Legal research and writing are basic skills that all attorneys need to master, as they are the foundation for being a good lawyer. Becoming a master researcher just takes a whole lot of practice and hours spent researching various topics. Electronic research is now second nature to most attorneys, but don’t discount the utility of the books in the firm’s law library. Secondary sources are a great place to start, and browsing through the index can give you an idea of other research avenues to pursue.
Once you have started integrating your research into whatever you are writing (be it a motion or a memo to a partner) make sure you do a citation check to ensure you are citing good law. Imagine if you found the perfect case on point and gave it to the partner with whom you are working. He or she is going to assume that you have done a citation check ensuring what you found is still good law. If you fail to do a basic citation check on every case you cite, you run the risk of making a major blunder, which, depending on the situation, could be grounds for malpractice.
A citation check is easy to do in an online program like Westlaw. Shepard’s Citations is also available online. If you do not have access to these online programs in your office, many county or regional law libraries have them available for free. So there really is no excuse for you not to do a citation check on every case you cite. It is a good habit to get into.
Another good habit to get into is always having someone proofread your pleading before filing it. If it is full of mistakes and typographical errors, the judge will subconsciously—if not consciously—discount your arguments and be more likely to rule against you. This is especially true if you have failed to do a citation check and are relying on overruled case law.