Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Research Skills Pay Big Dividends

research skills pay big dividendsOne way to score points in your next interview is by showing off your skills in the law library.

It may not sound sexy, but it could make you indispensable to prospective employers.

According to this recent ABA technology survey, lawyers spend an average of 20 percent of their work time doing legal research. Every one of them would love to have that load taken off their shoulders.

Why not you? Here are three ways to turn your research experience into a paid gig.

1. Do It Better

First, you need to know how lawyers conduct their research. Here’s where they go when they’re starting a new research project, according to the survey:

  • Thirty-eight (38) percent begin with a commercial, fee-based resource.
  • Thirty-seven (37) percent start with a free, general search engine such as Google or Bing.
  • Fourteen (14) percent use a bar-sponsored research service such as Fastcase or Casemaker.

How to turn this data to your advantage? By being familiar with the products available in the marketplace. By being able to discuss the pros and cons of each. And by showing interviewers you are proficient in both free and fee research.

2. Do It Cheaper

Next, you need to know what they are researching. This is important, the survey shows, because lawyers use different resources for different types of research.

For example, 80 percent use free sites for general news. By contrast, 55 percent use fee-based services to research case law.

Here are the leading topics that are most likely to be researched on free sites, along with the percentage of lawyers who do so:

  • Corporations and corporate status (70 percent)
  • Experts (48 percent)
  • Federal administrative/regulatory/executive (43 percent)
  • Judges (54 percent)
  • Jury verdicts/settlements (29 percent)
  • Lawyers (77 percent)
  • Legal forms (44 percent)
  • Legal news (73 percent)
  • Practical guidance (35 percent)
  • Public records (71 percent)
  • State legislation/statutes (45 percent)
  • State administrative/regulatory/executive (48 percent)
  • State legislation/statutes (51 percent)

And here are topics generally researched on fee-based platforms:

  • Federal case law (55 percent)
  • Federal legislation/statutes (44 percent)
  • Law reviews/legal periodicals (40 percent)
  • Legal citators (44 percent)
  • Legal treatises/secondary materials (46 percent)
  • State case law (54 percent)

Can some of the questions in the latter, fee-based category be answered just as easily through a free service? If so, tell your interviewer. Demonstrate that you’ll bring value to the firm on day one.

3. Do It Better

Ask what research products the firm is currently using. Offer a critique of each. Suggest other options.

This may require a bit of homework. But don’t be shy. You’ll be going in with generational credibility. You’re likely to know as much or more than your interviewer about topics from Google maps to legal apps.

And don’t just tell them you enjoy legal research. Show them. For example, let’s say you’re interviewing at a litigation firm. What if – in addition to your resume - you bring in a list of websites, blogs and discussion forums on settlements and verdicts? Maybe the firm already knows about these resources. If so, no harm.

But maybe it doesn’t. In that case, you will be golden.


Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual.


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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