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Certification Class: Researching on the Internet  

Last Updated: Dec 1, 2013 URL: Print Guide

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Researching on the Internet


Ethics of Legal Research on the Internet

The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct Canon 6 require that:

EC 6-4

Having undertaken representation, a lawyer should use proper care to safeguard the interests of his client. If a lawyer has accepted employment in a matter beyond his competence but in which he expected to become competent, he should diligently undertake the work and study necessary to qualify himself. In addition to being qualified to handle a particular matter, his obligation to his client requires him to prepare adequately for and give appropriate attention to his legal work.

The accompanying Disiplinary Rules state:

DR 6-101 Failing to Act Competently

(a) A lawyer shall not:

(1) Handle a legal matter which he knows or should know that he is not competent to handle, without associating with him a lawyer who is competent to handle it.

(2) Handle a legal matter without preparation adequate in the circumstances.

(3) Neglect a legal matter entrusted to him.

The only Ethics Opinion to address this issue from the NY Bar Assocation, Ethics Op. 709 (1998), states:

C. Reliability of Internet Information

To the extent that the attorney in performing legal research for clients relies on information obtained from searching of Internet sites, the attorney’s duty under Canon 6 to represent the client competently requires that the attorney take care to assure that the information obtained is reliable.


Researching on the Internet

The most challenging aspect of researching on the internet is understanding what you can and cannot do for free.  Finding good secondary source material is hard.  Primary source material is increasingly available, however it is not possible to update.  The most effective way to use internet research is to do your background research there.  Combined with using books in the library, either where you work or in a public library, you will be able to then use a subscription service much more effectively.


Internet Legal Research


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