Analysis in Legal Research
But analysis is inherent to the legal research process. Using the 4-step legal research process to find relevant information requires that the researcher has the ability to analyze the law to select the material that will aid in their arguments.
Legal research is inevitably a back-and-forth process. The researcher starts with secondary sources to get a better understanding of the cause of action. The researcher moves onto the codified law to understand what needs to be analyzed in light of the facts of the case. The researcher then continues with binding and persuasive precedent to craft arguments by comparing facts and analogizing or distinguishing from case precedent.
A researcher cannot begin to know what types of binding and persuasive precedent to find without analysis. And this analysis must be part of the discussion in any legal research course.
Many legal research courses teach the mechanics of finding certain types of content without focusing on the analysis that works to bridge the "knowledge in action gap." This means that the research becomes disconnected from the analysis while in law school, but it is very much connected in practice. And practicing lawyers are left to bridge this gap themselves when they should be prepared, instead, to hit the ground running.
The creative analysis that is required during competent legal research also means that legal research will be difficult to automate. Sure, some types of legal research could be automated for efficiency. But when it comes to searching case precedent to make creative legal arguments for clients, a machine is just not capable of that level of deep thinking.
As law librarians design courses for AY2017-18, please keep the very important analysis portion in mind. To that end, see a previous post on selecting a case to cite.