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Young Lawyers Division Newsletter
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Young Lawyers Division

August 2010, vol. 55, no. 1

Efficient and effective Internet research for young lawyers

Whether the young lawyer is practicing commercial litigation, family law, or criminal defense, research is essential to their practice of law. Moreover, it is imperative to the young lawyer that time is managed wisely. Just as one research memorandum is delivered to a partner in the firm, there is another partner in waiting to request a motion be drafted. This article will give you an overview of what I have found to be extremely useful in the development of efficient and effective research techniques.

Lawyers often turn to Lexis or Westlaw first when beginning research, but it oftentimes is best to simply utilize the search engines we use in our everyday lives. Insert terms such as “Illinois Law” or “Illinois Case” together with more specific terms into the Google1 or Bing search bar. A laundry list of cases, statutes and articles often appear. These will give the associate the initial terms needed to search other subscription sources. A great second search is the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education (IICLE) Smartbooks.2 There often exist sections relevant to what the lawyer has been asked to answer or draft. Remember to check the case law and statutes. Some of these books may be antiquated by a couple years, and the law may have changed in this area. However, the general overviews are very useful in understanding a very unfamiliar area of law and developing a comprehensive list of search terms.

After having obtained a handful of useful or relevant search terms, the lawyer should subsequently begin his or her search in Lexis3 or Westlaw. The reference attorneys from Westlaw or Lexis4 should be contacted by telephone at this point. While the lawyer is searching Westlaw or Lexis, their reference attorney is also utilizing their expertise (at no charge) to assist in finding case law or statutes on point. Lexis and Westlaw both have reference attorneys available to assist their subscribing lawyers with research. Lexis’ number is 1-800-543-6862, and Westlaw’s number is 1-800-Ref-Atty.

This method of preparatory work, before beginning Lexis or Westlaw research, will help the young lawyer hone in on the specific terms needed to have successful search results in a short period of time. In the end, there may not be a published opinion on your issue or a statute that effectively answers your question, but it is this author’s hope that this article will help expedite the process of reaching that conclusion by saving time. If followed effectively, the client will see positive results from decreased research charges, and the firm will see results in the form of a higher level of productivity.

Below is a list of additional helpful resources.


Web site


Illinois General Assembly

Illinois Compiled Statutes, Illinois Constitution, Bills & Resolutions, Public Acts, Transcripts etc.


Ordinances and Minutes for Select Cities (Nationwide)

Illinois Attorney General

Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act Sample Forms,
Opinions, Information etc.


Access to Court Records in over 54 Courts (Illinois)

Illinois State Bar Association Resources

Fast Case, Form Exchange, Ethics, Lawyer Referral Service, Expert Directory etc.

Illinois Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission

Lawyer Search, Rules and Decisions, Registration, Resources etc.

State of Illinois

Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branch information and much more


Information to assist with medical terms, experts, drugs etc.

Illinois Secretary of State

Information and Certificates of Good Standing regarding corporations and LLCs

Chicago Title

Real Estate Forms

International Code Council

Building Codes

Cook County Circuit Court

Access to Case Information, Court Forms etc.


Jennifer Walsh Hammer is an associate attorney at the law firm of Giffin, Winning, Cohen & Bodewes, P.C. in Springfield, Illinois. She also serves as the President of the Central Illinois Women’s Bar Association. More information is available at

1. Any search engine is adequate. This article does not intend to be an opinion of which search engine is superior or should be utilized.


3. My firm has chosen Lexis as its online research provider. This article does not intend to be an opinion as to which service or search engine should be utilized or is superior.

4. Also, remember that as part of your Lexis or Westlaw subscription, the law firm is entitled to receive training on the sources to which they are subscribed. ■

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