I'm fortunate enough in my firm to practice with several other lawyers in the same research practice group. We've learned over the years the value of collaboration, which usually takes the form of either "open door" discussions or our monthly meetings where we share news, frustrations, current work and workload issues. In hopes these discussions may be of interest to other researchers who often practice in isolation, I'm summarizing some of the issues dealt with recently (below) and welcome anyone to contact me directly if you wish to follow up in more detail:
- Commercial Databases – tips and gripes
- On a monthly basis, we share idiosyncrasies, problems and new resources, largely on the "new Quicklaw", and Westlaw eCarswell; one of us then takes on the task of contacting the vendor with respect to the problems that need fixing
- examples of recent problems:
* we've discovered that some of the databases on the new QL have a narrower coverage or scope than the databases with the same name on the old QL;ie. don't assume you know what's in a QL database by its name;
* WeC: There have been problems printing out paragraphs from the C.E.D.
- Knowledge Management
- Our firm, like many others, is pursuing its KM strategy, which the research group is interested in, and which will be integral to its implementation
- Costs of Electronic Research
- There are issues over this, as some lawyers have a perception that electronic research is too expensive and desire to contain the costs; it does not occur on most files and seems connected to particular lawyers; a decision was made to "educate" those lawyers, and the firm in general, about the need for electronic research on most issues, but also ensure other resources are also consulted – quality product is the goal.
- Over the last few years our group has become more involved in the review process for articling and summer students. We usually meet as a group to evaluate the students. Because we often answer research questions from students and review their work (memoranda, etc.) we are able to comment on their work individually and as they fit into the group as a whole. By comparing comments, we can sometimes see a trend in the student's research skills, habits, or lack thereof. For example, some students are not familiar to any of us, in which case we follow up to determine whether there are legitimate reasons for this. The students submit a detailed Research Plan with their memos, which give us a good indication of their skills and quality of work. Our comments are part of the review process and much valued by the Student Committee.
- Current Research, Non-Billable Projects and Workload
These discussions are extremely helpful, and sometimes we have found we are working
on similar issues, and can pick each other's brains. The non-billable work may involve preparing papers for journals or conferences, or being part of a legal text with other firm lawyers. It is always useful to know what your colleagues are working on and building a specialty in, and we can refer work to each other, eg. one of us specializes in damages, another in limitations law, and another in corporate issues such as director and officers' liability.