Back to the Future of Legal Research

Symposium held at Chicago-Kent College of Law on May 18, 2007.

How can law schools stay abreast of the rapid changes in legal research techniques, and how can they best pass this knowledge on to their students? This was the topic of a symposium held at Chicago-Kent College of Law on May 18, 2007 titled “Back to the Future of Legal Research”.

One interesting symposium presentation highlighted the major points of a 2007 survey of Chicago area practitioners and presented their suggestions for the future of legal research training. Due to the growing costs of subscription databases and the additional problem of firms needing to write off fee-based research costs because new lawyers do not know how to use Lexis or Westlaw efficiently, there appears to be a growing request amongst the surveyed practitioners for more law school training on how to navigate various free online resources. The Chicago area survey results indicate that approximately 33% of new attorneys are able to use fee-based online resources efficiently prior to in-house training whereas only 19% of new attorneys are able to use free online resources prior to training.

The practitioners’ most frequent suggestions for future legal research training include the following: continue to teach print legal resources; focus more on teaching about free online resources; and focus legal research training on constructing better, more targeted online searches. A copy of the results of this survey, as well as the handouts from the other symposium presentations can be found at

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