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Research skills for the legal workplace


Online research skills

In most Law firms you will be expected to use a Law database quickly and accurately.

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Lexis or Westlaw may be used, or other databases such as Lawtel, a practitioner database provided by Sweet & Maxwell. It pays to become proficient in the use of both Lexis and Westlaw while you are at Warwick; once you are skilled in using one database it is much easier to use others.

Contact the Lexis Student Associate and the Westlaw Student Representative to enquire about gaining certification in each database. The training will improve your academic research and help to prepare you for the workplace.

Using legal printed sources

Many Law firms maintain traditional looseleaf legal printed sources as well as using a database. You may be required to use printed sources if you are offered a placement, or when you are employed as a trainee.

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The Digest is an authoritative annotated guide to UK, Commonwealth and European case law, available in our Library at 41 R85 E6. It has no exact equivalent online, although Westlaw also identifies key cases cited in a law report, and key cases referred to in an earlier case. LexisNexis provides more information about The Digest on their website »

Halsbury’s Statutes of England and Wales provides annotated statutes with information on Commencement, amendments, repeals, related cases and related legislation. It consists of a set of bound volumes arranged by subject, updated by looseleaf service volumes and a noter-up service to show the very latest changes. Halsbury’s Statutes is no longer maintained in our Library but the old volumes are available at 41 P23 H2 if you want to see how to use them. There is also a useful guide to using Halsbury’s Statutes on YouTube, provided by Manchester Metropolitan University Library.

Halsbury’s Statutory Instruments works on the same principles; the Library no longer has this publication, but you will find another YouTube guide to explain what it contains and how to use it.

(We are very grateful to the Law Librarian at Manchester Metropolitan University Library for sharing these video guides with us.)

Markets and marketing

The following resources provide industry level analysis. This information can be used to evaluate the structure and competitiveness of an industry.

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Remember that you need commercial awareness just as much in a small firm as in a large one. The smaller the firm, the more you will be involved from the outset in the running of the business and the recruiting of clients.

Here are further points based on a presentation delivered by Tom Laidlaw of LexisNexis, and we are grateful to him for permitting us to summarise them.

  1. Think like a corporate lawyer
  2. Demonstrate excellent IT skills – Warwick IT Services run courses which may help to equip you
  3. Understand the commercial and economic conditions under which firms operate
  4. Understand the impact of political policy on your clients
  5. Understand the regulatory frameworks
  6. Remember the potential impact of your use of social media – beware of unguarded comments on Twitter or Facebook!
  7. Be aware of clients’ needs – they need timely information and they may prefer a short summary to a fully-researched report
  8. Be aware of industry practices, or cultural drivers in other countries

Do your homework!

Find out about the Law firms to which you apply for a placement or full-time employment by using some of the Library’s company databases. See also business.

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Top tips

  1. Fame – company information on large UK companies and selected small and medium enterprises, including selected Law firms
  2. Amadeus – company information on large companies in Europe
  3. Marketline – less detailed information, but covers Law firms around the world
  4. Read practitioner magazines such as The Lawyer and Legal Week