Exploring Legal Research Resources Makes WisBar’s “5 Tips to Excel as a New Lawyer”

Christopher Shattuck, Law Practice Assistance Manager at the State Bar of Wisconsin has compiled a useful list of tips for law school grads looking to maximize their experiences as new lawyers.  They are:

  • Do Not Be Afraid to Ask Questions
  • Maximize Your Networking
  • Boost Your Experience by Volunteering
  • Attend to Your Own Wellness
  • Explore Resources for Legal Research

All excellent tips, but I was especially pleased to see that exploring legal research tools made the list.  Shattuck recommends several of the tools that I cover in my Advanced Legal Research course, including Google (in its many forms), Wisconsin Statutes and corresponding annotationsWisconsin Jury Instructionslocal rules for each circuit court, and Fastcase (complimentary legal research tool for State Bar of Wisconsin members).  He also suggests

He also advises:

Do not be frustrated if you can’t find the answer you are searching for right away. The longer you spend researching, the better you become at finding where the information is located and using search terms or conditions for limiting your searches. Also, as your experience continues to grow as an attorney, you will become familiar with subject areas, and need less time searching the statutes for every question that arises.

While this is true, I would caution new associates, or anyone for that matter, against spending too long researching unsuccessfully.  One of the biggest pitfalls that my ALR students experienced was going down rabbit holes that ultimately lead them nowhere.  A good rule of thumb is that if you’ve spent more than five minutes searching unsuccessfully, ask for help.  Librarians are a great place to start, especially if they are available in-house.  If not, contact the Wisconsin State Law Library or reach out to our librarians at the UW Law Library.  Also, many database vendors offer free chat or phone support.  Don’t be afraid to use it.

Shattuck rounds out his research advice by recommending that new lawyers follow State Bar publications like Wisconsin Lawyer magazine and the e-newsletter InsideTrack. “You’ll find information on various legal topics – and check out the law librarians’ column in InsideTrack for a great many tips on conducting legal research.”  Couldn’t agree more!  These articles contributed by members of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin are excellent guides to researching many legal topics.