Sunday, March 22, 2015

Legal Research is Like Looking for a Needle in a Needle Stack

Needle StackThe best place to hide something is sometimes in plain sight.  And while looking for a needle in a haystack may be difficult, it might be harder than finding the right needle in a stack of needles.  The phrase has been used in some popular culture (television shows) but I had not heard the phrase applied to legal research until I heard it from Ryan Allein, a first-year student at California Western School of Law.  Lamenting that electronic research had made it too easy to find cases, he said that legal research was like looking for a needle in a needle stack.

What's the remedy?  For many researchers, spending a few minutes with a secondary source that explains the area of law being researched will save hours of needless (and needle-less) research.  You'll have a better sense of what it is you're looking for and better know when you have found it.  And taking a second look at that secondary source after finding your killer case isn't a bad idea either. You may see additional issues or better understand the nuances of an argument you're going to make.

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

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After finding the secondary source or "killer case," one may also want to 'crawl' through references citing to the secondary source or "killer case" to find more recent authorities. Crawling forward through headnotes/headnote topics may focus the search even more.

Posted by: Jaimin Shah | Mar 22, 2015 7:50:08 PM

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