Penn Foster Career School Secondary Source Question

I’m working on a criminal justice test / quiz prep and need the explanation and answer to help me learn.

Which one of the following is not a secondary source?
A. Newspaper
B. Official Court document
C. Digests 
D. PeriodicalsCourse Name:Legal Research and Writing (Career)
Computer Assisted Legal Research, Part 1
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Course Name:Legal Research and Writing (Career)
Lesson 4 Overview
This lesson will go in-depth into how to do online research using Lexis Advance, one of the
two leading legal research sites. Many of the search techniques you’ll learn will be similar
to those used in Westlaw, though not exactly the same. You’ll probably use both services
in your paralegal career, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll deal with only Lexis Advance in
this lesson.
To work on Lexis Advance, follow these steps:
1. Go to
2. Log in to your account.
3. Click either the View Shipment History or View Grade History link.
4. If you’re ready to begin your Lexis Advance research, there will be a (
cid=OkxwbJrbw%2fA%3d)button above your grade history. Click this button and
you will automatically be routed to
You’ll have access to Lexis Advance only to complete your CALR lessons and project and
for your research for the Legal Writing 2 project.
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Lesson Objectives
Identify the fundamentals of
Describe the process of formulating a search request and the methods of
searching for documents
State the methods of searching and retrieving primary and secondary legal
Recognize the ways in which Shepherd’s citation service can verify the accuracy
of citations
Summarize the ways of locating, profiling, and investigating various companies
Classify the strategies used to conduct financial and business research
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Course Name:Legal Research and Writing (Career) Basics
Research Steps
Paralegals are often called upon to assist with retrieving documents and conducting legal
research to help with case analysis, discovery, and fact-finding. This is one of the most
significant tasks paralegals perform for attorneys. This section will introduce you to
retrieving documents using the basic tools of
Conduct Background Research
Make the best use of your online research time by first performing background research to
help define your issue. Suggested resources include legal treatises, periodicals, digests,
newspapers, and encyclopedias. These secondary sources will help you see the big
picture, and can point you to other sources that may be useful in your continuing research.
As you conduct your background research, you’ll become more familiar with the concepts
and terms relevant to your legal issue. Narrowing your issue in this way allows your online
research session to be more productive.
State Your Issue
Before you sign on to Lexis Advance, clearly define your legal issue by isolating the
specific facts and concepts that distinguish your case at hand. State your issue in one or
two sentences:
Must a manufacturer disclose the side effects of a drug?
Does the Fourth Amendment allow a police officer to search a car that’s been
stopped for speeding, without other suspicions?
Select Content Type
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If you know people who have used in the past, they may be familiar with
content type by a different name: source. In Lexis Advance, sources are referred to as
content type. However, in this text, you’ll see content type and source used
interchangeably and you’ll hear both terms used depending on which Lexis product your
firm has the most experience using. Decide what kinds of documents you want to retrieve
and where to search for them on You can start with primary sources
(such as case law and statutes) and select a jurisdiction, or look in secondary sources,
such as legal treatises and law journal articles. When you’re logged into Lexis Advance,
you have a couple of choices for this. If you already know what you would like to search,
you can use the box outlined in red at the top of the page. That box is a search box. It
supports the use of terms, sources, citations, or you can type shep: in front of your
citation to “Shepardize” it. You’ll learn about Shepardizing more below.
Next, you can look under Explore Content, which is directly below the search box. You’ll
see links for different content types, including cases, secondary materials, news, dockets,
and even public records.
Select a Search Method
Lexis Advance offers two main search methods: Easy Search and Power Search. There
are also content-specific search forms that may be used. Your knowledge of the research
issue, experience in researching legal issues, and the type of research you’re doing will
determine which method is best suited to your needs.
With Easy Search, you could choose between using natural language or terms and
Natural language is a good place to start if you have a broad or conceptual research issue
and you need to learn more about the facts, concepts, phrases, and other information
regarding your issue. Natural language can be especially effective if you have a complex
legal issue, and you’re unsure of which words to use.
Use terms and connectors if you’ve clearly defined your research issue and have isolated
the specific facts and concepts that distinguish your case at hand. You can also run the
search first using terms and connectors, then run it again using natural language to narrow
the results. When in private practice, be sure to be aware of how you’re billed, however. If
you’re billed per search, you may not want to run the same search twice. Check with your
supervising attorney.
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Use a terms-and-connectors search when you want to establish specific relationships
between your search words, or when you want comprehensive information about a topic,
issue, company, or person. You can also use a terms and connectors search when you
want to see where every search word or its alternative appears in each document. As you
gain experience in developing search requests, you’ll develop some intuition about the
best search method to use.
With Lexis Advance, you can narrow down which results will work well for you by
narrowing your search on the left and by paying close attention to the “graphical view”
that’s located in the top right. The icon looks like a pie graph.
Browse Documents
After you’ve retrieved a set of documents, you can browse through your documents,
narrow your search, and then decide how you would like to view them. First, you place
checkmarks in the boxes of the documents that you think will work. Then, if you scroll to
the top, you’ll see a red box that tells you how many items you’ve selected. From there,
you can create folders, print, email, download, or even send your documents to a Dropbox
account. To the left of each preview, you’ll notice some symbols. These symbols will help
you determine if you may have located a good document for your needs (and don’t forget
to review the headnotes):
Green diamond indicates the case has been upheld.
Yellow triangle indicates it may have been overturned.
Red stop sign means the case had negative treatment and likely isn’t good for
you to rely on (although as you review authorities from the opposing parties,
seeing a stop sign may be a sign to you that they’re not relying on good
authority), and a blue circle indicates it’s been cited neutrally.
You can also edit your original search to narrow the results.
In computer jargon, a hit is a match with search criteria.
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Shepardize Your Research Results
As a legal researcher, you’ll need to determine whether the case you want to rely upon is
still good law. Shepardizing a case will answer this question. You can also use Shepard’s
to find relevant authorities and secondary sources that may support your legal arguments.
With Lexis Advance, Shepardizing is extremely fast and easy if you have a citation. Use
the search box at the top of the screen and type in shep: and then your citation. Press
Enter or select the red magnifying glass to the right of the search box.
Search Methods
Terms and connectors. Terms and connectors (also known as Boolean search logic)
specify and define the relationships between your search words. Here’s an example of a
search using terms and connectors:
auto! or car or vehicle w/10 accident and California or CA
Read the boxed item explaining terms and connectors, and then see if you can figure out
what this string is searching for.
Terms and Connectors
Use connectors to establish logical relationships between words and
concepts in a Boolean search request. (Boolean logic and root expanders
were discussed in the Law Office Computing lesson.) Lexis Advance
doesn’t look for the connectors themselves in documents—just for the
actual search words. Multiple connectors can be used in one search
or links synonyms, alternative forms of expression, acronyms, antonyms,
and so on. For example:
doctor or physician—finds either doctor or physician.
mouse or rat or rodent—finds mouse or rat or rodent.
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environmental protection agency or epa—finds either
Environmental Protection Agency or EPA.
regulat! or deregulat!—finds variations on either regulate or
deregulate, such as regulation, deregulation, regulated, and so
w/n links search words and phrases to create concepts. The letter “n”
stands for a number from 1 to 255. w/n doesn’t specify a word order.
However, no matter how large the value of “n,” w/n won’t connect words in
different segments of a document. For example:
john w/3 doe—finds john within up to three words of doe; use to
link first and last names, allowing for middle names and initials, as
well as the last name preceding the first name (Doe, John; John
E. Doe; John Paul Jones Doe).
market w/5 share—finds market within up to five words of share;
links two words that may appear side by side or separated by up
to five words. This search finds market share, share of the
market, or share of the European market, for example.
spray w/25 injur! or explod!—finds spray within up to 25 words of
injure, injured, injures, and so on or explode, exploded, exploding,
explodes, and so on.
But, Jones w/25 accident won’t give any results if Jones appears
only in the heading and accident appears only in the body.
/p looks for documents with search words in the same paragraph. Use the
/p connector when you want your search words to have a general
relationship to each other. For example:
rule 11 /p sanction—finds rule 11 within the same paragraph as
take over or takeover /p poison pill—finds take over or takeover
in the same paragraph as poison pill.
/s looks for documents with search words in the same sentence. Use the
/s connector when you want a close relationship between words without
specifying an exact proximity. For example:
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sanction /s frivolous—finds sanction within the same sentence as
circumstances /s mitigat!—finds circumstances within the same
sentence as mitigate, mitigation, mitigated, and so on.
and links words or phrases that must both appear anywhere in the same
document, no matter how close or far apart. For example:
bank and deregulate—finds bank and deregulate anywhere in
the same document.
stock or share w/10 redeem! or redemption and takeover or
take over or merg!—finds either the word stock or share within
up to 10 words of redeem, redeeming, or redemption, and the
words takeover, take over, or a variant of merge must appear
somewhere in the document.
pre/n requires both words to appear in the document in the same
segment, and the first word must precede the second word by n words.
Use when a different word order would change the meaning. Note that
there shouldn’t be any space between the pre and the /n.
cable pre/2 television or tv or t.v.—finds cable television or cable
tv but not television cables.
not/n. The first search word is required to appear in the document. The
second word may also appear, but it can’t be within n words of the first
word. There must be at least one example of the first word with the second
word not within n words. Note that there shouldn’t be any space between
not and /n.
rico not w/5 puerto—finds rico; however, rico can’t appear closer
than five words to puerto; thus, it excludes Puerto Rico.
and not Excludes any words that follow the connector.
trust and not charitable trust—finds the word trust, but the
phrase charitable trust can’t appear anywhere in the document.
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Use the and not connector carefully. It eliminates any words that
follow it and, consequently, changes the impact of other
Connectors operate in the following order of priority:
1. or
2. w/n, pre/n, not/n
3. /s
4. /p
5. and
6. and not
If you use two or more of the same connector, they operate left to right. If
the “number” connectors have different numbers, the smallest number is
operated on first. /p and /s can’t be combined with a proximity connector,
for instance, w/n. For example:
bankrupt! w/25 discharg! and student or college or education w/5 loan
1. Because or has the highest priority, it operates first and creates a
unit of student or college or education
2. w/5, the smaller of the w/n connectors, ties together the word
loan and the previously formed unit of
student or college or education
3. w/25 operates next and creates a unit of bankrupt ! w/25
discharg !
4. and, with the lowest priority, operates last and links the units
formed in 2 and 3 above.
Segments. The terms-and-connectors method is also recommended when you want to
restrict your search to a specific segment, or part, of a document. Segments are sections
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or divisions within documents. For example, you might want to search for all opinions
written by a particular judge; all cases involving a particular party or attorney; or all cases
decided on, before, or after a certain date. This is called segment searching. Different
types of documents have different segments. For example, case law won’t have the same
segments as public records. You can restrict your search for case law to headnotes,
history, or judges, for example. Public records have different segments, such as names,
docket numbers, and street addresses. Useful segments for cases include Summary,
Judges, Opinion by, Name, and Court. (The Name segment for cases contains the party
names.) Useful ones for statutes include Unanno, Text, Heading, and Section. Unanno
and Text both exclude all the case notes and so forth, and just search the statutory text
Segment searching is a useful tool. It will retrieve a narrower, more tailored set of
documents. Lexis Advance offers a voluminous amount of data, and a vague or broad
search may retrieve a lengthy set of documents that you’ll have to wade through to find the
specific information or document you need. Segment searching will save time for you, and
money for the client.
Headnotes come at the beginning of a case, and are written by legal
editors to highlight the holdings in the case.
They aren’t written by the court, and aren’t officially part of the case.
They’re useful for research in quickly finding relevant law, but they can’t be
cited to or relied on for argument.
To restrict your search using a segment, use the following steps:
1. Enter your keywords in the search box at the top of the page. Select the words
Search Everything, which are next to the magnifying glass that would run your
2. This will create a drop-down box that has four categories on the side of it. The top
of the box says Narrow By. Each one of those categories has several choices.
For instance, under Jurisdiction, you can restrict your search by type of court,
circuit, states and territories, and even look at international content.
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3. Review your choices in the four tabs.
4. Select the check boxes next to each choice. Keep in mind that if you need to start
your restricted search choices over, there’s a Clear button at the top of the
Narrow By box, and you’ll see a star that allows you to save your search choices
as a favorite. This can be important if your firm only practices one type of law.
5. Once you’ve made your choices, use the Search button at the bottom of the
restrictions box.
You can also do a segment search by typing the segment in the search box at the top of
the page, with the terms in parentheses. For example, once you’ve used the drop-down
box to limit your search by your state, type (pendente and lite and alimony). We’ve
chosen this term because of the case you read about in your last lesson that dealt with
alimony. Notice that we used “and” as the connectors.
The parentheses act as a limiter for the name of what you’re looking for. We’ve used them
in our example above to show you how to use limiters and connectors. However, you don’t
necessarily need to use them if that’s your only term for your search. Lexis Advance will
automatically add them to the search. This also works if you’ve performed a broad search
and it’s saved. When you use it to populate your “Narrow By” search, the parentheses will
automatically populate.
Once you’ve run your “Narrow By” search, you can then restrict your search by date. On
the left side of Lexis Advance, you’ll see a small box that says Timeline. You may have to
scroll down to see it. You can either use the slider bars or you can use the boxes to enter
a date in the following format: mm/dd/yyyy. This will further narrow your results.
Natural language. Natural language is a search method that allows you to enter a
description of your research issue in plain English. It’s not necessary to use connectors
such as AND, OR, and w/n. Some researchers use the natural-language method when
they’re unsure of where to start their research or when they’re researching broader
conceptual issues rather than specific legal issues, such as the following:
What rights do prisoners have during a strip search process?
Are borrowers required to pay a fee to the lender to obtain a mortgage loan
payoff figure?
You can also use the phrases and words in any order. For example:
prisoners strip search
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mortgage loan borrowers payoff figure
Easy Search. Lexis also offers an Easy Search feature that allows you to run a quick
search. Easy Search is a pure text search, without any limiters or other tools for refining
the search. This search also doesn’t understand Boolean operators. Easy Search is
optimized for short search queries (two or three terms).
With any of these search techniques, if you select the magnifying glass at the top of the
page, your search results are displayed in the expanded cite view with your search terms
highlighted in different colors in context for quick viewing.
Searching Words and Concepts
Words are the basic units of a search. A word is a single character or group of characters,
alphabetical or numeric, with a space on either side:
McPherson—one searchable word
§2017—one searchable word
§ 2017—two searchable words
Notice the difference between the bottom two entries in the previous list. The space
between the section symbol makes the difference in whether Lexis Advance views it as
one searchable word and two searchable words.
Hyphenated words. A hyphen is treated as a space, so a hyphenated word is treated by
Lexis Advance as two words:
pretrial—one word
pre-trial—two words
pre trial—two words
Plurals and possessives. Use any form of a noun—singular, plural, or possessive. Lexis
Advance automatically picks up the other forms for you as long as the noun is a regular
writ—finds writ, writs, writ’s, or writs’
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city—finds city, cities, city’s, or cities’
However, if you use a noun with an irregular plural ending, such as child or ox, you won’t
automatically get the plurals and plural possessives. Use universal characters to get all
forms of the words.
Universal characters. The asterisk ( *) and the exclamation mark ( !) are referred to as
universal characters. You may have noticed that your text bolded their use earlier in this
lesson to call attention to their use. You’ll use them as a substitute for letters in words.
These characters can be used only with the terms-and-connectors search method.
Use the asterisk to replace a letter or letters in a word. You can use more than one
asterisk in a word. You can use it anywhere in a word except as the first letter.
bernst **n—finds the ei or the ie spelling of the name
wom *n—finds both the singular and plural forms of the word
bank ***—finds any word beginning with bank and which has no more than three
letters after the k; will pick up banker and banking, but won’t pick up bankrupt
or bankruptcy
Use the exclamation point to replace an infinite number of letters following a word root.
You can use only once in a word, and it must be at the end of the word root.
litigat !—finds variations on the word litigate ( litigator, litigated, litigation,
acquir !—finds variations of the word acquire ( acquired, acquiring, acquisition)
child !—finds variations of the word child ( child, children, childish)
Special symbols. Many keyboards don’t have the section symbol ( §) commonly used in
citations to statutes. If your keyboard doesn’t have this symbol, you can substitute the at
sign ( @) in its place. For example, to search for citations to Section 305, enter @ 305 or
@305. Another helpful tip is to start a Word document that includes all the symbols you
may need, including the section symbol. Symbols in Word can be found under Insert,
Symbols, and Symbol. After you add a few symbols to your document that you may
need (including ® for registered, ™ for trademark, © for copyright, and § for symbol), save
your document in a place that you can find it and with a name that you’ll remember. When
you need to search, you can open that document, highlight the symbol, and copy it. You
can paste it into other documents or into your search.
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Equivalents. Lexis Advance automatically searches for some words and abbreviations
that are equivalent to each other. If you use one in a search request, Lexis Advance will
search for all equivalents. For example, cal will automatically find Cal, Calif, and
Noise words. Certain common words can’t be searched in most of Lexis Advance.
They’re called noise words. The list of noise words is too extensive to give here, but think
of words that are used repeatedly in most writing— the, and, of, his, my, when, is, are, and
so on. When in doubt, omit the questionable word and use the w/n connector instead.
Date restrictions. You may include date restrictions in a terms-and-connectors or a
natural-language search request along with your search terms. This is optional. Date
restrictions add specificity to your search request and will retrieve a narrower (and likely
more manageable) set of documents. The default setting is No Date Restrictions.
There are several different types of date restrictions:
1. Select a range and then type in your dates in the From and To fields. For
example, From 12/01/99 To 10/12/09
2. Select a date from the drop-down list in the search dialog box. For example,
Previous Week, Previous Month, Previous 6 Months, Previous Year
3. Type one of the following date parameters in the text box along with your search
terms. But note that this only works using the terms-and-connectors search
method. For example:
date = 2010 specifies documents dated within 2010 (including cases
either filed in 2009 and decided in 2010, or filed in 2010 and decided in
2011). You must use the four digits in the year.
date aft 12/15/05 specifies documents dated after December 15, 2005
up to the present day
date bef 8/20/06 specifies documents dated before August 20, 2006
date aft 11/05 and date bef 2/06 specifies documents dated between
December 1, 2005 and January 31, 2006
Punctuation and search requests. Words that are normally capitalized don’t have to be
capitalized, and it’s not necessary to enter punctuation such as periods when typing in
your search request. However, you must enter spaces (as you normally would) between
words and sections. For example, instead of typing 12 U.S.C. 1455, enter 12 usc 1455.
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Now, click here to go to your online
supplement ( and review the
rest of the material on the basics of LexisNexis.
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Exercise: Fundamentals of
Throughout this lesson, there will be exercises to check your understanding of what you’ve
just read. Sign on to and retrieve the primary sources using the most
efficient retrieval methods. Then, once you’ve finished, compare your research techniques
with those following the exercise.
1. Find the source “US Supreme Court Briefs.”
2. Use the natural-language search method and run the following search in the US
Supreme Court Briefs source: “What rights do prisoners have during a strip
search process?”
3. View your research results in three document-viewing formats.
4. What universal character would you use to find variations of the word minimum?
5. Use the terms and connectors search method and run a search for minimum due
process for prisoners or convicts in the US Supreme Court Briefs source.
Restrict the search to retrieve documents for the previous year.
6. Use Criminal Law and Procedure and run the search “strip search of prisoner.”
7. Retrieve the following case: 807 F. Supp. 1090.
8. Retrieve the following case: Filmtec Corp. v. Hydranautics.
9. Retrieve the following case: Docket Number C-91-0088, United States District
Court of California.
10. Download the case in Exercise 9 in the full, dual-column print format.
11. Next, print the case in Exercise 9 using your browser.
12. Review the list of the last sources you recently searched.
13. Sign off
Check Your Technique
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1. Select Briefs, Pleadings & Motions under Explore Content (Content Type).
Now, use the search box above Content Type and type US Supreme Court
Briefs. Note at the end of the search box that you’re already limited to just this
section. Select the magnifying glass to run the search. You’ll be given a wide
range of results. You can use the Search Within Results box on the left.
Under Court, you’ll see it lists Federal and several others and then says More.
Select More and scroll until you find Supreme Court. You can click that to
narrow your result. There’s also a Sort By feature on the top right of your screen.
Change this to Court (highest-lowest). Note the difference in your search.
2. Use natural language and type what rights do prisoners have during a strip
search process?in the search dialog box. Select the red magnifying glass or
press Enter to run the search.
3. The default viewing method is KWIC (key words in context—and you can see
your key words in context in Lexis Advance by paying attention to the colored
bars at the top of your page. When they’re farther to the left, the key words are at
the beginning of the document. As you scroll through your document, you can
watch the top bar move to show you where your KWICs are located). Select
the Cite link to view documents in the Cite list format. Select the Full link to view
documents in the Full format.
4. minim!
5. You can use your history of searches to return to US Supreme Court Briefs. In
the search box, type mini! due process and prisoner or convict. On the left
column, scroll down to restrict your results to last year. Then, run your search.
6. Select Practice Area or Industry under Explore Content. Then,
select Criminal Law and Procedure. Type strip search of prisoner in the
search box. Press Enter or use the red magnifying glass.
7. Type the citation into the search box. You may see a drop down that gives you
the name of the document. You can select the links to find your result. The one
with the blue stop sign with an “A” gives you information about the included
8. Type the case name into the search box and run your search. You may find it
easier to first choose your jurisdiction (all federal and state courts: combined).
9. First, choose Dockets under Explore Content. Then, type c 91 0088 as your
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10. Select the Download link. Check Full and Dual Column Print in the Document
View section of the Download Documents dialog box. Click on Download.
11. Select File on the menu bar, and select Print from the drop-down menu.
Select OK. You may find this useful because if you don’t have a printer at home,
you can use a computer plug-in to “print” files to a PDF.
12. The easiest way to do this is to review your Lexis Advance search history. The
history box can be found from your main page and is directly under Explore
13. Click on the Sign Out link (located under More).
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Research Primary Sources
Primary authority means the actual laws, court decisions, and regulations that are put into
effect by the government and the courts. Primary sources, then, are the sources where
this authority is published.
Now, click here to go to your online
supplement ( and review the
rest of the material discussing primary source research.
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Exercise: Formulating Search Request
Throughout this lesson, there will be exercises to check your understanding of what you’ve
just read. Sign on to and retrieve the primary sources using the most
efficient retrieval methods. Then, once you’ve finished, compare your research techniques
with those following the exercise.
1. Find 12 Code of Federal Regulations § 205.13.
2. Find the United States Supreme Court case Stringer v. Black.
3. Find Minnesota Statutes § 645.08.
4. Find Opinion No. 6742 from the Michigan Attorney General.
5. Find the case with the docket number 92-1349, United States Court of Appeals
for the Seventh Circuit.
6. Find Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc.,United States Supreme Court.
7. Find 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
8. Determine the procedures for taking oral depositions in California. Find the
California Code of Civil Procedure section regarding procedures for taking oral
9. Find 111 F.3d 585.
10. Find New Mexico Constitution Art. IV, § 7.
11. Find Roe v. Wade,United States Supreme Court.
12. Find United States Constitution Article I.
13. Find federal cases before 1945 involving Al Capone.
Check Your Technique
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1. Click on Federal under Explore Content since you know it’s a federal regulation
based on its name. Type 12 cfr 205.13 in the search box.
2. Under Cases from Explore Content, select US Supreme Courts, Lawyers’
Edition. From here, the easiest thing to do is to type Stringer v. Black in the
search box since you’ve restricted your results. Run your search.
3. Choose State under Explore Content. Then, choose Minnesota. So now
you’ve narrowed your search to Minnesota. Type Minnesota statutes 645.08in
the search box and run your search.
4. Starting again from your home page, go back to State and this time
choose Michigan. From here, scroll to All Administrative Opinions. Next,
choose MI Attorney General Opinions. Type 6742 into the search box, and run
your search. It will be the very first result on the page. You know this is the right
result because it lists “Opinion No. 6742” as part of the title.
5. Start by choosing Federal under Explore Content. Next, find Circuit Courts.
Choose 7th Circuit. You’re brought to a screen with more options. You know this
is an appeals case. Click 7th Circuit—US Court of Appeals Cases. Type 92
1349 in the search box. The answer is Ross v. City of Waukegan.
6. Visit your history box on the first page and find your search for the US Supreme
Court case Stringer v. Black. This is the fastest way to get back to your US
Supreme Court Cases, Lawyers’ Edition so you can run this search. In the search
box, remove “stringer v. black” and type cipollone v. liggett group, inc. You’ll
receive five results.
7. You can search on this from the main page. Type 42 usc 1983 in the search box,
and run your search.
8. Start by choosing California under States on your Explore Content box.
Under States & Legislation, you’ll see a link to CA—Deering’s California
Codes Annotated. Use terms and connectors and type tak! oral deposition in
the search box. Run your search.
9. From your Lexis Advance homepage, type 111 f 3d 585 in the search box. Run
your search.
10. Under States from Explore Content, choose New Mexico. Under Statutes &
Legislation, select NM—New Mexico Constitution. Now you’ve limited your
search. Type iv section 7in the search box, and run the search. Alternatively,
you’ll see a plus sign below your search box that will expand the titles of all the
Articles of New Mexico’s Constitution. You can find Article IV in the same way.
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11. Use your history of searches to return to where you need to be to look up US
Supreme Court cases. You should now have two searches there. Once you get
back to the right screen, remove the old case name in the search box and
type roe v. wade in the box. Run the search.
12. From the main Lexis Advance screen, you can begin by placing US
Constitution in your search box. You’ll see a drop-down box that will allow you to
choose that as your document. Now that you’ve limited your document, you can
search for Article I or you can use the plus sign below the search box to quickly
find it.
13. First, choose Federal under Explore Content. Choose All Federal Cases.
Scroll down to Document Segments/ Fields and list Capone as the party
name and change the Date field to Date is before and 1945. Run the search.
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Research Secondary Sources
Secondary authority means interpretive writings or indirect information about the law, such
as law review articles, treatises, and encyclopedias.
Now, click here to go to your online
supplement ( and review the
rest of the material discussing secondary-source research.
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Exercise: Methods of Searching
Throughout this lesson, there will be exercises to check your understanding of what you’ve
just read. Sign on to and retrieve the primary sources using the most
efficient retrieval methods. Then, once you’ve finished, compare your research techniques
with those following the exercise.
1. Your supervising attorney asked you to retrieve an article in American Law
Reports. Find this report: William B. Johnson, Annotation, Use of Plea Bargain or
Grant of Immunity as Improper Vouching for Credibility of Witness in Federal
Cases, 76 A.L.R. Fed. 409 (1986).
2. Find Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, 3d Edition, and look up the term accrual of
cause of action.
3. Your supervising attorney asked you to locate a California treatise regarding the
procedures for the issuance of a subpoena or subpoena duces tecum. Look for
documents regarding this issue in Witkin California Procedure, 5th Edition.
4. You’ve been asked to locate a table of contents for a restatement. Find and print
the table of contents for Restatement (Second) of Agency.
5. Retrieve the following law review article: 141 U. Pa. L. Rev. 221.
6. Your supervising attorney has asked you to conduct background research
regarding a real estate case. The clients are owners of a historic building. They
want to demolish the building and build high-rise apartments. The attorney wants
to read legal publications regarding the demolition of historical buildings and
redevelopment. Find articles in legal publications regarding these topics.
7. Your supervising attorney is working on a personal-injury case where the client
suffered a fractured hip injury in an automobile accident. The attorney wants you
to locate information in Medline regarding fractured hips. (Medline is a
bibliographic database of medical journals dating back to 1966 from the National
Library of Medicine.)
8. You’ve been asked to locate jury verdict information where the client suffered a
closed head injury in an automobile accident. Find the source Arizona Litigation
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Reports and run a search regarding this issue.
9. Your supervising attorney is preparing for trial in a litigation case, and needs to
locate a jury instruction regarding the definition of legal cause in Florida Forms
of Jury Instruction, published by Matthew Bender & Company, Inc.
10. You work in California and have been asked to draft a notice of taking of an oral
deposition and production of documents. Find a deposition form entitled “Notice
of Taking Deposition by Oral Examination” in a Matthew-Bender treatise on
California deposition and discovery.
11. Locate the attorney profile of Gerry L. Spence. Print the profile.
12. Find ALR annotations regarding child pornography over the Internet.
Check Your Technique
1. Under Explore Content, select Secondary Materials. Under Federal,
select American Law Reports (ALR). Scroll to Document Segments / Fields.
Use the Author box. Since you know the name of the title, you can use
the Title box. Then, run the search. Since you also have the citation, you could
also use the citation as your search term from the main screen. However, it’s
important you understand how to use the field boxes on the various search
2. Begin typing Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, and you’ll see it comes up as a
source. Select it. Type accrual of cause of action in the search box. Run the
3. Choose State under Explore Content. Select California. Under Secondary
Material, you’ll find an option for Witkin Summary of California Law. Use terms
and connectors, type issue! subpoena or subpoena duces tecum in the
search box, and run the search.
4. Under Explore Content, select Secondary Materials. Next,
select Restatements, then, Agency. You’ll be given a choice of two
restatements. Select 2d. This brings you to the TOC. You can now print it.
5. Type 141 u pa l rev 221in the search box, and run the search.
6. Under Explore Content, select Secondary Materials, and
then Treatises, Practice Guide & Jurisprudence. Use terms and connectors
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and type demol! hist! buildings and redevelopment in the search box. Run the
7. Under Explore Content, click Scientific. Select Medical References at the top.
You’ll see Medline References listed. Select it. Use terms and connectors and
type fract! hip in the search box. Run the search.
8. Under Explore Content, select State and then Arizona. Scroll to Expert
Witness Analysis and select it. Use terms and connectors and type closed
head injury and auto! or car or vehicle accident in the search box. Run the
9. Under Explore Content, select State and then Florida. Scroll to and select All
Florida Jury Instructions. Use terms and connectors and type definition of
legal cause in the search box. Run the search. Keep in mind that although you’re
going to pull up thousands of results, it’s important you look under Florida
because that’s the stated jurisdiction for this Self-Check (as opposed to the basic
definition you’d find in a legal dictionary).
10. Under Explore Content, select Secondary Materials. Next, scroll to and
select California. You’ll see a link to Matthew Bender Practice Guide:
California Pretrial Civil Procedure. Select it. Use terms and connectors and
type oral deposition notice in the search box. Run the search.
11. Choose Directories under Explore Content. Then, select Attorney
Directories. Use terms and connectors and type name (gerry w/3 spence)in
the search dialog box. Run the search. Open the profile and print it.
12. Under Explore Content, choose Secondary Materials. Under Federal,
select American Law Reports (ALR). Type child porn! and internet or net in
the search box. Run the search.
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Using Shepard’s Citation Service
“Shepardizing,” or cite-checking, is a method of evaluating a case and determining if it’s
still valid law. That is, that the case still carries precedential value—its authority hasn’t
been altered by a more recent court decision or by legislative action. Overall, Shepard’s
ensures the validity of the citations and yields new research possibilities as well.
Attorneys have a professional responsibility and duty to know the precedential value of
legal authorities before they rely on them while representing clients. Attorneys have used
Shepard’s since the 1800s as a reliable method of cite-checking documents.
Now, click here to go to your online
supplement ( and review the
rest of the material on using Shepard’s citation service.
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Exercise: Shepherd’s Citation
Throughout this lesson, there will be exercises to check your understanding of what you’ve
just read. Sign on to and retrieve the primary sources using the most
efficient retrieval methods. Then, once you’ve finished, compare your research techniques
with those following the exercise.
1. Shepardize the following cases using the feature that quickly validates case law:
112 S. Ct. 2608; 581 F.2d 1092; 480 U.S. 387.
2. You’ve been asked to help conduct legal research and find additional relevant
authority. Your supervising attorney has given you the following citation: 121 Cal.
App. 118.
3. Use Shepard’s as a finding tool, and Shepardize 5 Haw. App. 174. After you’ve
retrieved an answer set, search for abuse of process within your results .
4. Use Shepard’s to validate your legal research, and Shepardize 579 F.2d 126.
Restrict your results to all negative treatment.
Check Your Technique
1. From your main search screen in Lexis Advance, type shep: 112 sct 2608and
run the search. Repeat that process for the other listed citations.
2. Type shep: 121 calapp 118 in the search box. Run the search. Then, look
at Narrow By and see the top box titled Analysis. You’ll be able to see the
different ways the case was cited and this can lead you to other cases that may
be relevant for your needs.
3. Type shep: 5 hawapp 174in the search box. Next look under Narrow By and
scroll to Search Within Results. In that box, type abuse of process and click
the magnifying glass to search.
4. Type shep: 579 f2d 126 in the search box. Under Narrow By choose the option
for negative treatment.
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Conduct Factual Research on
Effective legal research involves more than searching case law and statutory materials.
You’ll be asked to search public records databases to obtain factual and background
information regarding cases, parties, clients, and witnesses.
Public-Records Search Tips
Take time to truly understand what you’re looking for in public records. Many times, you
may retrieve hundreds of results. After you’ve run your first search and retrieved your first
set of results, think about any additional search terms that you can enter in the search box
to narrow down your answer set of documents.
From the main screen after you’ve logged in to Lexis Advance, look under Content Type
in the far-right column. You’ll see a link that will take you the screen to search for public
Check the segments available to use within each source. Different types of documents
have different segments. Segments vary from source to source. Choose which public
records segments you’d like to use. These segments offer alternative ways to find
documents, and can help retrieve a more focused set of documents.
If you’re searching for motor vehicle records, you must use the LexisNexis proprietary
software. Motor vehicle records aren’t available using the Internet or through
You may be able to get them through your local DMV, but you may either need an
authorization form or need to pay a fee.
Some public records sources don’t provide complete information regarding the person,
company, or lawsuit you’re investigating. For instance, the court or docket sources provide
information regarding the case name, party names, civil-case number, filing date, district,
and case type; but if you wanted to see the complaint or other pleadings, you’d have to
call Lexis or the court clerk’s office to order copies of pleadings and relating filings.
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Now, click here to go to your online
supplement ( and review the
rest of the material on conducting factual research using Lexis Advance.
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Exercise: Conducting Factual Researches
Throughout this lesson, there will be exercises to check your understanding of what you’ve
just read. Sign on to and retrieve the primary sources using the most
efficient retrieval methods. Then, once you’ve finished, compare your research techniques
with those following the exercise.
1. Pick a recent hot topic from your local newspaper and run a search for that topic
under News(or Legal News if you’re researching a recent legal story).
2. Look over the content of the databases in the Company & Financial section.
3. Retrieve federal and state cases involving attorney Philip H. Corboy. Restrict
search to previous year. (If no results, expand the date restriction.)
4. Find reports regarding the acquisition of DoubleClick by Google.
5. Find reports regarding the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America.
Check Your Technique
1. From Explore Content, click either News or Legal News. Choose your state or
combined publications. Use terms and connectors or natural language, and enter
your search terms in the search box. Run the search.
2. Choose Company & Financial under Explore Content. Explore the databases
that you see.
3. Under Explore Content, select Cases. Choose All Federal. Use terms and
connectors, and type counsel (phil! w/3 corboy)in the search box. Restrict the
search by previous year by using the Date box under Document Segments.
Run the search and then repeat for All States.
4. From Explore Content, click Company and Financial. Then, choose Mergers
and Acquisitions / Transaction. Type google and double-click in the search
box. Run the search.
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5. Click the Search tab and then on the by Source subtab. Under the News &
Business tab, go to Company & Financial > Mergers & Acquisitions >
Mergers & Acquisitions Reports–Company Reports. Use terms and
connectors and type “target (Merrill Lynch)” in the search dialog box (otherwise,
you’ll get a lot of hits where Merrill Lynch or Bank of America were advisors to the
transaction). Click Search.
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Online Search Strategies
Online legal research is usually expensive. A cost-efficient computer researcher is
someone who’s adept with the mechanics of writing a computer search as well as using
Lexis Advance commands.
Your goal is to jump on and off Lexis Advance with accurate, needed information, while
minimizing search costs that are passed on to the firm’s clients.
There are lots of different billing packages. Some options have a flat rate
but limit what databases you can search. Others charge a fee per search,
and the fee depends on what databases you search.
Other options charge by document, still others by the hour or log in time.
Some options use a combination of methods.
To make the most efficient use of Lexis Advance, keep the following in mind:
Conduct background research. Use dictionaries, encyclopedias, treatises, and
legal periodicals so you can understand the legal issues and vocabulary involved
in the case.
Plan your research. Draft out your search request on paper before signing on to
Lexis Advance.
Decide which research tools to use, and which sources to search.
Shepardize your primary materials to see whether they’re still valid. Some
secondary sources can be Shepardized as well.
Expand your research by using other finding tools—for example, Shepard’s full
format, or secondary sources.
Complete your research with factual information by searching news and public
records sources.
Find out if your firm’s contract with LexisNexis is billed at a flat, hourly, or
transactional rate. Plan your online research needs, and sketch out their costs.
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The costs shouldn’t exceed the benefits or the value of the case. The result
should improve the quality and delivery of legal services to clients, while not
making those services prohibitively expensive.
Know when to stop your online research. Stop your online research when the
costs will exceed the benefits. You can’t afford to spend $1,000 on online
research for a case that’s worth only $500, no matter the difficulty of the research
problem. Seek further direction from your supervising attorney. Print resources or
the Internet may offer the information you need.
Lexis Advance customer service is an indispensable part of the online legal
research system. They’re available 24 hours a day by telephone to help you
make the most of the research tools in the Lexis Advance system. They can
assist you with online search techniques and formulating search requests, as well
as suggest sources. A call to customer service may help focus your research
request, and minimize costs to the client.
Use Lexis Advance online help. Click on the Help link located under More,
which is a drop-down menu located at the top right of the screen. The Help
features will open into a new window for your convenience. Click on the topic or
subject for online help, or search by keyword. You won’t be billed for using the
Help feature.
Keep Your Research Skills Up-To-Date
It’s important for paralegals to keep their research skills up-to-date because Lexis
Advance continuously comes up with new search methods, products, and databases.
Continuing education in CALR is a must in today’s competitive environment. To keep your
online research skills up-to-date, follow these guidelines:
Read and study the online resource designed specifically to help
paralegal students: Paralegal Student Users
Guide (
PDF will give you search advice and tips to help you excel in
Go to the LexisNexis Knowledge Base by selecting the Live
Support link located under More. You can also find articles and
walk-throughs for Lexis products, including Lexis Advance, by
visiting Use the search box and
type in “Lexis Advance” to get help specifically with this service.
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If you’d like to learn more about sources using the above link, use
“Lexis Advance Source Locator” as your search. You’ll get many
helpful articles. Additionally, if you look on the left side under
Filter, you’ll see a link under Collections for Search Strategies.
Become familiar with the contents of the databases and sources
that will help you conduct efficient and cost-effective legal
Participate in Lexis Advance training sessions or seminars.
Contact your firm’s Lexis representative, who can set up training
sessions and provide you with instructional literature.
Obtain a Paralegal Certificate of Mastery
LexisNexis University offers a training program designed specifically for paralegals. The
goal of the program is to increase efficiency with Lexis Advance search methods. The
program consists of separate modules that cover the basics of Lexis Advance, searching
statutes and regulations, searching court and agency opinions, using Shepard’s Reports,
and more. But it’s important to note that while the courses are fairly short in length, they’re
not always available. You can use the following link to see what’s currently available for
you to enroll in: .
After you’ve completed all of the training modules, you’ll receive a Paralegal Certificate of
Mastery. This training program is approved by the National Association of Legal Assistants
and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations for continuing legal education
credits. You must be a Lexis customer, employed by a Lexis customer, or a paralegal
student to take the training.
In addition to the certificate program, LexisNexis offers online tutorials and webinars
designed to increase your proficiency using Shepard’s, CheckCite, and other LexisNexis
search tools and software.
To find webinars related to LexisNexis and their many programs, use this
link: From there,
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you’ll be able to choose the type of webinar, your topic, or your product
(Lexis Advance).
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Computer Assisted Legal Research, Part 2
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Lesson 5 Overview
The Internet is booming with information that attorneys need to access to survive and
prosper in today’s complex practice environment. Attorneys use the Internet to satisfy their
daily information requirements, conduct research, manage cases, and improve the quality
and delivery of legal services to clients. These factors make the Internet relevant to
practicing paralegals.
This study unit is a practical tool that shows paralegals how to integrate the Internet into a
practice environment to improve access to information, move cases forward, and, most
important, deliver better legal services to clients.
Note that Internet resources are of a time-sensitive nature, and URL addresses may often
change or be deleted. It’s prudent that you save or bookmark helpful site links for future
reference. Even if those links eventually disappear, you’ll be familiar enough with the
information that you shouldn’t have much problem finding a more updated site or page to
replace it.
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Lesson Objectives
Describe the importance of the internet in performing factual, business, and legal research
Identify the steps of moving cases forward with the help of the internet
Recognize the importance of keeping the knowledge and skills of internet research
Summarize the ways in which the internet can expand educational horizons
Explain the importance of the internet for practicing paralegals
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Find and Investigate People and Companies
My supervising attorney peered over the stacks of files on his desk and said, “I need
addresses for these two missing witnesses.” He further explained that our client had a
modest case budget and didn’t want to hire a private investigator to locate missing
First, I thumbed through a print version of the city and county directory. Nothing. Next, I
scanned the phone book. Nothing. So, I turned to the Internet, and hit the people-finding
sites. In less than 20 minutes, I’d found the last reported addresses and telephone
numbers for the two witnesses. Subpoenas were personally served on the witnesses within
the next couple of days. This was accomplished with no out-of-pocket investigation costs to
the client.
There’s nothing as convenient or inexpensive as using the Internet to search for people or
companies throughout the world. These types of searches are free and informative. This
isn’t to say that the Internet offers access to all records and information. For example, the
Internet doesn’t list everyone’s most updated address and telephone number; and more
detailed information than just a phone number or mailing address usually isn’t available
without paying a fee to a specialized company. However, the Internet does have white and
yellow pages, business and corporation listings, email searches, reverse lookups, searchnear addresses, and other people-finding tools. The Internet is the first choice for profiling
public companies and conducting company research.
Information such as annual reports, profiles, and public company filings are usually free on
the Internet. The convenience, perpetual availability, and negligible cost make the Internet
a logical first step for a research project.
Another online choice for locating information is commercial legal databases, including
sites like Intelius, Westlaw, and Lexis Advance shown in the image below These databases
pull together all types of information, including voter records, motor vehicle registrations,
real property transactions, court records, criminal records, and more. Commercial
databases such as those mentioned are usually better choices for in-depth people profiles
because the information quality is usually better than what’s available on free Internet sites.
However, using commercial legal databases can be quite expensive. Sometimes it isn’t
practical to spend a lot of money on a specialized online database search.
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The Westlaw Website
Consider the type of information you’re seeking, as well as case budget and time
considerations, before selecting your online search method. For instance, if you’re looking
for individuals, you might want to use a combination of methods, such as first searching the
online white pages and even social media, and then trying Lexis Advance or its alternatives
if necessary. Remember, though, the Internet isn’t a replacement for Lexis Advance,
Westlaw, or the traditional law library. Although there are many good free sites to start with,
the information isn’t updated as regularly as that of a commercial database. Since it’s often
less expensive for clients for you to hit the law library, you should consider the Internet as a
complementary research method.
The following are some general strategic points to consider when beginning an Internet
legal research project.
Is the Internet an appropriate place to find the legal information? This one
consideration deserves a lot of attention. If you’re trying to track down a particular piece of
information, then first consider where you might find it. For instance, if you’re looking for a
Social Security number, you won’t find it for free on the Internet. Westlaw or Lexis Advance
most likely has the information, but (again) it won’t be free. However, if you’re profiling a
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public company, such as Microsoft, the Internet offers plenty of free information. Common
sense and experience are your guides in this arena. A good rule of thumb for the Internet
researcher is: The more public the information is, the easier it will be to locate on the
Internet; the more discreet the information is, the harder it will be to locate. An Internet
researcher must also remember that not all information uncovered is true; information is
only as good as its source.
What will it cost? Free-content websites are obviously the first place to look. There are
even some excellent options for free legal research, including The Public Library of Law (ht
tp:// and Google Scholar ( However, those aren’t
the only good free sites that you can use.
Fee-based websites are farther down on the list of choices. Sometimes, fee-based
websites can be tricky to sign on to and navigate. If the free Internet doesn’t yield revealing
research results, and you must pay for information, then a commercial legal-research
service like Lexis Advance or Westlaw is a better online search choice. And time won’t be
wasted signing up on a new fee-based website and learning new commands. Additionally,
make sure that you know what free and paid options exist from both your state (and
county) court system and bar associations. This information is found easily on their
Plan your research and have a strategy. Understand your legal research project. What
exactly are you looking for? What sites do you plan to hit? How much time do you have?
The Internet is like a vast library with all the books scattered on the floor. If you jump on the
Internet with no plan in mind, you can spend hours surfing from site to site for one little
piece of information. Choose a research strategy that best benefits the client and the firm.
Get help. Listservs, electronic mailing lists, forums, and discussion groups geared toward
paralegals are good resources for help. For instance, sign up with a listserv in the area of
law you work in, and when you get stuck and need help on a research project, ask for help.
Remember, you must be discreet when asking for help. Learn to ask broad questions
related to subject matter and not reveal clients’ names or other confidential case
A listserv is an electronic mailing list that allows users on the list to send
and receive email messages to and from everyone on the list. To join the
list, a user sends an email to subscribe. After being added to the list, the
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user receives emails sent to the list and can post email messages to the list
as well.
The FindLaw Website
Researching on the web can be daunting: so many choices, so little guidance. Most
experienced legal researchers have a favorite way to find information on the Internet.
Choose a favorite finding tool, such as a useful search engine or website. FindLaw (http://l is a good first choice for online legal research. is a comprehensive
law and government site, with offers links to law journals, reference materials, search
pages, and legal publishers. Go to Some other choices include

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The Library of Congress has a massive page on their website that’s devoted to research
methods related to various legal topics:
The best way for you to use this guide is first to know what you need help researching and
then consult the list. The list is alphabetical. At the time of this update, the site had more
than 70 total pages of content related to legal research methods.
Some legal researchers bookmark their favorite sites. Others may use pages like or because they have
a wide variety of information. There are different ways to find information online. If one
method doesn’t work, try another. Eventually, you’ll become comfortable finding relevant
legal information that fits your needs. Here are a couple of tips to help you get started.
Verify accuracy. Use information quality checklists to verify the accuracy of Internet
information and make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date. You’ll learn more about the signs
to look for to determine if a website has quality information a little later in this study guide.
Practice. Practice your online research skills in your spare time. Explore what the Internet
offers and find your favorite sites and starting points. The Internet isn’t a steady-state
scenario—sites come and go. Put some spare time to good use and practice, practice,
Find People
Use Physical and Online Directories to Find People
The first place to search for people is in a telephone book or online white pages. The
Internet offers many online directories you can use to begin your people search. One of the
most widely used and relied upon is Many online white and yellow page
options have both free and paid searches. You can start with free searches and usually
narrow down your search or even locate the individual with it.
Some of the most commonly used Internet phone directories offer white and yellow pages,
toll-free telephone numbers, and reverse lookup of telephone numbers (when you have the
phone number but don’t know the name). Some popular sites are
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To find a person in an Internet directory, enter the name and address (or just the state, if
you don’t know the address) and click the Find or Search button. If you’re not sure of the
first name, you can use a wildcard—b* will find Bob, Bill, or Byron, for example. Many sites
will display a map of the area, although they’re not always completely accurate.
If you don’t get results with one site, try another. Each site has its own set of search tools
and information, so you’ll frequently get different results.
Skipease has a lot of search-related links.
Skipease offers phone number searches, search tips, and links to other search sites. Go to It’s important to note that this website gives you access to several
search websites at once. However, not every site for which it provides a search engine is
free to use.
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Infobel has an index of online phone books—yellow pages, white pages, business
directories, email addresses, and fax listings—from over 150 countries all around the
world. Go to
US Search offers forms for conducting many types of searches, including white and yellow
pages, email, and social media. Some of the links go to paid search engines. Go to https://
Black Book Online offers a collection of links for people and business searches. You can
search by name at the top of the home page, or you can scroll down and find a list of free
public record types or search by state. Additionally, if you scroll to the very bottom, you’ll
find an additional list of links to other search engines, some of which are free. Go to http://
Personal Characteristics Resources
The more you know about people you’re looking for, the easier it will be to find them. You
should know the correct spelling of the first, middle, and last names (legal last names,
formerly used last names, and maiden names). Other useful details include the person’s
last address, current or previous employer, Social Security number, date of birth, physical
description, and educational background or schools attended. For instance, a school’s
homepage may provide information about its alumni. A business may post a phone or
email directory of its employees on its homepage. There are many possibilities.
These personal characteristics will help you distinguish among people with common or
similar names as well. First think about possible resources (including social media sites
such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and how and where you might find the person on
the Internet before tackling the research assignment. Some possibilities include the
A search engine like Google or Yahoo! may pull up useful information on an individual.
Some military and federal government personnel may be reached through the federal
government’s main website at
News sites (such as,, or
om/) may pull up news articles and relevant information on individuals, such as city and
Property ownership data may be available to identify a person’s residence. This
information can generally be found through the website of a state or county tax assessor or
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Keep in mind that people-finding on the Internet is a hit-or-miss proposition. Sometimes,
you may get an avalanche of hits and it can be difficult to identify the person you’re looking
for. Other times, you may get a direct hit and find a person’s address and phone number
and other information. Or, you may not find any information at all. Some of the resources
mentioned here—such as alumni websites—depend on people registering or permitting
their information to be used.
Backgrounding People
Use Internet search engines as fishing expeditions to research information about people
and the investigative aspects of the case. You may locate background information about
clients, parties, and witnesses involved in cases. There are many search engines worth
investigating, such as Yahoo, Bing, or Google. Just type the name of the person you’re
seeking and run the search. Many search engines support Boolean operators. Those may
give you better results when searching for a name than one that doesn’t, as you can avoid
getting hits on the first and last names separately. Of course, if the person you’re looking
for has a common name, like John Smith, this method will result in too many hits to be
Keep in mind with social media that some people don’t use their real or legal name.
However, if you know the names of family members or friends, you may still be able to use
social media to find the right person.
GovRegistry is a membership-based backgrounding site that offers searches for criminal
records, marriage records, property ownership, and more at It’s
not affiliated with any governmental body. Other paid options include,, and
Campaign Donors
If you’re looking for information about persons who contributed money to election
campaigns, Political MoneyLine is the place to go. The site is a remarkable source of data
from the Federal Election Commission, Internal Revenue Service, the Senate Office of
Public Records, and various other federal offices. Soft- and hard-dollar contributors are
searchable by name, zip code, city, state, and employer. Some of the information is
available on a fee basis. Go to You can also do
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research on the Federal Election Commission’s website:
Deceased-Person Records
Tracking missing witnesses can be time-consuming. Sometimes, you exhaust all peoplefinding tools but still come up with nothing. At some point, you must ask: Is this person
dead? Using deceased-person records sites is a hit-or-miss proposition, but may help
answer the question.
The Social Security Death Index Search Page
You can search the Social Security death database at
b.aspx?dbid=3693. Type the person’s first and last names into the search field along with
any other information that you may have. You can elect to run your search and receive
results that match your exact terms. It’s helpful if you know the state where the person last
resided, as it narrows the field. You should realize that not everyone makes it into this
database. Individuals are added when their deaths are reported to the Social Security
Administration. If a death isn’t reported, it’s not added. The site lists the deceased person’s
name, Social Security number, city where the person last resided, and more. Access to full
results requires a subscription to the site. There are links to church records, census
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records, and other records. This sort of information can also be found in WestLaw and
Lexis Advance.
Find-a-Grave lets you search by name and location for graves of ordinary folks and famous
ones too. Although certainly not a comprehensive list of all gravesites, it has listings of
graves worldwide. Go to
Prison Inmates
The Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Search
If you’re looking for an inmate, the Federal Bureau of Prisons offers an online inmate
locator. Go to The information available includes inmate name, age,
and register number, as well as institution of confinement. To locate information on federal
inmates released before 1982, contact the Office of Communications and Archives in
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Additionally, you can look for a list of inmates in city, county, or state jails and prisons. Go
to and type in the name of the state, city, or county along with the words
“inmate search.” For instance, if you were looking for someone who may be incarcerated in
Florida, you would look up “Florida inmate search.”
School Alumni Sites
School alumni sites are also hit-or-miss, but it’s possible to retrieve results. If you know the
name of the school the person attended, see if you can locate an online alumni directory
for address and telephone information. ClassMates claims more than 6 million selfregistered users seeking their high school classmates in the United States and Canada.
Go to Registration is required.
Keep in mind that many people join Facebook simply for the purpose of reconnecting with
old friends from school. There are Facebook pages and groups devoted to various schools
for the purpose of allowing alumni to find one another.
Vehicle Owners
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The motor vehicle page has links to state DMV websites.
Motor vehicle and driver’s license records are a goldmine of information. They’re an
excellent way to find information about people of legal driving age. Commercial databases
such as Lexis Advance and Westlaw provide access to this information; the Internet
doesn’t have free motor vehicle or driver’s license records. In fact, in some states, you
can’t access this information without some sort of authorization. With that being said, you’ll
need two pieces of information to search motor vehicle records: the subject’s name and a
date of birth. Some states offer forms specifically designed for attorney requests for motor
vehicle and license data. offers links to websites for motor vehicle bureaus in the United States and
instructions for ordering driving and other records. Most of its services are geared to
consumers, and some have fees. Go to
Profile Attorneys
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Martindale-Hubbell’s Lawyer Locator
There are many sources for finding attorney listings and profiles. The Martindale-Hubbell
Law Directory is probably the best-known lawyer directory. Online sources to visit for
attorney profiles include the following:
FindLaw has links to attorney and law firm websites. Many state bar associations offer
online profiles of attorneys who are members of the state bar. Note, however, that some of
these sites, such as Martindale, rely on the individual attorneys to register and update their
information. If they don’t do this, their information may be missing or out of date. To combat
this, you can also use a search engine and look up the attorney’s name and his or her
location, if you know it. You could pull up a LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, or law office
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Profile Physicians
The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) offers a physician locator service that
verifies the board certification status of a physician. Go to Click the
Verify Certification link at the top of the page. You’ll need to register and set up an
account for your law firm.
The Association of State Medical Board Executive Directors’ DocFinder offers links
organized by participating state licensing authorities. Some states offer a searchable
licensing database by physician name or specialty. Go to You’ll
find the DocFinder link at the top of the page. Remember that you may also be able to find
listings for licensed doctors in each state through a search engine.
Profile Professionals
Your state’s licensing board is a good place to look for the status of professional licenses.
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Individual state occupational licensing boards offer business or professional licenses, such
as physician’s assistant, contractor, private investigator, landscape architect, court reporter,
accountant, chiropractor, engineer, and so forth. There are thousands of free-access sites
for these public records. You should also be able to find the official state- or city-supported
licensing site as well. If you can’t locate what you need online, but you find the licensure
board, call them and ask how you can check on a professional license.
To see an example of a state licensing board, visit the one for Pennsylvania: It’s part of the
Pennsylvania Department of State. Try Google, Yahoo, or Bing for links to each state’s
Department of State or Secretary of State web page.
Another way to search for individuals and companies is to check news articles and
periodicals. If you have a keyword, issue, or topic, electronic clipping services can perform
periodic searches to collect relevant information. Clipping services also make it easy to
stay up-to-date with the latest legal issues and (perhaps) information about a client, party,
or case. These sites collect and filter thousands of articles from a wide variety of
newspapers and magazines around the world. They may offer searchable archives as well.
Fees range from free to several hundred dollars per month. The following are some
electronic clipping services:

Home 2019 – ALT offers coverage of law-related news, legal practice centers, state-specific
resources, and more. A legal newswire delivers a daily digest of legal news from around
the country. Go to
You can also stick with traditional news sites, including but not limited to the following:
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The Associated Press:
Public Records
Public records are brimming with data about people and companies. Public agencies
compile records with the purpose of making them publicly available. Public records include
court records, voter registration records, real estate records, and others. For instance,
some counties offer online records of recorded real estate transactions, which may be
searchable by name and address. Assessors’, tax, or county registrar offices may offer
online records of the assessed values of real property. The courts for specific counties may
offer searchable indexes of individuals and companies involved in civil and criminal
actions. Many states offer free access to online Uniform Commercial Code, corporation,
and trademark records. Go to your state’s web page and search for links to online public
records such as the recorder’s office, the courts, or corporation records. Business-related
information is generally located on the Secretary of State’s website.
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The BRB Publications Public Records Website
The Internet isn’t an all-inclusive source for public records. If you don’t find results quickly,
you may need to switch gears and search the commercial databases for the needed
information. This is especially true of more sensitive personal data like driving records,
which would present privacy issues if placed on the Internet for all to see.
BRB Publications may be your best resource for online public records. However, its
searches aren’t all free. Go to
Search Systems is a one-stop site with nationwide and state-specific links to public
records. Click on your desired state for information. The site offers international search
links as well. Go to offers an index to sources of property records nationwide. Choose the region
and search by address, and it will return the most recent assessed value of the property,
along with the last sale price and information such as number of bedrooms, heating type,
and so on. It also shows a map of the street. Go to
Perform Company Research
Company research is important because attorneys often need company information to
serve their clients. For example, if a client was injured by a defective product, you must
determine who the proper defendant is (and even if there may be more than one
defendant). Is the target defendant the manufacturer identified on the product itself? Is that
company the parent corporation or merely a subsidiary? Where is the company located?
As another example, say a client suffered economic damages during a business
transaction with a company. You’ll need to determine if the company is a viable defendant
by examining company assets. Who owns the company? Who are its officers and
directors? Who is the president of the company? What are the sales, assets, and growth
figures? Is it in bankruptcy?
To avoid wasted time and effort, remember that information about public companies is
usually widely available on the Internet. Private-company information may be sparse and
difficult to find. Lexis Advance or Westlaw are probably better starting points for research
regarding private companies. Lexis Advance or other commercial databases may reduce
the time you spend performing research and assist in the discovery of better-quality
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Public companies are companies that trade stocks on a stock exchange
such as the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ. They must file financial
and other information with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).
Private companies are owned by individuals, families, or small consortiums.
These companies don’t have to file as much information with the
Step One—Review Information on the Company’s Website
Company websites are the simplest starting points for company research. They provide the
company address, contact information, information about the company’s products and
services, press releases, sales figures, news, and more. Public companies’ annual reports
can be ordered by calling the investor relations department, which is usually a toll-free
number. There’s usually also an investor relations link on the website that offers such
Type the name of the company in a search engine for the link to the company’s webpage.
The search may also return news and information about the company as well. You can also
look for the company on LinkedIn. While it’s likely the business may have other social
media accounts, LinkedIn is used for business purposes and many businesses have a
devoted page.
Step Two—Find Information about a Company from Independent Sources
You can profile and gather general information about public and private companies from
various free sources on the Internet. You may want to try some of these sites first before
signing on to a commercial database.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers business reports on companies in select
jurisdictions. This is a good place to search for private-company information if the company
does business in one of the BBB’s jurisdictions. Go to Keep in mind,
though, that businesses can pay to receive a good rating from the BBB. So, while it may be
good for informational purposes, you should scrutinize other information you find.
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CEOExpress is an online desktop, providing links to news, business information, reference,
stock research, law, government, and more, all from one page. Many services are free, but
some require a premium subscription. Many professional Internet researchers consider
CEOExpress the best portal on the Internet for company research. All the links—including
annual reports, ratings directories such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, industry
research, and more—are laid out in a straightforward manner under their Home tab. Go to and scroll down to the Business Research area.
Corporate Information offers corporate information from around the world. The site has
over 350,000 profiles of public, private, foreign, and domestic companies, and 15,000
research results and links for general company research. Basic information is free; more
in-depth research requires a subscription. Go to
Dun & Bradstreet requires a subscription or payment by credit card. The site lets you
search for business reports by company name, address, telephone number, and D&B D-UN-S number. Go to Hoover’s Online, a Dun & Bradstreet subsidiary,
offers corporate profiles for United States and international companies. Search by
company name, executive name, and industry. Obtain a business profile with financial
information such as income, balance sheets, news, and analysis. More detailed information
is available for a fee. Go to Lexis also offers Dun & Bradstreet
business reports online.
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The PRARS site is a handy place to look for companies’ annual reports.
Public Register’s Annual Report Service (PRARS) provides free access to a database of
3,600 public companies. Using a form on the site, you can request annual reports to be
sent to you by mail for no charge. Go to There’s also
another version of the site,, which links to
companies’ websites where you can access their annual reports and other documents.
The Vault is a career management site that claims to offer insider information on
companies and law firms using insider contacts and associate surveys. The Vault offers
detailed information about companies, work cultures, company snapshots and profiles, and
message boards. Access to most information requires a subscription. Go to http://www.vaul You can also glean first-hand information about what it’s like to work for certain
companies by visiting sites like Indeed ( and Glassdoor (https://ww and reading what current and former employees have to say.
Step Three—Read SEC Filings
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Public companies are regulated by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and
are therefore required to make certain public filings disclosing company financial
information. Many of these reports are easily retrievable on the Internet for free. The
EDGAR Database of Corporate Information is offered by the SEC and has a searchable
database of public company filings and financial information. Note that only the header
information in each document is searchable. Go to, or go
to and click on the Filings tab or Company Filings (under the search
Morningstar is a financial research site that offers SEC filings, financial rankings, stock
performance, and company snapshots. Some information requires a subscription. You can
search by company name or ticker symbol, or do a keyword search if you’re unsure of a
company’s name. Go to
Step Four—Discover Lawsuits
Commercial online resources, such as Lexis Advance and Westlaw, provide the best
coverage for case law and lawsuits regarding companies; however, there are sources for
this type of information on the Internet. If client costs aren’t an issue, try the commercial
databases first because they’ll save you time. Otherwise, turn to the Internet to see if the
information is available for free or for less of a charge than commercial databases. The
case law coverage on the Internet can be incomplete, so you may end up using the
commercial databases anyway. Search the following databases by company name for
information about lawsuits in which they may be involved.
Many lawyers describe FindLaw as simply the best legal website. Use the search options
under Research the Law to find court opinions and case law. There are also links to state
legal and judicial resources. The databases can be searched by party name, court, and
more. Many of the state resources are maintained outside FindLaw., the Law Library Resource Xchange, offers articles on a variety of legal
research topics. Go to It also offers a docket sheets research guide
with links to federal and state court rules, forms, and docket sheets.
A docket sheet is similar to a table of contents to the legal materials (such
as complaints, answers, briefs, motions) filed with the court in a case. Many
attorneys use the docket sheet to monitor the case progress as well.
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PACER Case Locator
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) offers electronic access to federal
court records and docket sheets. Registration is necessary, and there’s a fee to access
court records (fees under $15 per quarter are waived). Go to The
PACER Case Locator is a national index for United States district, bankruptcy, and
appellate courts. The index allows searches by party name to find out if a person or
company is involved in federal litigation almost anywhere in the nation. The index doesn’t
cover all federal courts, so you must search those courts separately if necessary. There’s
information on the site listing which courts are included in the index. PACER is also great
because it provides a list of individual federal courts and free training on how to use the
Stanford Securities Class Action Clearinghouse is maintained by Stanford Law School, and
bills itself as a place for a “deep and careful look into the workings of class action litigation.”
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Search by party name, stock ticker, court, or keywords. Go to
Step Five—Find News Stories
Another way to find information about a company is to search by company name in news
databases. The links here are a mixed bag of news sources—or, you may have your own
favorite news sites. You may also use an electronic news clipping service to learn more
about the target company.
Popular online financial news sites include:
Bizjournals offers a free searchable keyword archive. Connect to business newspapers for
several cities around the United States. Go to
Excite News is a free electronic news aggregator. Go to
The Wall Street Journal website offers financial news, stock quotes, and links to other
business news sites owned by Dow Jones. Parts of the site require a subscription. Go to htt
Bloomberg: and
CNN Money:
Reuters Business:
Step Six—Discover Regulatory or Congressional Activities
Companies may take an interest in regulatory or legislative developments or become the
subject of action by government agencies. The links and resources below can assist you in
discovering company involvement of this nature.
The Congressional Record reports debate on the floor of Congress. Many times, members
of Congress read a company’s written remarks into the record. Go to https://www.congres
The SEC Enforcement Division offers litigation releases, administrative proceedings,
trading suspension notices, investor alerts, and a keyword search engine. Go to http://ww
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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the largest independent regulator
for all securities firms doing business in the United States. Their website lists disciplinary
actions against brokers going back to 1996. Go to and click the For
Industry Professionals link. The Disciplinary Actions Online Database is in the Quick
Links list on the right. In the Investors section of the site, BrokerCheck lets you search for
a specific person. BrokerCheck displays qualifications, registration and employment
history, and any disciplinary actions taken.
The NHTSA Page
Several government agencies deal with safety and company violations:
The United States Consumer Products Safety Commission lets you find product recalls by
product or company name. Go to
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website offers vehicle
recall information, defective-design issues, automotive safety, information on child safety
seats, and more. Go to
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At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) site, you can discover
companies’ workplace safety violations and government actions against those companies.
Go to and click Data > Data and Statistics. To search for violations
of a specific company, use the Establishment Search link.
Scorecard is a site originally developed by the Environmental Defense Fund. The site has
information regarding major polluters by company name, geographic location, or zip code.
The information hasn’t been updated recently, but it can be useful for researching old
environmental violations. Go to
The United States Patent and Trademark Office database offers a lot of information about
patents and trademarks, including a searchable patent and trademark database. Go to htt
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Exercise: Use of Internet
Throughout this lesson, there will be exercises to check your understanding of what you’ve
just read. Sign on to and retrieve the primary sources using the most
efficient retrieval methods. Then, once you’ve finished, compare your research techniques
with those following the exercise.
1. Locate the company headquarters for Qualcomm.
2. Locate news articles about Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods.
3. Locate an address and phone number for any Joe Smith in California.
4. Locate news articles regarding Jill Barad, Former CEO of Mattel, Inc.
5. Obtain an attorney profile for Gloria Allred in California.
Check Your Technique
1. Search for Qualcomm company headquarters using one or more of the following search
engines: Google, Yahoo, or CEOExpress.
2. Type “Amazon and Whole Foods” in a search engine.
3. Go to one of the White Pages sites mentioned in the text to search for Joe Smith in
4. Type “Jill Barad” in a search engine.
5. Go to and click on the links to find a lawyer or lawyer locator.
Type “Gloria Allred” in the name text boxes and “California” in the States text box to pull
up Allred’s attorney profile.
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Find Court Information
Karen, an Arizona litigation paralegal, was assigned to a new case. The complaint was
filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in California. Karen wasn’t familiar with the
California rules of court, nor with the practices and procedures of the Los Angeles County
Superior Court. In no time, she accessed the Internet and found the website for Los
Angeles County Superior Court. She downloaded the local rules and found forms that she
could use right away in the case. Karen saved herself quite a bit of time by understanding
how to access this information instantly rather than ordering documents and information
over the phone or through the mail.
Many attorneys have multifaceted practices, dealing with cases in different jurisdictions
and courts. The legal team must be familiar with each court, its rules, and the services it
offers to attorneys for case management purposes. These services can include publishing
court forms online, electronic docket sheets and case files, publishing judge profiles, and
electronic court filing. Attorneys rely upon paralegals to do the legwork of finding and
learning the local rules, obtaining and filling out forms, profiling judges, and locating docket
sheets and copies of filed court documents. The Internet is the paralegal’s assistant in
learning more about the courts.
Locate Courts, Local Rules, and Forms
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The State Department Judicial Assistance Website
FindLaw will be one of your mainstays. It offers links to state resources on the Cases and
Codes tab on the main Legal Professionals page. Click on the link for your home state,
and you’ll find state-specific links to primary materials, courts, government directories,
codes and statutes, forms, legal practice materials, and more. This is a good place to start
for research projects out of your home state. You can also use the site to link to your local
courts and get forms and copies of the local rules. If you’re looking for federal materials,
look under the Popular Federal Resources header on the right side of this page. Start
here when you have a broad federal research assignment.
Go to U.S.
State Department site provides country-by-country summaries of rules, treaties, and
resources applicable to most international civil disputes. For example, the site explains
how to serve American service of process on a defendant in Canada or New Zealand, or
how to obtain a…
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