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How to Effectively Manage Legal Research

One of the oldest methods of research management involves a printer and an all-too-common highlighter pen. You print the research on paper, highlight the sections of interest, and stuff it into the case file. When research is complete, you pull out all of your research, look for highlights and try to find some meaningful order in which to assemble all of the pages as you embark upon the first draft of your brief. This approach is most likely useful only to the infrequent litigator or one working in areas of law that are fairly dormant as far as new case law. Once you have closed a case using this method, there is little to no value in retaining your legal research – particularly once the appeal period has passed.

Of course, once you have completed that brief, the research is stuffed back into the case file. Six months after that case has closed, you will likely never be able to locate those highlighted sections again. Some firms try – and usually fail – to maintain and update a sort of separate indexing system for research. This is generally printed on paper and stored in a binder. With the availability of word processing and spreadsheet software those indexes may be maintained in a word or spreadsheet file. But it will still be difficult and time-consuming to locate and retrieve the research from the old case file stored in the basement. If you use this method, you should pay special attention to the creation of proper subject matter indexes. It is possible that a single case may deal with – and present definitive findings – on numerous points of law. As you manage your indexes, you should ensure that each/every point of law has an index entry so you may easily locate that “winning” case a year down the road.

There are also software systems to assist in this management headache. QuaeroLex Desktop Organizer is a Windows-based desktop application that interfaces with Westlaw, LexisNexis, Casemaker, Fastcase, and LoisLaw to accelerate downloads, automatically file AND INDEX the downloaded case, allow editing and markup in the internal PDF editor, and more. It automatically generates “Cliff’s Notes” from your marked up case, making later reference a breeze. Full boolean search permits you to search on both the case text as well as any notations you may have added.