Okay, I admit it. I didn't go to any of the "here's how you save money when researching on the client's dime" sessions last Spring. I simply didn't have the time. And, if not for the free Westlaw/Lexis access the representatives periodically dole out to working law students, I'd probably be regretting that decision a lot.
Put simply, researching on the online databases is expensive. As a law student with free access, I've often lost sight of this and not worked to develop efficient research habits. While I'm trying my very best now (and hopefully succeeding!), I think we can all use a thread to discuss helpful research habits.
I'll start by sharing a few of my own:
1) Google first! Obviously, Google's not the ideal repository for in-depth legal research, but you can find an awful lot of good information on Google that saves you the time you need to gain a threshold understanding of an issue (i.e. figure out what it is you're researching).
2) Library second! Last summer, a partner called me into his office and gave me a lengthy research assignment that didn't seem Westlaw/Lexis-friendly. I asked him how he'd suggest I get started, and he advised me to consult the headnotes in the case reporters. At that point, I'd never actually seen one which seems crazy in retrospect. I think the accessibility of internet documents makes us averse to non-online avenues of tracking down information, but it's helpful to make full use of these resources. For one, they're free (assuming they're in the library already). More importantly, they often lead to an array of other research ideas.
3) Think first, research later! Try to figure out what you want to find before you actually sign on to find it. Whether you're using a transactional or hourly service, it can only help to have a plan so you can cut down on time thinking while "on the clock" or "in searches."
4) Relax. A friend of mine recently got a fifty-state survey assignment (those who've done these know how time-intensive they can be). When my friend explained to the assigning partner that the "research would be costly" the partner told him to "not worry about it and just get the job done." This is good advice. Ultimately, it's good to save money where possible but clients understand that good research--like anything us law students/lawyers can provide--comes at a cost. And, within bounds of reasonableness, they'll be willing (maybe even happy) to pay.
With that, I turn the floor over to our (hopefully still present) faithful.