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Researching in the Law Firm Environment: What Law Firm Librarians Want You to Know

Resources and advice curated by Keslie Kandt, Research Librarian, at Davis Graham and Stubbs LLP in Denver, Colorado.

Recommendations of Summer Associate

These recommendations are particularly applicable to summer associates receiving assignments from attorneys for the first time, but theses can be applicable to associates generally as well.

Before you start, take this quiz: The Top 10 Things Firm Librarians Wish Summer Associates Knew  (Click here to find answers to the quiz.)

The following is some advice for interviewing an attorney about an assignment:

Questions to ask and steps to take when you receive a research assignment

Questions to ask the assigning attorney:

  • What is the larger context for the assignment? Please give me some background on how this matter arose and where things currently stand. What is the client's ultimate goal? (TIP: Don't be intimidated when asking these questions...you and the assigning attorney share the same objective of achieving the client's goals. Context helps!)
  • What are we trying to accomplish with this specific research assignment? How will my research findings fit into our overall strategy?
  • Can you suggest specific resources that would be a helpful starting point for this research? (This would include treatises, recent articles, regulations, other attorneys who have knowledge on this subject/have written memos on this in the past, etc.)
  • Are there sample agreements, motions, briefs, or other documents to use as a model for this assignment? (This will make you appear efficient, not lazy.)
  • Am I permitted to use Westlaw or Lexis for this research? If so, do you suggest a limit on the amount of time or cost incurred using these resources?
  • How much time would you estimate I should spend on this project? How should I proceed if I believe that the project will take longer than this estimate?
  • Are there any known obstacles for this assignment such as scheduling or budget?
  • What is the deadline for me to provide my work product to you?
  • In what format would you like to receive the results? Memo, stack of cases, electronic documents, formatted for mobile, etc.
  • What is the best way to contact the assigning attorney?  VM, email, appointment?

Steps to take:

  • Restate the assignment (via email).
  • Discuss the project with a librarian for suggestions on resources.
  • Develop a research plan.
  • Document your work; keep list of sources checked and what was found.
  • Shepardize/Keycite primary law (cases and statutes).

Other resources​​​

Lexis Prepare to Practice Program

The Prepare to Practice Program is designed to help summer associates master the practical skills they need to arrive ready on day one of employment. 

Colorado Supreme Court Library research resources

Links to Colorado and federal case opinions, statutes, and rules are organized by judicial, executive and legislative branch.

FDsys tutorials

An online repository of federal government publications including the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Congressional bills, hearings and documents, Federal Register, the U.S. Code and more.

Govinfo.gov tutorials

A newer, more streamlined, and user-friendly version of FDSys that is currently in Beta testing with the Government Printing Office (GPO).

HeinOnline tutorials

Training videos for the different facets of HeinOnline's many databases and resources, including searching by citation, printing and downloading documents, creating e-TOC alerts and more.

Legal Research Corner  

A quarterly column in The Colorado Lawyer written by Colorado Association of Law Libraries members on legal research topics, many times addressing Colorado legal research specifically.

Tips for Summer Success

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