Daily routine in the trenches of an active legal research practice affords little time for exploring technological innovations in the legal field. Alas, I am therefore often left in the dark even after reading posts on Slaw about such technology. I’ve confessed my confusion and ignorance to Simon F, and he has responded by encouraging me to give a different perspective on issues that surround legal research and technology.
I acknowledge that much of the research I do can be, and often is, conducted by searching online legal databases, as well as internet sites and search engines. In particular, the availability of law from other jurisdictions, both case law and legislation, has increased remarkably over the past ten years, improving the quality of our own research product in Canada. It also wasn’t that long ago that the librarians in our firm and elsewhere were debating whether legal publishers would continue to develop CD-ROM products or would convert to internet-based applications.
However, the urgency that often accompanies requests for research, and the demands of the billable hour combined with the many non-billable tasks that end up in the research group, leave little time for the interesting, but not immediately applicable, intricacies of emerging technology. The majority of my day is still spent reading, thinking, and writing, rather than in front of my computer.
It may be of interest to those of you who do not practice research law, that the textbooks and loose leaf editions, and yes, even the hard copy of the encyclopedias and Words & Phrases, are still used on a daily basis. Browsing and musing are still essential research skills that extend one’s searching and analysis outside of the box, compared to the narrowness of online searching. We need to understand the scope and limitations of the technological tools available to us, but the focus, at least in my practice, remains on the substantive law and its application to the factual circumstances and needs of the client, who is paying for the research and resulting product, whether it’s a factum, brief, opinion letter or memorandum of law.
I would be interested to know if other research lawyers’ experiences are similar to mine, in relation to keeping current with technological innovations. I enjoy reading the posts on Slaw immensely and thank those who contribute regularly. I suspect many of us are kindred spirits as we bemoan the shrinking hard copy libraries, public and private, while at the same time enjoy the efficiencies that the digital world offers. Without Slaw, I would be even more hopelessly behind in what’s happening in technology and law. Thank you, all, for keeping the rest of us informed!