Earlier this year the Wall Street Journal Law Blog began a series of posts called “Advice from the Corner Office” to give practical advice to law students transitioning to law firms. (Previous posts are here, here, here, and here.) I especially liked the latest installment which featured tips from Drew Berry, chairman of McCarter & English. Berry gave a ringing endorsement of Justice Scalia’s new book, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, (It’s on my “to read” list, but unfortunately I keep adding to that list faster than I can get through it.) as well as some tips on the importance of avoiding grammatical errors.
Most importantly (for this blog) he talked about a favorite topic, legal research. Berry indicated that good summer associates take the time to search the web to get background information instead of jumping right on to Lexis and Westlaw. Lexis and Westlaw are wonderful tools, but often I see students heading there without any background or context and they are often frustrated with their results. The web and other secondary sources like treatises, legal encyclopedias, etc. are great places to start to get a lay of the land. Doing so will help you generate search terms and understand what you’re really looking for before you use Lexis, Westlaw or any other search tool. Often, using secondary sources will quickly give you answers that would have taken you a long time to find on your own. Even if they don’t give you the answer you need, they will set you on a clearer path to find it.