How to Talk About Your Research with Your Supervisor
For law students who are mostly familiar with presenting their legal research in written form, verbally presenting research findings to a supervisor can be intimidating. However, keeping in mind a few key points should make the task much less stressful!
From the "Think Like a Lawyer" blog:
1. Focus on the needs of your audience. "Articulate [an] answer clearly and directly and in terms of the law’s impact on your client’s specific fact situation."
2. Prepare for the meeting. "Anticipate the follow-up questions the partner would be likely to ask and prepare answers to those questions."
3. Start with the answer, then fill in the support. "Be ready to begin the meeting with a 5 to 10 minute speech that explains what you learned in your research process."
4. Follow some basic pointers:
- "Don’t talk to the partner as if she knows more than you do about your research issue. It is up to you to digest and synthesize the law and then explain your synthesis to the partner."
- "If there is a controlling statute or regulation, give the partner a copy. If it is long, highlight the relevant language."
- "Don’t present too much extraneous information. If you found 20 relevant cases, pick out the few (perhaps four or five) most relevant ones to discuss in the meeting."
- "Be prepared to be questioned by the partner."
- "Bring all the written material you will need to answer questions during the meeting."
- "Bring (or deliver electronically before the meeting) copies of the most important authorities for the partner to keep. Mark the copies with highlighting and/or notes to point out how each authority relates to your issue."
- "Don’t present the law more favorably than it actually is. Tell the partner what she needs to know, not what you think she wants to hear."
5. End the meeting with a summary and ask if there is any follow-up.
6. Keep a record.
You should also think about preparing an "elevator speech" of your research in case you run into your supervisor and they ask you to briefly summarize your research or research progress. This should be a 1-2 minute summary of your findings and key authorities.
Take the time to learn your firm or organization's legal research resources. To minimize time spent online and to save money, find and use the print state code and any other available current print resources.
1. Secondary Sources. Use secondary sources to provide background on unfamiliar areas of law, someone else's expertise to help you analyze and interpret the law, and citations to primary authority. To access information in secondary sources, use the table of contents, index or keyword search online. When using print materials, update with soft-cover supplements and pocket parts.
- Encyclopedias: Am. Jur. 2d and/or CJS, also jurisdictional-specific (state) encyclopedias
- A.L.R. Annotations
- Legal Periodicals: Law Reviews, Bar Association Journals, Legal Newspapers and Newsletters
- Restatements of the Law
2. Primary Authorities.
- Statutes: Use an annotated code. Find relevant statute(s) by using the table of contents, index, Popular Name Table, or keyword search online. Review the entire statutory scheme - usually the same chapter or title - including definitions. Always use a citator such as Keycite or Shepard's to check the validity of statutes. If using print materials, check soft-cover supplements and pocket parts.
- Cases: Find relevant cases using the West Key Digest system and West headnotes, LexisAdvance keyword search, annotated statutory codes, secondary source footnotes, and Keycite/Shepards. Always use a citator such as Keycite or Shepard's to check validity of cases and to find later-citing cases, and use the Table of Authorities to check the validity of the cases cited by your cases.
Federal and State Administrative Agency materials: regulations and agency decisions.
3. Practice Materials.
- General: American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts; Causes of Action
- State: West's Practice Series
- Bloomberg Law: Search Source Directory or Transactional Law > Transactional Resources
- LexisAdvance: All Content Types > Forms
- WestlawNext: Forms > Forms By Publication
Tips for Conducting Your Research
1. Make a PLAN. Before you begin your project, think about what you want to accomplish. Make an outline describing what you know, and then make another outline describing how you will go about finding the information you do not know. Draft an initial statement of each issue in the research project.
2. Keep notes of all your research, including sources, searches, full citations, call numbers and West topics and key numbers. Try not to duplicate your efforts. Pay attention to which research terms proved useful and which did not.
3. Revise your plan as you conduct your research: re-draft issues, add search terms, re-think your sources and your searches, double-check instructions, and discard irrelevant information.
4. When should you stop researching? Here are some guidelines: the authorities you find start to refer back to each other or overlap; the cost begin to outweigh the quality of the research results; you run out of time.
5. Bring your own Blue Book to your summer office, even if the firm provides them. It will come in handy to have an extra.