Rebooting Legal Research in a Digital Age

Research has always been core to the practice of law. However, we are seeing a “New Normal” in today’s business climate that has a profound effect in the delivery of legal services and impacts how research is conducted.

To uncover how newer attorneys conduct research in this emerging legal marketplace, an independent survey was conducted by The Research Intelligence Group (TRiG) and funded by LexisNexis(R). Author Steven A. Lastres, director of Library & Knowledge Management at law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, produced a report titled “Rebooting Legal Research in a Digital Age,” to summarize and analyze the results of the survey – drawing conclusions on what they may mean for the future of legal research instruction.

Key findings from the survey:

  • Newer attorneys spend more than 30% of their time doing legal research
  • Approximately 50% of associates think legal research should be a larger part of the law school curriculum
  • Over 80% of associates use an extensive range of content from traditional primary law and secondary materials to News, Court Transcripts, Verdicts, Dockets, Public Records and more.
  • Legal Classification systems are rarely used (only 12% begin with a legal classification system)
  • Attorneys use free online research resources but spend most of their time, over 8 hours per week using paid-for online research services.

Key recommendations from the author on what law schools and employers can do to update and enhance legal research instruction:

  • Adjusting time allocated to hard copy vs. online research
  • Reducing emphasis on legal classification systems
  • Mastering use of treatises and other highly used sources such as legal news, regulatory materials and public records.

Law Schools and legal employers need to work together to equip law students and new attorneys with the caliber of research skills required in today’s complex legal marketplace.