The Research Plan for Maximizing Effective Legal Research

Hooray!  It’s Friday.  And that means I get to review the latest Hein Greenslips (a highlight of my week).  Today’s include a reference to a favorite book of mine:

Just Research, 2nd ed.

By Laurel Currie Oates and Anne Enquist

New York: Aspen Publishers, 2009.  $ 51.00

One of our students this past quarter reviewed Just Research, and liked it so much that she bought a copy for herself (we tell students about it, but don’t require it – our required text this coming year is Legal Research Methods, by Michael D. Murray and Christy H. DeSanctis.).  By the way, Aspen, I’d be much more inclined to tell our students to buy a copy of Just Research if you could get its price down to $ 35.00 or less.

Earlier we wrote here about the research log, which is related to the research plan.  Planning and documenting results are key steps for saving time.

Our student concludes her review of Just Research by writing:

I think the biggest takeaway point from the book and the most useful nugget of wisdom is to develop a research plan ahead of time.  This is analogous to setting up logic games on the LSAT.  You can delve right in without a plan, thinking it will take less time, but the setup and planning is key to maximizing efficiency.  I think the same holds true here.  The book presents a number of excellent roadmaps for categorizing, planning and implementing legal research.  I definitely intend to use it as a guide.

Just Research Book Review

In an earlier post (see “Just Google It First,” below) I mentioned Just Research, a popular legal research text here at Stanford.  Below is a book review of this book, written by Stanford law student Raaj S. Narayan for our Advanced Legal Research class. 

Narayan ALR Book Review

Just Google It First

It’s a variation on our class theme of “secondary first!”  But a Wall Street Journal Law Blog posting, “Advice from the Corner Office: Use Google; Avoid Grammar Gaffes,” offers some key tips from law firm partner Drew Barry and includes this good research advice:

Get Yourself Smart on a Subject, Fast: When they get assignments, he says, self starters “contextualize” the issue by “Googling stuff for fifteen minutes.” Lexis and Westlaw, he says, are fine for focusing on a point of law. But the peripheral vision provided by a Web search is also invaluable. It can yield relevant law journal articles, blog posts, plaintiffs’ lawyers sites, law-firm newsletters and the like.

In a way, he says, see-what-I’ll-find Internet research is akin to the old hard-cover legal research methods which, he says, are more than powerful electronic search engines “give a feel for the evolution of the common law.”


A popular legal research book here at Stanford is Just Research by Laurel Currie Oates and Anne Enquist; it includes many tips on ways to find good legal overviews using Google.