FACT-FINDING MISSION: We asked Carole for a snapshot of what lawyers find most difficult to grasp about the Internet and how they can best get their research on course.
For the lawyer who hardly uses a computer, even the basic concept of how a browser differs from a search engine can be difficult to grasp. For more seasoned users, a difficult concept is how to judge whether a site is credible and how to create an effective search. For both groups, it seems tough to grasp that not everything is on Google—but it still might be found free on the Internet, if you know where to look.
The first and best way to get on course is, literally, to take a course about the Internet. The second way is to find good (current) Internet research books and articles written for lawyers by lawyers or law librarians, which recommend sites and explain how to use them.
Smart lawyers approach research overall by first finding a recent article on their topic that will help them see the big picture and point them to the leading cases and statutes. For factual and investigative research, the approach is not as straightforward—it usually involves many steps and a variety of resources. Each topic requires a different approach. When it comes to research, be patient and cast your net wisely.
Carole Levitt is a lawyer and the President of Internet for Lawyers, as well as a nationally recognized author and speaker on Internet research and co-author (with Mark Rosch) of The Lawyer’s Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet, with its third edition coming soon from the ABA.