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Cost-Effective Electronic Legal Research: General Guidelines

  • Find out the research budget for your project.
  • If you’re not familiar with the area of law in question, find one or more secondary sources to get grounded in the language and basics. See the Ohio Secondary Legal Research Guide for books available at the Franklin County Law Library,
  • Plan, and physically write out, your search strategy. Define your issue(s) and jurisdiction(s), as well as the types of documents needed.  Pick out keywords for electronic searching or searching a print index.
  • Use your firm’s library, as well as other accessible law libraries, such as the Franklin County Law Library.  Does the public library have useful databases available remotely, such as Gale Legal Forms, at the Columbus Metropolitan Library's website? If so, all you need is a library card with CML to access them.
  • Find out what databases (i.e. LexisNexis, Westlaw) your employer provides.  Get training and a password under your employer's contract.  Find out the terms of the database contract. What files are available? Do you pay by transaction or time?   More on this in the LexisNexis / Westlaw section of this guide.
  • Use Internet search services, but be critical in your review of search results.   
  • Keep a research log so you can retrace your steps.
  • Know when to stop researching. Are you starting to find the same items and analyses?   Do you really need every possible case, statute, regulation, treatise, or periodical article?
  • Update your research at the time you find items, and again when you’re finalizing your memo or brief.  Set up an Alert  so you will be emailed any new results.