TACKLING THE MINEFIELD OF LEGAL RESEARCH

TACKLING THE MINEFIELD OF LEGAL RESEARCH

Legal research is complex in nature because the student has to deal with primary and secondary legislation, case law, circulars, bills, parliamentary debates, whitepapers, Law Commission research and recommendations, treaties and international law (just to name a few).

These sources are significantly different to secondary source research. This is because the student is no longer examining a source in isolation and analyzing it in the context of theoretical principles taught in the classroom. Instead, the student has to examine legislation and use case law, parliamentary debates, circulars and other resources to apply it.

However, this does not prevent theory playing a role, because the courts will consult with theory and leading academics to apply the law. Additionally, the courts will consider international legal principles when appropriate. Thus, the student has to be able to maneuver in the minefield of legal research to come to a conclusion.

An added problem is that the law is not black and white (except in the case of strict liability legislation!). This means that there is not a “right” or “wrong” answer; rather the student has to learn to deploy legal tests that are set in legislation or the standard “reasonable person” test. The result of this is that the student has to learn how to collate the appropriate legal principles, legislation and case law to come to a conclusion. However, this is not the end of it, because the student then must apply and analyze their legal conclusion in a manner that would be acceptable in the courts.

The student undertaking legal research is bombarded with Latin terms, such as mens rea, actus reus, pacta sunt servanda, prima facie, de jure, caveat emptor, de minimis and res ipsa loquitur. These are just a few of a legal dictionary full of Latin terms, which means that the student is not only faced with the complex and unique nature of legal research but also has to tackle many foreign terms.

The final and arguably the most daunting element of legal research is that textbooks may not be reflective of the most recent developments, because a decision in the courts or a parliamentary statement can affect the interpretation of a legislative or legal principle. Thus, the student has to learn how to continually update the law, which may not be reflected in the textbook. It is also paramount for the student to understand that the court’s decision may be distinguished from traditional legal precedent or it may overturn this precedent.

All of these elements illustrate that legal research is truly a minefield. Many students approach the law under the mistaken belief that the law is black and white when in fact it mainly operates in the grey areas. The ultimate aim of any course in law is to provide the student with the tools to tackle this legal minefield.

The aim of Homework Help USA is to ensure that the student is to show how the law operates and how it operates through top-quality work.

References:
Tjaden, T (2010) Legal Research and Writing 3rd Edition. Irwin Law

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