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Episode 59

No More Dusty Tomes: The Changing Nature of Legal Research

In this episode, Michael Green, founder of JADE, provides some useful tips for legal research and also discusses the future of legal tech.
Professional Skills
18 March 2022
Michael Green
1 hour = 1 CPD point
How does it work?
What area(s) of law does this episode consider?Developments in legal research and legal technologies.
Why is this topic relevant?Understanding how to effectively conduct legal research remains essential to lawyers, whether you work in-house, in a small or large firm, or at the bar. Staying up to date with modern legal research tools can be difficult, but it is a vital component of practice.
What cases are considered in this episode?Campaign Master (UK) Ltd v Forty Two International Pty Ltd (No 3) (2009) 181 FCR 152

Universal Music v Palmer [2020] FCA 1472

What are the main points?
  • The development of legal research tools has affected the way we practice law. One result of this development is that lawyers practice less selectivity about the cases and materials they use in court.
  • Searchable text formats have made it easier, and more tempting, than ever before to simply Ctrl + F the term you’re looking for in a decision rather than reading the whole judgment. This can lead to less sophisticated knowledge of a case and its principles.
  • Only a fraction of the world’s legal information has been digitised, which is why libraries and older authorities remain valuable in today’s increasingly digital world.
  • Legal research platforms are constantly innovating and improving their user experience, such as through the implementation of tools that facilitate collaboration between multiple users.
  • AI technologies may have a role to play in legal tech and research, however, law is not simple enough to be reduced to a code.
What are the practical takeaways?
  • As a lawyer instructing counsel or a barrister making submissions, practice selectivity in the materials you put forward.
  • Write better, not longer. After conducting your preliminary legal research, take time to appropriately reflect and consider your arguments and main points.
  • The best model is a hybrid one: legal research tools should be used to efficiently decide whether a case is of relevance to you, whether it’s been overruled and the like, however, a good legal researcher will use that information as a starting point to conduct original, creative analysis.
  • When editing your legal work, it’s helpful to share it with another legal professional who can check whether they understand what you’re trying to say, as well as have an open dialogue with you about how you could improve the potency of your argument and other lines of thought.
  • Learn to use multiple legal research platforms, as each has unique features.
  • Browsing and reading decisions in full, especially those from the High Court, will allow you to gain a greater knowledge of the law and its developments, which in turn will make you more intuitive at giving advice.
Show notesThompson Hine’s report called ‘The Innovation Gap Persists’.