It’s that time of year again; I hear people everywhere talking about their New Year’s resolutions. I often find them interesting, and they generally run the gamut from weight loss to being a calmer person. Have you made a New Year’s resolution? Here’s one you could try! As a law student, resolve to become a better legal researcher this year. I promise you that this is one New Year’s resolution that, if followed through on, will pay substantial dividends in your future. One of the most important skills that attorneys are looking for in new associates is the ability to conduct efficient and effective legal research, and based on survey data from the ABA, it is consistently one of the skills that attorneys cite as lacking in new associates.
So how can you improve your legal research skills this New Year? Here are a couple easy ways to get started. First, learn where different types of legal information can be found. We have many different databases accessible through the Barry Law Library for students to use. Many of these databases are specialized to particular types of legal information or legal topics. For example, we have Kluwer Arbitration focusing specifically on arbitration issues, and the Health Law Reporter from Bloomberg BNA focusing on health law issues. The Law Library has subscribed to over seventy legal databases available to you! Additionally, as students of Barry University, you have access to more than one hundred non-legal databases through the Barry’s main library webpage.
Once you’ve figured out where to find the information you’re looking for, you can focus on the second way to improve your research skills-using the database effectively. The Second way to improve your legal researching skills is by learning how to effectively use the database. Learning how to use a database requires practicing on the database. Try them out! Run some sample searches or watch a tutorial on the database to see how it works. Most databases have a ‘help page’ and tutorials that explain how to conduct research on the database. Once you’ve learned how to use one database, move on to another database and repeat the process. In a single semester you could familiarize yourself with a substantial number of legal databases and, at the same time, increase the legal research skills that law firms desire in new associates.