A legal researcher is a professional whose specialty is performing research of laws, briefs, and past case files. Such researchers often work for attorneys, but they can also work for universities, governmental agencies, publications, judges, and corporations. Most often, their research centers on finding previous case law that is applicable to a current case.
In many cases, an attorney preparing a case will utilize a legal researcher to dig up applicable law that strengthens his position or that might potentially be used against him in court. Research is time consuming and is most efficiently conducted by those who specialize in the field, so using the services of a researcher can free up the attorney's time to focus on other activities, such as preparing witnesses for court and working with his client. Other types of employers may hire legal researchers as consultants to investigate specific situations or may employ them regularly if they often encounter situations that require this type of specialty.
The primary function of a legal researcher is finding relevant information. She must be able to identify information that can hurt a client's case as well as information that can help it. Legal researchers spend a lot of time in physical or online law libraries and perform searches of court records, case documents, ordinances, law books, and databases. Over time, a good legal researcher will develop enough experience to know exactly which resources are most likely to contain the information she needs. Most such professionals subscribe to professional journals that keep them abreast of new trends and technologies that can make their jobs easier and help them keep an eye out for new sources of information.
Once a legal researcher finds the information for which she's looking, she must summarize her findings for the attorney or client in a usable format. All such summaries should contain the basic information that the researcher wishes to convey and should site relevant information, such as the type of resource providing the information, the specific name of the site or book in which the information was found, and its relevance to the case. When providing information about case law, the summary usually must include the name, date, and jurisdiction of the case as well.
Large legal firms often hire legal researchers as direct employees. These researchers provide services for all the attorneys in the firm. A legal researcher may also be a self-employed consultant who accepts clients on a per-job basis. Legal researchers often have some type of formal legal training and may be certified paralegals or even attorneys.