What Should A First Year Legal Research Course Look Like or A Legal Research Primer for Attorneys of Any Experience

Lines of law school
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Nancy P. Johnson from the Georgia State University College of Law has penned an article entitled Best Practices: What First-Year Law Students Learn in a Legal Research Class. I found the article through the Social Science Research Network and it can be downloaded here. The article presents a comprehensive overview of most of the points that should be raised in a first year legal research class, given time other constraints. I thought the suggestions for how to teach the class and what to emphasize were spot on.

Other thoughts that occurred to me while reading the article: first, Ms. Johnson discusses students’ tendencies to want to jump onto Google and head straight for the Wikipedia for resource as a bad thing (no argument there). I wonder, though, if having a class of students entering school familiar with the concept of searching on-line for authority offers some advantages over prior generations that had to get their mind around on-line searching in the first place.

Second, on page 8 of the article, Ms. Johnson admonishes that the debate over whether book or on-line research is better is dead: get over it and recognize that both sources provide valuable information for the researcher! A good legal research class discusses both types of research. Contrary to some of the naysayers I have highlighted in previous posts, book research is still being taught and students are still being encouraged to crack open the spines when investigating their topics. As Ms. Johnson points out, you never know where you are going to end up after law school and what sorts of resources might be available to you in your practice.

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