Legal research - An overview

Legal research - An overview


Legal research is the process of conducting, identifying, and retrieving legal information required to establish facts and reach new conclusions on a decision. The research is usually an exercise undertaken for evidence-based and data-based information analysis. Usually, the writing is preferably written in plain English, as this draws real-life examples that are relatable and easily understandable by the reader. Legal research usually covers topical issues and in most instances answers questions on a law-related matter. It is essentially about understanding statutes, laws, cases, regulations, and their applications.

Therefore, proper legal reasoning is the foundation of all legal research, as this is aimed at conducting legal analysis with the sole objective of obtaining an explanation of legal concepts. As such, in the quest to prepare detailed research, it is important that information shared has to be up to date and verifiable. This is essential to give the legal research its desired credibility. According to many scholars, detailed research seeks to inform and change perceptions of a legal decision or in some circumstances assist in the analysis of a topical issue. Ultimately, research stems from the need to share knowledge and share information which ordinarily may be challenging obtaining. Of course, special attention should be given to digital research tools commonly used by students who explore various hypothetical scenarios, and legal practitioners who conduct exercises to explore the important work they do regularly in their law offices. There is an equal weight given to research and writing because both provide a good background for legal writing, legal evaluation, and legal commentary which often provides an analogy of the principle or the issue being sought by the legal researcher. Good legal research stems from the ability to seek to be up-to-date with frequently changing laws.

Consequently, legal research is important because it helps in building analytical skills and communicating basic points by law students and legal practitioners to the reader. Virtually all law schools globally require extensive legal research by its students before “Call to Bar”, as this informs the basis for legal drafting, legal review, legal studies in the legal career of a legal practitioner. There is a presumption that the legal research skills have been learned at the basic level to proceed to the wider world of law. Therefore, students who pass and proceed to become lawyers are expected to have the skills. The American Bar Association and the Law Society of England and Wales have basic requirements for its members to conduct legal research regularly. In England and Wales, the ‘Continuing Professional Development’ and in the United States of America ‘The Continuing Legal Education’ have requirements for lawyers. It is expected of legal practitioners to be aware of new legislations and new rules in the legal system. This can primarily be achieved by conducting legal research yearly or monthly depending on the provisions of the regulatory body.

Often legal research will seek to delve into primary and secondary sources of information. This is usually achieved with citations from textbooks, online platforms such as, LexisNexis, among other recognisable mediums. Due to the expansion of digital usage in research, cyber exercises and computer-assisted research are popular among students and legal practitioners for its accessibility and sometimes its simplicity in legal research. Whether it is in drafting client briefs, opinion letters, pleadings, contracts, office memos, memoranda of law, and appellate briefs a thorough search, preparation and writing will have to be made by the researcher. This helps the reader understand better, given the hard work has been undertaken. In our digital world, good leal research can successfully be conducted based on the accessibility of information. Good legal research most importantly should be based on several factors such as the ability to carry out great reasoning and good legal writing. Therefore, the importance of legal research extends beyond the fundamental requirement of understanding the subject matter, it extends to great reasoning and good legal writing. Additionally, legal research involves the availability and accessibility of information.  

Legal practitioners and students all agree that legal research is important, as this is the basis for a better understanding of a legal issue. The intended consequence is to search for landmark cases governing the issue in question. Mainly, because often legal research leads to finding the leading authority. It provides the skill necessary to understand and manage the high volume of information currently swamping the law. It also provides information and research skills expected in the 21st Century law practice. Additionally, legal research teaches life-long learning skills that would enable students and practitioners to cope with future legal environments.


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Managing Director - Dispute Resolver Consultancy