How to Conduct Legal Research for Non-Lawyers

by screwlords on July 7, 2012

  • Sumo

(US law and generally) Having a legal problem doesn’t always have to be a daunting experience, but if you are a non-lawyer / layman without a grasp of basic laws, a simple legal concern may trouble you and leave you in panic. If you know the basic legal rules applicable to your case, you may be able to prevent conflict or can resolve any existing conflict.

A few tips given here can help you to walk through your legal problem and seek a favourable solution to it. A good research to any legal problem requires finding all the references and written information about the issues related to a case. You need not always require to do the research only to handle your case on your own, but also to see that how your lawyer is proceeding with the case, and is there any other better way to do the same.

Legal Research: Getting Started

  • Understand the Question: Before you begin your research, understand the question or your legal problem. You also need to determine the jurisdiction that can be applicable to your case. Understand about which government agency or court will address your legal issue. Based on the jurisdiction, the testimonials, legal research will change.

While referring to legal material and constitution, you will need to have a fair idea about the citations and abbreviations given in the legal books. Usually, law books are cited with volume number, book name, and page number in respective order. Hence, if you come across a term 419, U.S. 145, it refers to the volume number 419 of the United States Reports, page number 145. Just like law books, even statutes are cited with the mention of statute title followed by the section number. For e.g. 47 U.S.C. & 1987 refers to statute title 47 of the United States Code and section number 1987.


  • Public Libraries: Some public libraries have some codes, self-help materials, and legal texts to start with your legal research.
  • Internet: various legal information institutes have their website with all relevant information about the U.S. Codes and Statutes. You can refer to these sites for information about your legal concern.

There are other online resources such as public library of law, public resources page by the American Bar Association, and web legal research.

Legal Material to Refer

  • Self Help Books: Some court clerks or legal aid offices publish instructions and information about legal forms, etc., and make it available at public libraries or other book stores. Non-lawyers can refer to these kits and books to get help for routine matters.
  • Legal Encyclopedia: Many states in the United States, provide legal encyclopedia that provides information about the state laws applicable to a particular legal topic. The information given in the books will also contain a few footnotes that can further lead you to various legal sources to refer to get information on your topic.
  • Articles and Blogs: You can also search for legal articles and blogs written by experienced lawyers, which is published commercially. Some reviews and legal articles written by law firms and law schools can be useful to you. Look for the relevant subject to your legal concern and refer to the article, review or blog to get a better understanding of your legal problem and the manner you can resolve the same.

All types of lawyers have to do intense legal research to handle a legal problem for their clients. However, being a non-lawyer, you may feel the need to get a brief idea about the legal constitution and rules applicable to your case. If you wish to do a little legal research to help your lawyer and understand your case better, follow the above given tips. This will help you analyse the progress of your case and verify its outcome.

This article is from Lords Screw, a writer and guest blogger in topics related to Lawyers. He currently writes for

Lords Screw is a writer. He loves to write Health, Medical Questions and Answers, Different Types Of Lawyers, Thanksgiving Day, Shoes and Sneakers, Resumes, etc., relating articles. Come and say hello to him on Twitter @screwlords.

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