As my law career has shifted from litigation to a focus on corporate and transactional legal issues, my research habits also have evolved. I increasingly use Google to perform necessary research more often than I use any other legal research tools. Because I am a solo practitioner with a keen eye on the bottom line, I perform much of my legal research on Google. Nonetheless, your search results are only as effective as the search terms and operators you use. Here are a few tips to optimize your research – both legal and otherwise.
1. Google Scholar
I’m often surprised to discover that many attorneys aren’t aware of the fact that Google offers completely free legal case law and patent research via Google Scholar. You can even narrow your search by selecting specific state and federal databases. Once you’ve selected a case from your search results you’re provided a list of other cases that cite your select case in addition to quotes that demonstrate the context of that cite. It’s incredibly helpful.
2. Search For Related Websites
Google offers a host of useful search operators that will allow you fine tune your research. You can use Google to discover sites that offer similar content to one another by by using the operator “related:” before a url. For example, let’s say that you regularly use Westlaw.com for your legal research, but are looking for other legal research alternatives. Simply type “related:westlaw.com” and Google offers fastcase.com, lexis.com, and legalbluebook.com as possible alternatives.
3. Search For Linking Websites
Similarly, if you’re looking for results that link to a specific website, you can use the the operator “link:” followed by the site you’re seeking links to. For example, if you wanted to know who links to the Rocket Lawyer blog, you’d simply type “link:blog.rocketlawyer.com” to find your results.
4. Narrow Your Search
If you’d like to narrow a search to exclude certain results you simply need to include the “-” operator before the search term. For example, if you’d like to do a search about “intellectual property” but want to include results about patents, you can perform the following search terms “Intellectual Property -patents” to receive your desired results.
5. Perform A Local Search
Need a hotel for an upcoming business trip? Maybe you want to find a good restaurant to take a client. Simply do a search for the type of establishment you are seeking (i.e. hotel, Italian restaurant, pub, etc.) followed by the zip code of the area you are searching within.
This is just the tip of the iceberg too. Unsurprisingly, Google’s search engine is incredibly robust. You can even use Google to search for flight times (by entering in the flight number and airline), convert currencies, track packages (simply type the tracking number into the search bar), check the local weather, find definitions, and more. What’s your favorite Google tip?