Critical Importance of Legal Research Skills for Print Materials

Dear Law Students:

Recently, Thomson/West, the publisher of the National Reporter System and the developer of Westlaw, issued the White Paper, Research Skills for Lawyers and Law Students (2007).  The paper outlined the following list of research capabilities that the “Ideal Associate” should possess when they enter a law firm:

  1. Conduct efficient, multimedia legal research.
  2. Conduct cost-effective legal research.
  3. Understand practice–specific print resources.
  4. Use a variety of resources, both print and online.
  5. Know the value of secondary sources.
  6. Understand print finding tools (e.g. indices and tables of contents).
  7. Understand when to dig deeper.
  8. Know how to formulate a research plan.
  9. Understand what law firms expect of new associates.
  10. Know when to stop and ask for help.
  11. Have solid legal research and writing skills.
Thomson/West learned that 70% of new researchers need help using print and online resources, and they could not effectively and efficiently use print legal research materials. A survey of the law firm library professionals showed that the following are the most important research tasks (online or in print) that entry-level attorneys must know:
  1. Cost effective research (82.7%)
  2. Case law/Digest research (80.2%)
  3. Secondary sources research (68.5%)
  4. Citator services research (55.6%)

At the Duquesne University Center for Legal Information (DCLI) and the Allegheny County Law Library (ACLL) (the 9th floor of the City/County Building), we have extensive legal treatise and practice collections (at DCLI on the ground floor where the rocking chairs are).  Over 90% of these materials are not available online.  To retrieve any materials from our collections, you can simply access our School of Law Catalog (SOLCAT) through our web site: www.lawlib.duq.edu.  You may check out a total of 15 books at a time with a maximum of seven (7) ACLL books for home use for a period of two (2) weeks, and they may be renewed once.

Furthermore, not all law reviews or legal journals are available online either on Lexis and/or Westlaw. DCLI and ACLL also have extensive print law review and legal journal collections.  To search for legal periodicals, simply go to our web site and click on “Legal Research Tools”, then either click on Hein OnLine or LegalTrac to find relevant articles. Many of these articles are abstracts in the databases, but you may use the citations to locate the journals in our print collections.

The best starting point for research projects is often secondary sources.  Since most secondary sources are not online, you must use the print materials. We are here to serve you.  If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to let me know.

With best wishes,
Frank Y. Liu - Professor of Law
Director, DCLI/ACLL

Latest Legal Link


Justia.com is a comprehensive legal web site offering free access to case law, codes, regulations, legal articles, legal blog databases, forms, and a variety of additional legal research resources. Users are assured useful site design and accurate information. In fact, Justia is led by Findlaw co-founder Tim Stanley and produced by a collaboration of computer scientists, lawyers, marketing professionals, and librarians. User’s can choose from four main customized Google search engines, including Justia, Legal Web, Law Blogs, and Legal PodCasts. Legal practice areas, such as real estate or immigration, are prominently displayed on the front page, facilitating quick and easy selection.