 Scholarly:
  –   Usually directed toward general conclusions
  –   Broad/exhaustive searches
  –   Attempt to find and discuss all relevant material
  –   End result: a critical piece of work
 Research done by a lawyer:
  – Attempt to find and apply legal authority relevant to the precise
    question of client
  – More narrowly focused
  – Deadline-driven
  – End result: e.g. memorandum of law
Paper vs. electronic research
 Advantages & disadvantages – your
 Why you’ll need both
 When to use each method
Principles of Effective Legal Research

1. Develop a research plan before using
   either print or online sources.
2. Select the source that most
   comprehensively covers your subject
3. Start with print materials if you just
   need an overview.
Principles of Effective Legal Research

4. Start with a print item OR a highly
   structured online search when issue
   involves common / ambiguous terms.
5. Begin with print material when
   problem concerns broad concepts.
6. Use hard copy sources first when trying
   to locate legislation on a subject.
Principles of Effective Legal Research

7. Use online searching for unusual or
   unique terms.
8. Use online searching if your research
   involves proper names of individuals,
   products or corporations.
9. If a search online for a quick answer
   becomes unproductive, try manual
   research techniques next.
Principles of Effective Legal Research

10. Use hard copy sources to locate
    analogous information on a point of
11. Consult the “experts” about your
    research strategy.
When can I stop researching?
 When you have completed the steps in
  the legal research model you’re using
 When you have used a variety of
  appropriate sources
 When you are finding the same
  authorities over and over again
 When cost exceeds benefit, i.e. you run
  out of time
Deciphering legal abbreviations
 Legal texts are full of ABBRs
 What gets abbreviated?
   – Names of courts & tribunals, periodicals,
     yearbooks, case law reporters
 McGill Cite Guide includes appendices with
 Dictionaries of legal abbreviations
 Online legal abbreviation sources
Online legal abbreviation sources

 Brian Dickson Law Library in-house
  binder of Law Reports & Statutes
 *Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations
  – Lists jurisdiction
 Liste des abréviations juridiques (U de
  – Includes some Quicklaw abbreviations
  – But ignore call numbers listed beside the titles!
 Legal research…
  – Can be done in print and/or online
  – Is not linear, necessarily straightforward
  – Requires an awareness of what primary &
    secondary materials are and where they can be
  – Can be frustrating, tedious
  – Requires patience and practice!
 Assignment #1: Work individually:
  – to hand in today OR at the beginning of next
    week’s class

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