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Introduction to Legal Research - Klovning

By Mark Kloempken & Tove Klovning

Research Methods

 

Direct Method >

  1. Working off a known case, law review or book.
  2. Working of a headnote in a case. Remember case headnotes are limited in Bloomberg, but very useful, when available. All cases in WestlawNext and LexisNexis Advance have headnotes. A headnote is an editorial enhancement on a legal issue in the opinion. A headnote from a publisher is not part of the opinion but is a very useful research tool when you want to explore cases that have dealt with a similar issue.
  3. Working off editorial enhancements in a known secondary source.

Indirect Method  >Searching via a broad  topic or keyword and then narrowing your findings.

You are given a research assignment and told that a case, statute, law review or book is on point.  You would want to begin with those sources.  Those sources would, in turn cite to other sources.  For example, as you read the case you have been given you note that a particular headnote embraces the issue you are researching.  A headnote is an editorial enhancement on a legal issue in the opinion. Editorial enhancements have been added by the publisher and point to other works they have published.  It is a spider’s web with one strand connected to a second strand, one source leading to other sources.  A headnote from a publisher is not part of the opinion but is a very useful research tool when you want to explore cases that have dealt with a similar issue.  You can use that headnote to find other cases on point.

If a judge rules against your client and renders an opinion, the opinion will contain cases on which the judge relied in rendering his opinion.  In the judge’s mind, those opinion he relied on are the most relevant.  The judge has, in effect, given you a beginning place to start your research.  You can use those opinions to find other cases that are on point.