Free Sources of Legal Research – an Analogy

Next week I have the delight of presenting a session about free legal research to a clinic of the U Alberta Law School titled Low Income Individuals and the Law. A very collaborative team led by Professor Cathy Bell is responsible for this clinic and it is great fun to participate. My annual presentation update coincided with some renovations at Chez Mireau – no surprise – and as usual my handy work allowed me to ponder the brain work. My thesis: carpet removal, as a project, shares some analogies with legal research using free sources.


This particular renovation, one of several simultaneous projects, is turning my youngest daughter’s bedroom (she is a grown up and now living independently) into a guest room. Requirements – a through clean, new paint, flooring, and furniture. A touch up really. Additional requirements – a schedule for the work based on a deadline for completion as well as garbage pickup day, a few tools, and some decisions.

Paint colours were previously selected as a whole house palette and the paint was in the basement awaiting application. Furniture arrives on Wednesday and Thursday, elder daughter to assist with toting and assembly on her day off with Mommy visit. Flooring was a finger cross. The current Chez Mireau is a 1955 bungalow that had 90s white carpet throughout most of the main floor which we peeked under prior to purchase and saw reasonably decent hardwood. This morning was hardwood unveiling – the carpet being so ugly that it was left as painter drop cloth. Tuesday afternoon is also garbage day.

An analogy of carpet removal to legal research using free sources.

1. There is little cost outlay for tools to do the work
2. There will be some results of the project that are garbage
3. There are several steps
4. What is revealed may be usable, partly usable, or unusable.


Only a few tools are required for carpet removal.

Garbage can small pry-bar and box cutter and bag, hammer, side cutters,

Carpet removal tools

For free sources of legal research you need a library access card (to your local law society library or university law library is best), a computer with an internet connection that will take you to CanLII, CanLII Connects, Google Scholar, Duhaime’s Legal Dictionary, and the Best Guide to Legal Research and other websites that prove useful and interesting. Just a few tools.


With carpet removal there is garbage. The carpet itself may be garbage unless you cut it into strips so that your car can drip on it in the new garage next winter. The underlay is definitely garbage. When underlay is installed it is stapled to the flooring below. The staples, once removed, are garbage. The final bit of garbage is the smooth edge – a nailing strip that has nasty spiky bits that hold the carpet next to the wall that is also nailed down to the floor. Sharp annoying spikey, garbage that also usually results in band-aid packaging garbage.

Free sources of legal research (costly ones also) contain results that will not answer your question – garbage.


Carpet removal starts with the carpet, then the underlay, then staples and smooth edge. Those steps all come after taking off the baseboards also and in my project, painting the ceiling, walls and window trim. Carpet removal, creating garbage, is best done in reasonable proximity to garbage collection day.

Legal Research (free or otherwise) has a predicted pattern for success. See more at the Best Guide to Legal Research or your favourite legal research process text for a refresher. It is always good to follow recognized research steps for best results. You don’t need to do this on garbage collection day.


Carpet removal at Chez Mireau happily resulted in good enough hardwood floors that we don’t need to address changing them for some years. Being prepared for different results was important – to the project timeline and pocketbook.

Legal Research using free sources may end up only being a starting point. Results that are available in fee-based sources are still occasionally more authoritative and they may also take less time to reveal. Being prepared to alter the project timeline and inject funds is wise.

See you next time Slawyers!

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