How far are lawyers/ advocates/ law students /academic lawyers equipped to undertake legal research? How are their research skills comparable to researchers with a medical science, social science or humanities backgrounds? What pitfalls await the new researcher and can these be avoided or addressed through careful planning? These are indeed very difficult questions, which has an answer only when we know the real nature of legal research.
The relationship between law and real life is like walking on two feet, because one can steadily move in a certain direction only when both feet work in synchrony. It is not always important whether the law or reality takes the first step; it is important to have a steady orientation. And, of course, one foot should not push too far ahead when the other is faltering, as that would mean moving in a circle.
Legal research may be carried out for varied reasons. Some use it to identify the sources of law applicable to understanding a legal problem, and then find a solution to the problem that has been identified. It is apparent that practising lawyers are expected to conduct factual and legal research in an effective manner because of long term implications on their clients.
Every law school offers instruction on legal research to equip students with skills of identifying the sources of law and relevant legal materials, and advanced methodology courses to support not only postgraduate students but also those writing dissertations in later undergraduate years. Undeniably legal research is a complex business, and it is not merely a search for information, it is primarily a struggle of understanding a peculiar case in legal perspective.
Both Juniors/Seniors, In-house/out-house practitioners, academic /practising lawyers, are required to think deeply about information recovered and discovered and what are the best methods of collecting, analysing, and presenting information and data. In many respects, strong legal research and writing skills are fundamental tools for legal practice of research.
It is apparent that legal research is comprehensive and directed towards conclusions, whereas practising lawyers are accountable to their clients who seek their professional advice and knowledge on the matter of legal rules, authorities and procedures. Thus, the way all cadre of lawyers see the meaning of law and legal research is diverse. Nonetheless, in order to advance legal research, students, all cadre of lawyers are requested to be open-minded and flexible in terms of choosing the best method of understanding and investigating a matter of concern.