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Research and Drafting Skills for Aspiring Lawyers

Author : Shashwat Srivastava

Updated On : September 4, 2023


Reader's Digest: In the pursuit of becoming a proficient lawyer, mastering research and drafting skills is paramount. These foundational abilities empower aspiring legal professionals to navigate complex cases, construct persuasive arguments, and ultimately excel in the courtroom.

Research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers are not just buzzwords; they are the bedrock of a successful legal career.

The importance of mastering these skills can't be overstated, as they play a critical role in every facet of the legal profession.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into why these skills are essential, the best practices for honing them, and the tools that can make your work more effective.

 Key Contents:

  • Importance of Research Skills: Explanation of how strong research abilities contribute to legal success.
  • Types of Legal Research: A breakdown of different research types, including case law, statutory, and international law.
  • Tools and Platforms for Legal Research: Insight into essential tools like LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Google Scholar.
  • Research Methodology: Tips on Boolean searches, using citators, and Shephardizing for effective research.
  • Importance of Drafting Skills: Discusses the role of drafting in creating effective legal documents.
  • Essential Legal Documents: Introduction to key documents like contracts, briefs, and pleadings that aspiring lawyers need to master.
  • Drafting Best Practices: Guidelines on clarity, precision, and the use of legalese in legal drafting.
  • Combining Research and Drafting: Explanation of how research and drafting skills mutually reinforce each other in legal practice.
  • Educational Pathways: Advice on how to develop these essential skills through law school, online courses, and internships.
  • Additional Resources for Skill Enhancement: A list of books, webinars, and professional organizations to further improve your skills.

The Importance of Research Skills

When it comes to practising law, information is your greatest asset. That's where the crucial importance of research skills comes into play.

Being highly skilled at research means you're adept at sifting through a mountain of data to find that nugget of gold that can make or break a case. Research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers are essentially two sides of the same coin.

Why? Well, the stronger your research, the more robust your drafts, be they legal briefs or contracts, will be.

  • Build Strong Arguments: In the courtroom, facts and precedents are king. Solid research empowers you to construct compelling arguments that stand up to scrutiny.

  • Serve Your Clients Better: When you've done your homework, you can offer advice that's not just good, but exemplary. Your clients will thank you for it.

  • Complement Drafting: Research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers work together like peanut butter and jelly. Your well-researched points become the backbone of convincingly drafted legal documents, elevating your legal practice to new heights.

Types of Legal Research

Research is a broad term, and in the legal field, it has many sub-categories. Here's a look at the types you need to be familiar with:

  • Case Law Research: Delve into past judgments to understand how particular laws have been interpreted. This research sets the stage for your arguments.

  • Statutory Research: Here, you literally get into the letter of the law—studying statutes, codes, and legislations to understand what the law explicitly states.

  • Administrative Law Research: Understand rules and regulations established by government agencies. Very useful for cases involving permits, licenses, or regulatory compliance.

  • International Law Research: When your case crosses borders, knowing international laws, treaties, and agreements is invaluable.

  • Secondary Sources: Academic journals, articles, and legal commentary can offer a different perspective that you might not find in official legal texts.

Tools and Platforms for Legal Research

You wouldn't go fishing without the right gear, right? The same applies when you're fishing for information. Here are some tools to make your life easier:

  • LexisNexis: Consider this your first pit stop for almost any legal document. From case law to statutes, it's a treasure trove of information.

  • Westlaw: Another heavyweight in the world of legal research, offering similar resources but with a different interface.

  • Google Scholar: If you're looking for a cost-effective way to kickstart your research, Google Scholar offers free access to a ton of legal documents.

  • Law Library: Sometimes, nothing beats flipping through pages the old-fashioned way. Plus, librarians can be invaluable guides.

Research Methodology

So, you know the types of research and where to find your information. But how do you go about it? Mastering research methodologies is a part of honing research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers.

  • Boolean Searches: Learn to use AND, OR, NOT to fine-tune your search queries. This way, you can sift through less relevant information faster.

  • Citators: These are tools that tell you how many times a particular case has been cited in other cases, helping you gauge its importance.

  • Case Digests: A quick way to get the summary and implications of a case without having to read through hundreds of pages.

  • Shephardizing: This technique helps you see how a case or statute has been applied over time, aiding you in anticipating how it might be applied in your situation.

The Importance of Drafting Skills

The art of drafting in the legal world is comparable to constructing a building. If you think of research as gathering your bricks, cement, and other materials, then drafting is the architectural skill that enables you to assemble these components into a secure, functional structure. In legal terms, this structure could be anything from a simple email to a complex contract or court brief. Research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers are intimately connected, functioning as two halves of a whole to make you an effective legal professional.

Imagine preparing for a case without the ability to draft a compelling brief, or conducting exhaustive research without being able to present your findings in a coherent, persuasive manner. Clearly, it doesn’t work. That’s why research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers are often taught in tandem in law schools and professional courses. You need both to succeed in the legal profession.

Essential Legal Documents

Drafting is not a one-size-fits-all skill; different legal documents require different approaches. Here are some types of documents where drafting skills come into play:

  • Contracts: The foundation of many legal relationships, contracts need to have terms that are clear-cut and beyond dispute.
  • Briefs: These are the cornerstone of litigation, outlining your case and forming the basis for your legal arguments.
  • Pleadings: These official documents present the facts and positions of a party in a legal case.
  • Legal Memorandums: These internal documents summarize legal issues and are often used for decision-making within a firm or legal department.
  • Wills and Trusts: A specialized field, but absolutely critical for estate planning and ensuring that your client’s wishes are respected after their passing.

Drafting Best Practices

Drafting is an art, but it also comes with its own set of rules and best practices. If you're keen on mastering research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers, these principles can act as your compass:

  • Clarity and Precision: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings or even legal issues down the road.
  • Use of Legalese: Legal jargon has its place, but it should be used judiciously. Your primary aim is to be understood, not to dazzle with complicated terms.
  • Formatting Guidelines: Each type of legal document has a standard format. Make sure you’re familiar with these, as it adds to your credibility and professionalism.
  • Peer and Supervisor Review: Always have someone else take a look at your drafts. They can catch mistakes or suggest improvements, making this an invaluable step in the drafting process.

Combining Research and Drafting: A Synergistic Approach

Understanding the synergy between research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers is like understanding that peanut butter and jelly are better together than apart. When you combine these skills, you're essentially amplifying your effectiveness in both. Here's how they're mutually reinforcing:

  • Informative Research Leads to Effective Drafting: Good research provides you with the facts, case laws, and statutes that you need to draft strong legal documents. Essentially, research is your foundation, and drafting is the structure you build upon it.

  • Drafting Highlights Gaps in Research: Sometimes, while you're drafting a document, you'll realize you need more information. This is when your research skills kick in. For example, when drafting a contract, you might stumble upon an area that requires a deep dive into state-specific consumer protection laws. Once researched, this information can be seamlessly integrated into the contract.

  • Feedback Loop: Well-executed drafts can be used as a reference for future research, and thorough research makes future drafting tasks smoother. The synergy between research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers creates a positive feedback loop that makes you increasingly effective in both areas over time.

Educational Pathways to Develop Research and Drafting Skills

Research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers can be honed through various educational pathways. Law school is just the starting point. Here's a list of avenues to explore:

  • Law School Courses and Clinics: Your initial training ground where you'll get hands-on experience under the supervision of experienced professors.

  • Online Courses: These offer affordability and flexibility. You can learn at your own pace, which makes them a great supplementary resource to traditional education.

  • Mock Trials and Moot Courts: These provide real-world practice in a controlled environment, where you can test both your research and drafting skills without any real-world ramifications.

  • Internships and Clerkships: Interning with law firms or clerking for judges provides invaluable, real-world experience and is crucial for applying research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers.

Additional Resources for Skill Enhancement

Don't stop learning once you've covered the basics. There are abundant resources to help you continually enhance your research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers:

  • Books: There's a wide array of books that cover everything from the basics to advanced techniques in both research and drafting.

  • Websites and Blogs: The online world is full of up-to-date information and tips. Websites like the American Bar Association or specialized legal blogs are good places to start.

  • Webinars and Workshops: These often provide more focused and interactive learning experiences. Plus, you get to learn from experts in real-time.

  • Professional Organizations: Joining organizations like the American Bar Association or your local bar can offer networking opportunities and access to resources that can help you further hone your skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Research is Your Friend: Mastering research skills helps you gather all the essential details, from laws to past judgments. It's like assembling puzzle pieces.

  • Drafting is Crucial: Once you have your research, drafting helps you put it all together. Think of this as solving that puzzle to create a clear picture or argument.

  • Dynamic Duo: Research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers work best together. One informs the other, making you a more effective and well-rounded legal professional.

  • Continuous Learning: The journey to mastering these skills doesn't stop after law school. Keep learning through books, online courses, and real-world practice.

  • Resources Abound: Use available tools, from legal research platforms to professional networking, to keep sharpening your skills.

Research and drafting skills for aspiring lawyers are vital for success in the legal field. If you've read this far, you're already on the right path to mastering these essential skills. The tools and resources available today make it easier than ever to continually hone your capabilities. Don't overlook the power of combining research and drafting skills for a more robust legal career.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are research and drafting skills important for aspiring lawyers?

What types of legal research should I be familiar with?

Are there specific tools I can use for legal research?

What is Boolean search in legal research?

What types of documents will I need to draft?

What is legalese and should I use it in my drafting?

How do research and drafting skills complement each other?

What are webinars and workshops?


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