Legal Research: 7 stages etc.
Doctrinal – solving legal problems (MOST COMMON)
o Systematic exposition, analysis and critical evaluation of legal rules and their
o The conceptual basis of legal rules and principles
Law reform and policy (out of law school)
o Recommendations for change, based on critical examination
Social science/ empirical research
Legal Problem solving (IRAC)
1) Identifying legal issues from facts
2) Identifying legal rules/authorities, relevant to issues
3) Applying legal authorities to facts/issues
4) Reaching conclusion
7 Steps of Research Method (not linear but cynical)
1) Fact identification
2) Background reading
3) Issue identification
4) Search term
5) Plan your research
6) Perform research
7) Communicate research results
Fact identification (how parties relate)
Identify key facts in your problem
Do some background reading with
2) Issue identification
Frame issues as questions
Make the questions party specific and fact specific
Sub issues (kind of like the elements)
3) Generate search terms
Identify key words, phrases, legal subject areas, case titles and legislative provisions.
Use a tool – eg: Statskys cartwheel
5 – 6) Plan and perform research
3 way searching – Subject, Legislation, Cases.
3. Subject or topic searching
Useful where you know little about area of law
Finds background reading in secondary sources such as loose leafs, journal articles,
2. Legislation searching Used to locate the relevant legislation and to use the annotations to check if up to date
To see if there is any material explaining how the Act is meant to operate eg finding the
Explanatory Memorandum or Hansard, or if there are any cases adjudicating on its meaning
3. Case searching
Here, you already know a key case in the area.
The aim is to locate other cases on the topic e.g. using a digest; or
To see if the case you know about has been discussed or referred to by a later case (i.e. has it
been judicially considered) – for this task, use case citator‘s.
S – subject matter
H – Harm
A – Actors involved
R – Remedy/ relief
P – Policy considerations
I – Issue
R – Rule
A – Application
C – Conclusion
I – Issue
S – State law
A – Authority
A – Apply
C – Conclude WK1: Tute: Article summary
Journal Article: Is Plagiarism Indicative of Prospective Legal Practice, by Lillian Corbin and Justin
The article by Lillian Corbin and Justin Carter focused on the increasingly pervasive issue of
plagiarism and how it affects law students in Australia today. The authors used one case in particular,
Re Humzy-Hancock, which they continually referred back to. It involved the Honourable Justice
Philip McMurdo and an applicant for admission as a legal practitioner who had been questioned
about his academic misconduct during his law degree. McMurdo found the applicant to have not
―deliberately‖ presented the work of another but ―carelessly‖ done so. Thus according to the Griffith
Law School definition of plagiarism, which McMurdo used, the applicant was not found guilty. The
authors however suggest that this decision was wrong and instead the Supreme Court should have
exercised its inherent jurisdiction over the legal profession to disallow admission. Why? For a number
of reasons, as will be discussed below.
1. Plagiarism is a matter of legal ethics
The authors put forward a number of arguments why the courts should be stricter in their decisions.
Plagiarism really is a matter of morals and is a sign of poor behaviour firstly. Secondly it can
also destroy the reputation of institutions if their students are found guilty. Furthermore they argued
someone who cheats will most likely continue to cheat and will also not pertain the knowledge
necessary to be a competent Australian legal practitioner.
2. Definition of plagiarism
One factor they thought was a cause of the growing problem is that there is no definitive definition of
plagiarism. Law schools have different definitions of which some include the need for there to be
―intent‖. They put forward sources of some courts taking an objective approach to aid in their decision
of acquitting a student of plagiarism and others who took a subjective one. The objective was what
they believed to be the more fairer. It clearly shows students they are entering a culture where
integrity is valued.
3. Plagiarism in legal practice
The authors concluded by discussing the difference between students plagiarising and senior
lawyers using ghost writers, but tackled this argument by saying legal problems do not need
attribution. With this they finished by putting forward the statement that by plagiarising students are
showing disregard for the legal and ethical norms of the academic community and it should not be
Footnote: Lillian Corbin and Justin Carter, ‗Is Plagiarism Indicative of Prospective Legal Practice?‘
(2008) 17 Legal Education Review 15.
Bibliography: Corbin, Lillian and Carter, Justin ‗Is Plagiarism Indicative of Prospective Legal
Practice?‘ (2008) 17 Legal Education Review 15. Lecture: WK 2
Principles of Electronic Research
Ability to cross reference via hypertext
Ability to browse and search
Historical coverage may be better with paper source
A collection of information
Record: one item in a database.
o i.e. Case
Field: A specific piece of information for a record
o i.e. judgment date, court and judges
Some databases are parts of a mega-database!
o Database: Sources i.e. Halsburys Laws of Australia
o Database: Laws of Australia
Boolean operators connect search terms
o ―AND‖ finds both horse and dog
o ―OR‖ finds horse or dog
o ―NOT‖ Finds will find horse but not dog
o W/P within paragraph
o W/15 within 15 words
Stop words words that are not searched
o A, Butm Within, At,
Plurals and capitals
o Ignore capitals
o Boy finds boys, boy‘s, boy
Wildcard/truncation Symbols substitutes
Literal string/phrase search Words as written
o ―power of attorney‖
o Very useful
o Generally left to right Lecture: WK 3
Legal encyclopaedias through mega databases
Law reform commission report
Internet websites i.e. govt websites with govt reports
At the beginning of research cycles, to get legislation and cases
Later to understand primary sources in broader context
Practitioners guide. Summary of area of law
o CCH online
o Commentaries via Legal online & LexisNexis AU
o Access through databases
Concise statements of law on areas
o Give reference to cases
o Organise material by subject, A Z
Laws of Australia By Thomson Reutors on Legal Online
o 16 is title ―evidence‖, 17 subtitle, 15 para.
Halsbury‘s Laws of Australia By Lexis Nexis Butterworth via LexisNexis AU
o Title 280: Medicine, paragraph 500 dealing with surgery
AGIS plus text – Attorney generals information services
o BEST AUS & NZ COVERAGE
ILP – index to legal periodicals
o UK, US, some AUS
o US, some UK and AUS, good international
Mega Databases for journals
Informat for AGIS plus
o 22 full text law journals
o More than 100 overseas and Australian journals. Including Torts Law Journal
o Mega database and free Evaluating Secondary Sources
Reliability, Relevance, Authority, Objectivity
(a) Relevance - Some suggestions (but not limited to):
What is the secondary source about?
What aspect of the problem does this source of law address?
(b) Reliability - Some suggestions (but not limited to):
Is the information provided in the secondary source accurate?
Is the secondary source up to date?
Is the secondary source up to date;
Is the journal being used a ‘refereed’ journal (that is, one which is reviewed by other
(c) Authority - Some suggestions (but not limited to):
What qualifications does the author have?
Is the author acknowledged by other authors in this area?
Does the content discuss the law in Australia or some other jurisdiction?
(d) Objectivity - Some suggestions (but not limited to):
Was the secondary source being relied upon objective and unbiased?
Does the secondary source appear to reflect different points of view? Or does it merely
provide one side of the argument?
Does the discussion refer to work of other authors in this field? Lecture: WK 4
Life of an act
Types of Legislation
Amending Act Legislation that amends the principle act
A Code Brings together statute and case law
Delegated or subordinate legislation
Extrinsic material (wk 6 tute)
S 14B AIA 1954
o Don‘t form part of the act but may be used for interpretation.
o Explanatory memoranda/notes (mndt common)
o Parliamentary consideration (2 reading speeches) (most common)
o Reports of law reform commissions
o Parliamentary committee reports
OQPC use search tab
COMLAW browse by categories or advanced search To locate full text
OQPC Act SL in force tab
COMLAW Acts Current compilations
If state, starts at beginning of da: 15B AIA
If silent, date of assent of that fixed by proclamation: 15A AIA
Do not use ibid, or above.
2 reading speeches
Wicks Subject Index to Commonwealth Legislation indexes Commonwealth Acts, but is only
available in print form.
LawLex is a useful database to use for searching legislation by subject, particularly when you are
unsure if state or Commonwealth legislation applies to a problem. It includes links to the official
AustLII can also be used as another database for searching legislation by subject. However, once
you have located relevant legislation on AustLII, use the official legislation websites to check
legislation currency as AustLII is not always up to date.
A reprint is a version of legislation which combines the original legislation and all amendments to
that legislation that have commenced on or before the day specified in the reprint. In Queensland, the
updating of legislation by reprints is governed by the Reprints Act 1992 (Qld). A consolidation (or
compilation as it is sometimes referred to) is similar, in that the legislation and all subsequent
amendments are combined to show the law as it is, but it lacks the ‗official‘ nature of the reprint.
So the Consolidated Acts, as found in AustLII, are not reprints. However, for updating legislation the
concept is the same. Basically, when looking at legislation, you need to be aware of the currency of
the legislation. Importantly, any amending legislation that was enacted past the reprint or
consolidation date will not be included in the version you are looking at. This can have significant
consequences for your rese