Friday, February 13, 2009

Short list of pros and cons of online legal research

This post comes from our good buddies at the Law Librarian Blog - a short outline of the pros and cons of online legal research tools.

Here 'tis:

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. 

Hat tip to Holly McCarthy.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl).

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwriting/2009/02/short-list-of-p.html

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