Teaching Online Legal Research

By Pritchard-Schoch, Teresa | Online, November 1993 | Go to article overview

Teaching Online Legal Research


Pritchard-Schoch, Teresa, Online


Teaching law students or attorneys about online legal research can be a challenge. One reason is that novice researchers sometimes get lucky with a rough, poorly-constructed search, and then consider themselves masters of the system they used. Another reason is that those who have truly understood the Rule Against Perpetuities (RAP) may approach the systems with a clueless, yet overly confident attitude.

A case in point involves a law student we'll call Iggy. I attempted to teach Iggy about online legal research using LEXIS with the following hypothetical problem. "Suppose a man goes into a bank wth a bar of soap that he has carved to look like a gun. He takes the soap from beneath his coat and points it at the teller. The teller gives him all the money from his station without a word, and later tells the police that he turned over the money after the man pulled a black object, which looked like a gun, from beneath his coat. The issues is whether the man could be guilty of armed robbery given the facts."

"Let me do it!" Iggy insisted. He typed in black object and coat, and searched frantically for the key. After he punched it, LEXIS dutifully retrieved nine cases. "This is amazing!" he exclaimed.

AN EDUCATIONAL GAP

I know a lot of you are thinking that you have Iggy in your law firm. Most firm librarians have theoir own horror stories of an Iggy destroying a large chunk of their budget during a crash session at a library terminal.

A telling point was made by an online legal service representative when I asked why there were not more training sessions for advanced online legal research. She replied, "There just is no call...the vast majority of legal online searchers simply do not get beyond the basics."

This continued lack of education in advanced legal research techniques recently has been identified as a serious problem in law firms. Law librarians throughout the country have begun to attend extensive seminars on how to teach legal research, particularly computer-assisted legal research. In addition, advanced legal research classes, formerly a rare offering in law school curriculums, are now available in ninety of the country's law schools.

The truth--which online legal services hesitate to reveal to the novice searcher--is that the more one knows about WESTLAW or LEXIS, the more powerful, and less expensive it becomes. Until now, most online legal research know-how has resulted from individualized experimentation online, so it was important to get the novice searcher to experiment enough to learn. However, some level of competence should be required to associates before they access the online systems at the expense of a client.

AN IN-HOUSE SEMINAR--FILLING THE GAP

At one law firm, I conducted full-day seminars on LEXIS and WESTLAW searching for associates. The attorneys who attended received continuing legal education credits, mandatory under a state bar program.

For an introductory review, LEXIS and WESTLAW representatives were invited to give one-hour presentations on their systems' features. Then we plunged beyond the basics, where few of the attorneys had ever ventured though some were regular searchers.

A SAMPLE SEARCH

To explain the strategy involved in a thorough online research session, I always chose a timely reseach issue. Ideally, it was one that presented a challenge, but that could be resolved in about an hour of online time. I recreated the search online for the class, at the same time having a terminal available for each associate so they could duplicate the research themselves.

In one exaple, I explained that I had recently heard from an attorney who had found only four cases discussing an issue. He wanted me to check WESTLAW to see if there were cases he had misses using the books. His client, a bank, was ready to collect a judgment against a partnership. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Teaching Online Legal Research
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.