Legal Research on Real Estate Law
Today, more so than ever before, non-lawyers have occasion to conduct legal research. A question involving real estate law may provide such an opportunity. The process can be quite daunting. A few tips to help a non-lawyer get started on legal research are as follows:
Identify the Issue
At the outset of any legal research project, it is important to have a clear understanding of the issue or question. Some sample issue formulations are as follows:
- How do I find out what my obligation is with regard to maintaining a fence?
- Is there any prohibition against my placing a neon sign on the storefront of my business?
- Is my property zoned for a home-based business?
The federal government and the states have their own statutes. In addition, administrative agencies issue regulations. In order to perform effective legal research, a researcher must determine which law the issue involves. Sometimes both federal and state law are applicable. And, in the absence of a statute or a regulation, the answer to a legal question may lie in decisions that have been rendered by courts.
The topic of legal research is generally covered in a one-year course during the first year of law school. In the years of training that follow, lawyers have many opportunities to hone their legal research skills. Indeed, there is a lot to learn! A non-lawyer may wish to begin by asking for assistance from a law librarian. With an issue statement formulated and an idea of the applicable jurisdiction, a non-lawyer will be in a good position to describe to a law librarian what it is he or she is looking for. Self-help books or kits on legal research may also be useful.
In conducting legal research, it is important to look at the most current version of any legal resource. When the same result comes up again and again, it is likely that a stopping point has been found.
After working to resolve a legal issue, a non-lawyer may determine that it is necessary to contact a lawyer for additional assistance. The lawyer referral service of a local bar association is a good source of information about lawyers in a particular area. Furthermore, attorney listings are available online at: www.martindale.com.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.