Using Resources Differently

Legal literature studies show that lawyers usually read texts in chunks, finding the specific section that is relevant to the issue they are researching, and ignoring the rest. The finding aids (Table of Contents and Index) are invaluable in determining which part of the text is important.

There’s another way to discover relevant information, by applying critical thinking to the content. For instance, a frequent visitor to the library told me that in reviewing one of our e-books, Prosecuting and Defending Drug Cases: A Practitioner’s Handbook, he realized Ch. 2, Bail Hearings in Drug Cases was applicable to almost all bail hearings. This is good information for me to be able to pass on to others, especially when I don’t have another text solely on bail to rely on.

In my own law firm experience, I would often receive requests for information on easements. The leading text on real property law, Anger and Honsberger: Law of Real Property has a section on easements in Ch. 17. We had an electronic library catalogue which included the table of contents, but wasn’t detailed enough to capture this section, so I added a note indicating this text had a significant chapter on easements. That way, if you did a search of the catalogue with the keyword “easements”, it would come to the top.

Book reviews are another source of information, particularly in subjects I’m not familiar with. Reviewers typically describe not only the content but the format of the book from a personal perspective that can resonate with me. For instance, in this review of The Fundamentals of Statutory Interpretation Erica Anderson, Manager, Digital and Web Content at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, comments that she recently attended a hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada and:

was amazed to hear the judges and lawyers separately mention or quote the modern principle of statutory interpretation in their arguments, questions, and comments. In particular, an SCC judge commented that they had looked at the second reading of Hansard and committee debates for indication of legislative intent.

2019 CLLR 44-3, p. 27

The hardest part for me is retaining these little nuggets for the next time someone asks for a resource on that particular subject.

How do you use resources differently?

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