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The Legal Research Skills New Attorneys Need For Practice, by James B. Levy, Legal Skills Prof Blog


Knowing how to use book s is still one of them according to a new article by Professor Patrick Meyer, Director of the Law Library at Detroit Mercy School of Law.  The article, called Law Firm Legal Research Requirements and the Legal Academy Beyond Carnegie, is available at 35 Whittier L. Rev. 419 (2014). From the introduction:

According to quantitative research conducted by Thomson West (now Thomson Reuters), new associate attorneys can expect to spend 45% of their time conducting research. Yet despite this high percentage, criticism of the research abilities of new associates persists. . . .

There have been a handful of important recent studies on practice skills that post-date the Carnegie Report, and they are reviewed in this article. All of these studies support a stronger emphasis on legal research training in law schools, and all but one either suggest, or directly call for, an integrated approach where some tasks are taught in both the online and print formats. All but one of these studies surveyed practicing attorneys. . . . All of these studies show that legal academia must devote more time to teaching legal research, and all but one support my conclusions: that attorneys still use books to conduct research, book usage occurs much more than most people think, and law schools need to teach both online and print-based research for some tasks.

New attorneys frequently lack basic knowledge of how to use research resources, yet this knowledge is the link between legal research and legal analysis. . . In short, law schools can do a better job at teaching legal research.

Part II of this article begins with a brief review of the history of legal research deficiencies in the law firm setting and progresses to a summary of several new studies on law firm research practices and abilities. . . . In Part III, I propose a three-part plan to remedy the lack of research acumen amongst new attorneys. First, law schools must assure that all students receive an appropriate amount of basic research instruction in the first year curriculum, to include some print-based research instruction. Second, Advanced Legal Research must be a required course. Finally, I would like to renew the call to include a research component on each state’s bar exam. [Emphasis added.]