Computers Have All the Answers

Thanks to John Swan , John Swanfor a lead to a mindboggling comment made by Grant Campbell J. (London, Family Court) regarding the proper way (from a costs perspective) of doing legal research. In Biggin v. Maloney For parallel cites.

In reviewing a bill for legal services submitted in respect of an order for costs in Biggin v. Maloney, Grant Campbell J. of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice observed:

“Although some case-law research was necessary, and although Mr.Hopkins did indeed produce several relevant and persuasive cases… I cannot understand how Mr.Hopkins could invest 10 1⁄2 hours obtaining and reading the essence of those cases. Surely in this electronic age, Mr.Hopkins would perform the same task that I, or any other legally trained person, would and “click”the word “mobility”into the Quicklaw website. His computer would then have given him the relevant case-law.”

John commented:

The context of the publicity suggests that this expresses a valid viewpoint. Had Mr. Hopkins done what the judge said he should have done, he would have obtained 2,048 hits. What does he do now? Had he even quickly skimmed those cases not only would he have incurred horrendous QL charges but it would have taken him many more hours than he charged to find the needle in that haystack.

If this is how trial judges think that research shoud be done, the standard of judgments and argument can only fall.

While I’m not surprised that my students sometimes have such touching (and misplaced faith) in the ability of computers to do legal researchIn fairness to Judge Grant Campbell, his own views on the importance of legal research, are both salutary and well-expressed, it seems odd to have a judge believing in the magic boxes.


  1. I can vouch for Justice Campbell – he was a visiting judge at UVic Law for 2004/2005 and talked about legal research in a number of classes, including mine.

    I think he is right about the 10.5 hours spent doing research. The comment about simply “clicking the mouse” to do online research sounds simplistic, but I think Justice Campbell has a better understanding of the importance of effective legal research in advocacy than the comment indicates.

    See the following cases which were cited to the class about the importance of legal research:

    Glebe Sugar Refining [1921] WN 85 at 86 (HL)
    Gibb v. Jiwan [1996] OJ no 1370
    Mercieca v. Mercieca 2003 CanLii 2184 (On. S. C.)

    I believe Justice Campbell’s comment has to do with the proper relationship between research and analysis – the lawyer should be competent enough that research time doesn’t outweigh analysis time.

    By the way, Grant and I are not related – although Campbells do tend to stick together in a clannish manner.