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Legal Research

Learn how to prepare for a career in the legal research field.

Legal research can be a truly time consuming endeavor. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Legal research can be a truly time consuming endeavor.

Legal research consultants conduct research and gather information for clients, such as businesses, law firms, colleges and government agencies. Legal research consultants usually have at least a bachelor's degree in legal research or professional studies. Since law is a large and complex field, legal research consultants often choose a specialty.

Preparing for a Career in Legal Research

Legal research involves the study of previous court cases and legal precedents in order to apply them to current cases. Earning a degree in legal research or professional studies is one way to enter the field. A bachelor's degree program in legal research includes coursework in the history of law and basic legal concepts. During a degree program, students also sharpen their analytical thinking skills and learn how to write legal documents. When selecting a university or college for legal research, a prospective student should find out what specializations the school offers because these vary from school to school.

Specializations may include:

• Environmental law
• Labor law
• Corporate law
• Tax law
• Criminal law
• Patent law
• Immigration law
• Property law

Some individuals move into legal research consulting from a closely related field. For example, paralegals, whose jobs already involve legal research, may become consultants. The National Association of Legal Assistants reports that one percent of paralegals are self-employed consultants.

Lawyers may also become legal research consultants, but so might individuals with professions in the fields of medicine, business, insurance, engineering or chemistry. With a background in one of these fields, an individual may choose to participate in a legal certificate program or obtain a degree in legal studies. Some universities offer a paralegal post-baccalaureate certificate, while others offer a master's degree in legal research.

Types of Legal Research Consultants

Legal research consultants tend to specialize in one particular area of law. Their work may be used in a variety of areas related to legal practice, including litigation, preventative law, regulatory compliance or transactional work. For instance, some legal researchers specialize in intellectual property. Much of their work centers on trademark and patent laws, brand protection, trademark infringement and legal marketing research. Legal research consultants may also be involved in research on deceptive or false advertising and advertising comprehension.

Medical research consultants are well-versed in medical literature. Experienced health care providers or individuals with a medical degree may become legal research consultants after enrolling in a short program to gain the legal knowledge and skills necessary to complement their medical background. Medical research consultants may provide their services to lawyers, insurance companies, or medical professionals who are involved in lawsuits or who want research to inform their policies..

Other research consultants may conduct background checks for attorneys. They need to know about the applicable laws for each case, as well as the best avenues for obtaining information on an individual's legal charges, court appearances, arrests, employment, driver's license record, corporate information, credit history and professional licensures. Tax law consultants are knowledgeable in areas, such as the tax consequences of business mergers and acquisitions; the taxes involved in property transfer; and how federal income tax provisions apply to nontaxable institutions, such as hospitals, universities and nonprofit organizations.

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