With the end of the semester just weeks away, you may be thinking about how you can do a great job and impress your employer. Here are some tips to help you if your summer job includes legal research.
ZiefBrief, from the librarians at the University of San Francisco's Law Library, has PowerPoint slides, outline, handout, and worksheets on effective Boolean (Terms and Connectors) searching.
You can listen to Berring's Legal Research Podcast episodes to review topics that we covered in Lawyering Skills. You can also find overviews of topics that we didn't have time to cover, such as Local Laws (e.g., municipal ordinances). I recommend the episode on Legal Research Strategy, which pulls it all together for you. The podcast series supplements the Berring on Legal Research DVD set, which is on reserve in the law library at DVD 0024.
A good place to begin your research is in secondary sources, which can give you background and context for your topic as well as citations to primary authorities such as cases, statutes, and regulations. In Lawyering Skills we used legal dictionaries, encyclopedia, treatises, ALRs, and legal periodicals. Ask the lawyer who gives you an assignment for recommendations on where to start. If your employer has a law library, the librarian will also be happy to make a recommendation.
DavidMaister.com has podcast series on Career Development for professionals. The episode on Managing Your Boss begins with a discussion about how to receive assignments and an 11-point checklist to help you clarify each assignment and do what your boss expects. Even if you don't have time for the entire podcast, the first six minutes are worth a listen.
Evan Schaeffer, at the Illinois Trial Practice Weblog, provides the view from "the other end of the transaction" in Giving Legal Research Assignments to Others. He offers a helpful list of types of information that should be given with research assignments. If your boss forgets to give you information that would help you do the research, ask questions.
The SIU Law Library has research guides and links to recommended websites. You will have summer access to most of the electronic resources to which the law library subscribes if you connect with the Law VPN, so don't let your password expire. Westlaw and LexisNexis licenses limit use of student passwords to academic research. We will post instructions on how to register for summer access when we have them.
Unlike your Westlaw and LexisNexis passwords, you can use your CALI password over the summer. If you get an assignment on a topic that you haven't studied yet, check the CALI site to see if there is a lesson that will give you an overview.
The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law, by Mark Herrmann, is full of practical advice on the types of assignments a new associate is likely to receive, as well as general tips on succeeding in a law firm. Although some of the advice will only apply to permanent associates, at least the first half of the book also applies to summer employment. You can check out The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law in the law library at KF300 .H47 2006. See my previous post for links to excerpts available on the web.
(The image above is from from Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels: Into Several Remote Regions of the World pt. II, "A Voyage to Brobdingnag," ch. VII (Project Gutenberg EBook 2005) (Thomas M. Balliet ed., 1900 ed., originally published 1726).)