Law legal research – the basics

Law legal research – the basics

January, 07, 2011 • Posted by 0 Comments

In his article ‘Legal Research Skills: The Basics’ (NLJ, 151 NLJ 1528), Peter Clinch explains that legal research comprises three elements: problem analysis, finding relevant law and presenting the results of your analysis and research in an appropriate form.

Under ‘Finding the Law’, Peter reminds us that citing up-to-date law is extremely important. He advises:

“All the secondary sources will lag behind any changes to the law itself. Some details in textbooks may be out of date even on publication day. It is vital to update references to the law using subscriber-only web sources such as Butterworths Law Online (http://www/ or Lawtel’s Daily Update ( Both services carry summaries of the latest legislation, cases and official publications, and the Lawtel service carries summaries of journal articles as well. The weekly law periodicals: New Law Journal ( or Gazette (, The Lawyer (, Solicitors’ Journal, Journal of the Law Society of Scotland and Scots Law Times provide other ways of keeping up to date. Some titles are available on both paper and the web”.

Much information is available on conducting law research but little information is provided on presenting the legal research itself. On this point, Peter advises that students include:

“…First, an introduction succinctly stating the key legal facts and issues to be discussed (but avoid simply paraphrasing the question). Second, the body of your discussion in which legislation and cases are cited, quoted and discussed, using some of the material you found in the original legislation and case law and from textbooks and journal articles. Third, a conclusion drawing together the arguments and, if appropriate, arriving at a decision or view on the law. Fourth, a complete list of the sources, both primary and secondary, from which you have cited, with sufficient detail of titles, dates, volumes and page numbers, to enable the person marking your work to check the law and opinions you cite and look up the references in the library or on databases”.

For the full article, see 151 NLJ 1528 19 October 2001 ‘Legal research skills—the basics’. Peter Clinch is the author of ‘Using a Law Library: A Student’s Guide to Legal Research Skills’, available from