Delegating Legal Research

Today’s Tip was inspired by John DiGilio who edits the Pinhawk Librarian News Digest. John noted a post at RIPS Law Librarian Blog titled The Art of Delegating. The post has great food for thought for anyone sharing work.

Let me start here: I hate the phrase ‘pushing work down’ – it does not reflect the benefit of sharing work with the delegate. The benefits of personally contributing to a team effort, cross training for broader niche expertise among a group and balancing workflows are well covered in the post.

Now to the tip part.  When delegating legal research tasks, remember to:

  • share the facts that lead to the question (or tell someone where they can find the story of the file)
  • relay expectations, including:
    • time lines
    • search cost restrictions
    • volume of answer required (i.e. do you want a search from Magna Carta forward or the last 6 months of case law)
  • explain what you already know OR do not want them to spend time on
  • clarify how you are going to use the research output(send to a judge may mean different language/citation style than send to a client)
  • be specific about format requirements (a hyperlink to a CanLII case or a Word version of a case with highlighting for colour printing and binding to file with the court)
  • if you want the research to be approached using a specific path, make that clear
  • seek confirmation that instructions are understood and follow up

Remember that with delegating, the more information you give, the better the result you will receive. Don’t forget to ask for and give feedback. That will make your next task sharing moment even better.

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