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Beyond basic research: How to become a super sleuth

by Monica Smith

Mar 25, 2021, 12:00 PM.

FIU College of Law offers a research certificate fully online to equip individuals for specialized legal research, regardless of industry.

Rigorous and methodical research is at the heart of courtroom wins and policy changes. It is also a major driving force behind shrewd decisions in the most effective organizations. Despite the incredible importance of research, there is a void in training legal researchers who understand how to wield the newest technology and access new databases. FIU’s College of Law aims to change this with a fully online Advanced Legal Research Certificate .

The Advanced Legal Research Certificate program offers a deep dive on modern sleuthing methods to build strong cases, provides in-depth analysis and helps create effective policy, regardless of industry.
Lisa Davis
Lisa Davis

“It’s all about efficiency,” says Lisa Davis, assistant director for digital initiatives at FIU’s College of Law. She explains that a simple internet search will not return vital information on cases, statutes and state laws. Knowing where to look and how to access digital databases is fundamental.

“Research is the number-one place that law firms lose money, and it can be thousands upon thousands of dollars,” she stresses.

Davis points out that there are specific steps to help leverage all of the data and understand the ways it can be filtered and accessed to get the results needed.

Beyond the basic

Research methods, while taught in law school, usually occur in the first year. By the time a student graduates, those basic skills may be forgotten, and technology may have changed. However, the in-depth program is not just for law school graduates. It’s open to all disciplines and is designed for those who work in Florida as librarians, solo attorneys, paralegals, journalists or anyone who works in a field or department related to law.

“This certificate program is more than a refresher, it goes well beyond basic research,” affirms Davis, who describes the extensive databases that can be used to find law, ordinances and personal information. The program exposes students to the multitude of specialized resources available beyond an internet search, she clarifies.

First of its kind

According to Davis, the Advanced Legal Research Certificate program, the first of its kind in Florida, is essential, even critical, for anyone in the legal field. There is a great necessity for compelling, objective or empirical research data to help drive organizations to sound decision making. These research skills can be incredibly expensive if contracted to an outside vendor. Solo attorneys cannot afford law researchers and must expedite time for cases—medium sized firms may be able to farm some research requests out, but it is still costly.

Build a case

The research skills learned through the program allow students to build a case or roadmap for counsel to present in court, Davis describes. She notes that students can enroll anytime to the completely online, 10-week program. The program is self-paced and asynchronous, so students can log on whenever and wherever to complete the modules—it’s also affordable at $699, she adds.

Jannette Pineiro
Jannette Pineiro

“Hunting and pecking are inefficient strategies. There is a major disparity between the results and how to get there,” expounds Davis, and Jannette Pineiro agrees. A personal injury attorney for the law office of Daniel B. Reinfeld in Hollywood, FL, Pineiro states the program made her a better, more efficient lawyer.

“From the economic standpoint, they teach you free platforms that you can benefit from,” says Pineiro. “Litigation is very demanding in terms of time and it is really an asset for my job to be able to do things in a timely manner—I know where to look and what to do in a better way.”

Pineiro recounts a cyclist that was struck by a motor vehicle due to a six-foot wall located in a commercial property. Since this is not the typical scenario where a cyclist gets injured, she had to find the laws regarding all possible causes of action to avoid dismissal of the case. She found information that made her case stronger and Pineiro was able to keep the case going in court.

“You can represent your clients with arguments that are stronger, more accurate, efficient, and your case will not be dismissed. It has changed my expertise,” she acknowledges.

Career advancement

Amy Backes
Amy Backes

Amy Backes, a law research librarian in Missouri for Littler, one of the largest global employment and labor law practices, credits the course for her recent promotion.

“I received my promotion because of my newly acquired skills in research. This is something I was working on to progress,” she states and recounts how during quarantine, she buckled down to complete the program.

“It was very interesting to see other people’s solutions and interact with classmates on how they came up with their data,” she recalls. “It was a great introduction on how to approach legal research and has given me great confidence.”

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