A Great Research Tip for Law Students and New Lawyers

 cooney_markProfessor Mark Cooney teaches Research and Writing and Advanced Writing at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.  He is editor-in-chief of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, having previously served as an associate editor for four years. He has chaired the State Bar of Michigan’s Appellate Practice Section and has served as a plain-language consultant on the State Bar’s Standing Committee on Standard Criminal Jury Instructions. He is also a founding board member of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society’s Advocates Guild.

So, you have received your first research assignment.  But the issue you are to research doesn’t look like any you studied in law school.  You want to do a good job on the assignment, but you also don’t have all day and night to do it.  Maybe you’re not sure where or how to begin.


Well, Professor Cooney has published an article called Treatises: Let the Experts Serve You in the October 2014 edition of Student Lawyer, published by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association.

In his article, he advises:  “don’t reinvent the wheel.”  Almost surely, someone more experienced on the topic than you has had a matter just like yours.  And maybe starting your research with a search across the case law is not the best way to begin as you can easily focus on cases that are outdated or miss larger issues you haven’t thought of.

Rather, try starting with a good treatise on the topic.  After all, it’s published by someone who not only knows a lot about the topic but who also has the incentive to research thoroughly and report with care. The author is already an expert.  So take advantage of that expertise.

Read Professor Cooney’s article and tell us what you think by leaving a comment below.

See us on the web at wmich.edu/law

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Filed under About Cooley Law School, History, Faculty Scholarship, Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, The Value of a Legal Education

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