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Legal Research

Non-lawyers tend to have misconceptions about legal research and are overwhelmed at all the various type of law books. Legal research takes time, there is lots of note taking and rarely is all the needed information in one place.

From Legal Research Made Easy, the following is a summary of steps for effective legal research:

1. Formulate a clear idea of what information you need.
2. Think of all possible words and phrases that describe the research topic.
3. Decide whether the case involves federal law, state law or both.
4. Decide whether you are dealing with civil or criminal law.
5. Check the library for books on the area of the law you need to research.
6. Find any statute(s) pertaining to your issue.
7. Find any case(s) relevant to your issue.
8. Look up the cases in the reporters.
9. Make note of any headnotes that seem particularly relevant.
10. Shepardize any relevant cases to your situation.

Check the Legal Research Summary guide for more information on each step.

Library Resources
Legal research: how to find and understand the law - Learn how to use legal resources, how to explore online resources and how to seek and understand statutes, regulations, and cases.

Represent yourself in court : how to prepare & try a winning case - Breaks down the trial process into easy-to-understand steps so that you can act as your own lawyer -- safely and efficiently.

Criminal law handbook : know your rights, survive the system - An easy-to-understand manual that gives you exactly what goes on in a criminal case.

Other Resources
Legal Services of Missouri - Provides free legal representation to low income clients in a number of civil legal problems.

Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association - Offers a local lawyer referral service with 50 categories to choose from.

The Missouri Bar - Gives insightful information and an individualized lawyer referral for a small fee.

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