All Our Research Tips
Read About Clients
The best legal research output comments on how to apply the law to the facts and reaches a conclusion on how the client should be advised to move forward. Today’s Tip is a reminder to read about clients in order to wrap your legal research in the context of the present day story.
Events that require intervention by lawyers do not take place in a vacuum. They are point in time, point in history, point in geography, point in life issues. Better advice is provided with context. Where can you find this context?
- A client’s social media channels
- Industry news releases
- Newspaper articles
- Association or special interest group communications
I had the pleasure of attending the American Association of Law Libraries conference this week. Despite having 20 years invested in my profession, I was a first time attendee. One of my key take aways from attending this conference is that I should have done it sooner.
Meeting colleagues from AALL has given me new connections to reach out to in the USA, validated that issues facing the legal industry and law libraries are universal, reinforced that my methods of practice are sound (and sometimes innovative which was great news), and expanded the number of people in the universe who will remember the name of my law firm.
Local, provincial, and national connections are important. International connections are relevant too, as is the learning that comes along with conference attendance. Attending AALL, especially in addition to the Canadian Association of Law Libraries conference, will make 2013/14 an innovative year for my library.
Go ahead, expand your horizons.
Acts Can Be Amended by Regulations
Oh legislation. How I love the odd and interesting and esoteric nature of delving into your secrets! Today’s Tip is a reminder that legislation passed by elected members can be amended by others if they are given the authority to do so.
I have an example from Alberta, but I have seen this phenomenon in British Columbia legislation as well:
The Fatal Accidents Act at section 8 says:
Damages for bereavement
8(1) In this section,
(a) “child” means a son or daughter;
(b) “parent” means a mother or father.
(2) If an action is brought under this Act, the court, without reference to any other damages that may be awarded and without evidence of damage, shall award damages for grief and loss of the guidance, care and companionship of the deceased person of
(a) subject to subsection (3), $75 000 to the spouse or adult interdependent partner of the deceased person,
(b) $75 000 to the parent or parents of the deceased person to be divided equally if the action is brought for the benefit of both parents, and
(c) $45 000 to each child of the deceased person.
(3) The court shall not award damages under subsection (2)(a) to the spouse or adult interdependent partner if the spouse or adult interdependent partner was living separate and apart from the deceased person at the time of death.
(4) Repealed 2002 cA‑4.5 s36.
(5) A cause of action conferred on a person by subsection (2) does not, on the death of that person, survive for the benefit of the person’s estate.
RSA 2000 cF‑8 s8;2002 cA‑4.5 s36;2002 c17 s2;2010 c6 s3
The Act also says:
10 The Lieutenant Governor in Council may by regulation
(a) change the amounts of damages that may be awarded under section 8(2),
(b) prescribe the effective date of such change, and
(c) provide that such change applies only to deceased persons who die on or after a prescribed date.
1994 c16 s6;1996 c28 s17
There IS a Fatal Accidents Regulation, Alta. Reg. 32/2013 that adjusts the amounts of berevement damages prescribed by the act.
Because the regulation changes the act, and this is thankfully abnormal, a researcher may miss these connections. The connection will be made, but the reference is not (yet) in the Table of Public Statutes. Tables of Public Statutes always have a currency date which should be reviewed, as should the regulation making power of an act that you are using for legal research.
If this confuses you, talk to a law librarian…
Watch for See Also Notes
CanLII has added “See Also” references! No, I am not talking about references within CanLII to other things on CanLII, like the growing Commentary section on the site. In this case, I mean See Also references to case comments linked to outside sources as in the image below for Sumner v PCL Constructors Inc., 2011 ABCA 326 (CanLII),
Commercial services like Westlaw Canada and LexisNexis Quicklaw offer excellent lists of case commentary in their noting up services. This is a new feature for CanLII. I like the way that it links out to the web.
Every year on April 25th, my daughter Dominique comments that it is the “perfect date”. She is referring to the movie Miss Congeniality, and if you haven’t seen it, there is a YouTube clip. Makes me giggle every time.
Dates are often important for litigation research. Occasionally you may need a perpetual calendar source to quickly identify what day of the week a date in the past fell on.
I like the perpetual calendar in the binding ends of the Canadian Almanac and Directory print version. There are lovely tools and apps at timeanddate.com that do the trick as well. I like that the calendar shows holidays by country. It is good for litigation AND vacation planning.
Documenting Legal Research
The library team at Field Law uses the word blink all the time. We use it in the context of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell; i.e. What is your Blink on a starting point for this legal research question?
To back up our blink, we also document common questions and processes within a Library Procedures Manual. We also publish how to guides on our Intranet for common research tasks: How do we note up a case; how do we search for judicial consideration of a statute section; how do we check for coming in to force dates; what are the amounts under the cap for insurance; what is the judgment interest rate…
Today’s Tip is about documenting your legal research processes. Like David and Garry’s advice about Office Manuals, think about creating and maintaining documentation about your research process. It is easy to do for each project by adding a “Sources Consulted” heading at the end of a research memo that explains where you looked and how. It is also easy to make a spot where you consistently save information about how you do things.
Hat Tip to students of the Head Start program, who help keep legal research process top of mind for me every June.
Check Out AccessCLE
Welcome news from David Whelan of the Great Library – Law Society of Upper Canada:
You can now print and download articles older than 18 months free of charge from the Law Society’s CLE collection, powered by the Great Library.
The service - AccessCLE - has been 100% pay-per-view since its inception in 2007 and contains over 6,000 PDF articles going back to 2004. The articles represent the individual presentations from CLE/CPD seminars put on by the Law Society. Our partnership with the Law Society’s CPD team is ongoing and we continue to receive and add metadata to articles from recent presentations.
The 18 month window is a rolling period. Content within that window is still available but is pay-per-view. You can search for both free and paid articles with either AccessCLE itself or through our discovery engine, Infolocate.ca.
If you need more information please contact Olcay Atacan at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope this change will improve your ability to access and use this information.
CLE materials are a fantastic place to start a legal research question. They often offer practical advice from expert practitioners. Congratulations to the staff at the Great Library who power this project!
New Articling Students – Legal Reseach Methods Cafe
Most law firms have an orientation program for articling students. I am certain that ‘legal research’ is part of the program – if not, my tip is to add it!
An look back at the conference site for last weekend’s Law and Society Association conference showed a Methods Cafe as part of the program.
Scholars experienced in using different research methods each sit in a large ballroom at different tables, which are prominently labeled with the method about which that expert is prepared to talk. The experts then act as a consultant to anyone who shows up to talk with them about the method’s use in a specific project or in general during the standard 105 minutes scheduled for the session. One person, a few in succession, or a few at once might come to the table during the time. Since this is an experimental venture, the topics make no attempt to cover all possible research methods, but reflect the interest of the expert participants.
A methods cafe may be an interesting way to share practice area specific research paths and sources. Consider having a lawyer (or embedded librarian) from a few practice groups discuss go to resources and when they use them. For an internal program, I would arrange the process to give each (4 or 5 max.) research practitioner the floor for 5-12 minutes to share their best loved source. I would aso recommend that the presentation approach is a ‘war story’ rather than a presentation with powerpoint visuals or an online demo. This research method’s cafe would probably be better described as a resource sharing session.
Today’s Tip: be creative about sharing methods for teaching legal research to articling students.
Remember Open Data
Today’s Tip is really about finding new sources of information as they appear. The announcement yesterday in Alberta about the Alberta Open Data Portal is a good reminder that information may become available that is relevant to your legal research.
A number of jurisdictions in Canada provide open data. A handy list is available the datalibre.ca blog.
Read a Book Review
Today’s Tip is a follow up to ”Buy the book“, read a book review. There are excellent book reviews available in the Canadian Law Library Review, the journal fo the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (available to members of the association as well as through subscription).
Book reviews can also be found in blog posts. For example this post on the ILTA KM Blog: Book Review–Martin White’s “Enterprise Search”. Hat tip to David Hobbie for the review.