Legal Research Survival Guide, Part 10 – Lifelines and Last Tips

Safety ring and life preserver

In this last installment of our Legal Research Survival Guide, we’d like to leave you with some final tips and advice for surviving, and thriving, during your time as an articling, LPP or summer student.

Don’t miss the other Survival Guide posts

Tip #1 – Don’t miss the opportunity to learn

Your articling term, LPP placement or summer position is often described as a very long job interview. While this is a crucial time to make a good impression, it is also one of the best practical learning opportunities of your career. So make the most of it.

Build relationships with people who can help and teach you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions (see tip #3). Take notes. Participate in training sessions and take advantage of other learning opportunities related to legal research or other areas of practice management.

Tip # 2 – Be the professional you are

Treat everyone you work with, regardless of their title, with respect and professional courtesy. Law clerks and legal assistants will likely be your primary contact on many files, and with their wealth of practical experience, they will likely be the first people you turn to for guidance.

When asking for research help from law librarians, introduce yourself as a summer/articling/LPP student. This way we can tailor our support to help you best. Be professional in your email correspondence – use your work email (not your Gmail account), include a business signature and proof-read (please).

Also, always remember your professional duty of confidentiality. Don’t leave client files lying about unattended in the library or elsewhere. Don’t save confidential documents on unsecure library computers.

Tip #3 – Ask questions!

Yes, it can be intimidating to ask. But asking thoughtful questions shows you’re engaged and thinking through the research problem you’ve been given. Keeping silent when you are in doubt can lead to misunderstandings and wasted effort.

Clarify the parameters of your research assignment at the start. Ask about the deadline, scope and final product (memo, opinion letter, quick email). Ask if any work has already been done on the file. Ask for any key documents – lease, contract, will, etc. If feasible, check in with your assigning lawyer later. You may need to ask additional questions or obtain further facts, depending on your research findings. Try to keep the lines of communication open.

Tip #4 – Use a lifeline

Remember that you are not alone. There are many people willing and able to help you with your research – your principal, other lawyers, law clerks and support staff working on the matter, colleagues and law librarians. Ask for help sooner rather than later to avoid wasting your limited research time. As a rule of thumb, if you’ve spent an hour searching without making any real progress, it’s time to ask for help to get on the right path.

One of your best research lifelines is a law library, be it your firm library, your local county or district law library or the Great Library. We provide free, confidential research assistance to summer law students and licensing candidates across Ontario by email, chat, phone or in person. We can help you track down hard-to-find materials, develop an efficient research strategy, navigate a labyrinth of statute amendments or just recommend the best current sources to get your research started.

The Great Library also gives you access to online and print resources you may not have at your firm, allowing you to greatly expand your research possibilities.

So reach out! We’re here to help.