February 12, 2009
Online Law Research – Pros and Cons
There are many advantages to having high technology at your disposal as a legal researcher. In many universities around the country, law databases are growing at an increasingly faster pace than ever before. Something is lost in translation; however, to the thousands of law students seeking to learn about the myriad of cases they will be responsible for knowing down the line.
Easy Searching. Cross-referencing capabilities have made legal documents easier to peruse than ever before and students placing specific search parameters will have no trouble finding what they are looking for when it comes to finding cases that match their search criteria. This method of searching makes it easy to find cases and study for examinations, but does little to build the knowledge base of these lawyers-to-be.
Technological Dependence. While using a sophisticated database system for examining and researching cases will come in handy for practicing attorneys, the fact of the matter is that these advances have caused a technological dependence with law students at universities around the country. No longer are students fully versed in case law, but rather they look to find the answers the easy way. Law school is about creating experts, not just people who can plug in search terms. There are nuances to the written law that don’t translate well in digital format.
Old Fashioned Way Works Better. There is no better way to build a true knowledge base of cases and legal precedents other than actually reading the documents of the cases themselves. While making documents available electronically has its merits, students are less likely to build up and develop a solid information base of legal knowledge as the students of years past have.
Ultimately, legal education is all about learning cases. Studying is of the utmost importance when attending law school and nothing replaces the act of reading and learning about legal precedents through hands-on studying of the material. Online resources should be used as just that—resources.
This post was contributed by guest blogger Holly McCarthy, who writes on the subject of the best online colleges. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com
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Who is Holly McCarthy? No bio info at "Online Best Colleges" link, and indicatin of legal research connection?
Posted by: Montserrat Biedermann | Feb 12, 2009 12:07:47 PM
There is hardly a sentence in this post with which I can agree.
(1) "Something is lost in translation": what? If you can't define it, it's not a real value.
(2) "This method of searching makes it easy to find cases and study for examinations, but does little to build the knowledge base of these lawyers-to-be." Searching is not the same as research--whether it's in print or online. Of course you have to read the cases, but that is just as true of print research as online research.
(3) "Old Fashioned Way Works Better." In what ways? Why? Again, you're stopping with the process of case-finding and pretending that it precludes reading the cases. Nonsense.
(4) "Ultimately, legal education is all about learning cases." No, it's about a lot more than that. Even if you're defining legal education as a process of learning legal information, you're ignoring statutes, regulations and much more. Not to mention the fact that there is much more to lawyering than knowing "stuff."
Posted by: Jim Milles | Feb 12, 2009 11:39:44 AM