The Guerrilla Guide to Legal Research will give you the behind the scenes secrets that lawyers don't want you to know. Using the techniques described in this book you can do your own legal research at no cost to you, learning what the cases and statutes really say! In addition, this book will tell you how to avoid the most common mistakes when researching the law and how NOT to fall into the traps that a lack of knowledge can create. Like all of the Guerrilla Guides to the Law, this book does away with the legalese and uses plain language.
It doesn't confuse or mislead you with pages and pages of useless information.
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The end goal for most legal research is often a case or a set of similar cases. Users often use different ways of getting to the end through citation chaining, indexed searches and journals that outline cases of a particular type. With such a vast amount of cases, and content in legal documents, users need to use advanced search features like natural language search, Boolean search modifiers and keyword filters to locate what they need.
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A lot of legal research deals with minute changes in long documents and comparison of information. Users will do this by opening multiple windows or by having a physical book open below their screen. Almost everyone we interviewed said that they use a desktop because of the added screen real estate and the ability to quickly switch between multiple sources. Law students thought the content was too general since they have comprehensive legal databases available to them and K educators thought that the content had too much legal jargon and was too hard to parse through to find any useful information.
Guerrilla Interviews Contextual Inquiry. After sharing our findings with the Library of Congress, they felt that it was necessary to change their focus towards undergraduate students to ensure the Constitution Annotated was properly utilized. Professors want their students to learn how to find relevant information and use it to create arguments to encourage good research skills.
Since professors are always looking to find new and engaging scenarios to discuss in class, they are looking for interesting cases to build off of, often related to current events, controversial topics or cases with unexpected outcomes. Considering all the insights we had gathered, we identified 4 themes to guide our redesign -. To get students to use the content, we would need to design the tool for professors and educators.
Simplifying content into smaller chunks with meaningful hyperlinks would make it easier to parse through content.
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Allowing users to save and organize content within the tool itself would make it more likely to return to the content. Designing for web first would make the tool far more accessible as a research tool. We sketched out storyboards to identify user flows and prioritized features and elements that encourage exploration between students and professors.
GOAL: Identify likely scenarios where professors can use the tool to provide students with learning opportunities. We sketched numerous ideas for features that supported our storyboards. We used these sketches to identify key features that would resonate with our audiences. We used our scenarios and key ideas to build a set of paper prototypes to get feedback from our users. Through our design explorations and research we found 5 major problems stopping the Constitution Annotated from being a good tool for education. We chose to focus on undergraduate students and professors using the US Constitution for class.
The scenario based our features on had two parts:. A professor finding cases to use as inspiration and reference for a hypothetical scenario for a mock trial. A student receiving this information and using it to write a legal brief to use in the mock trial. The PDFs and Mobile app only allow exactly matched search terms. This makes it hard for users to find information even if they know what to search for. We took our ideas for search and combined them into two main features.
Unified Search that searches through all the content in the ConAn using simplified language, filtering and word matching. Contextual Search that either presents a search bar in areas with long lists or dense content or as itemized keywords and topics that are intelligently pulled from the source material. ConAn only supports one entry point into the content - an overwhelming list of the essays and topics it covers.
Users look for information through different models and this only supports one kind of user. Since the end of the research phase was almost always a Supreme Court case, we went backwards to find resources to support three user motivations from our insights. Since we were only able to integrate Library of Congress resources, we analyzed them in depth to find useful material. The ConAn is written with legal formatting and is littered with complicated case citations and legal phrases. We, used three principles to help make the content easier to use for our users. Reduce : Remove all unnecessary information.
Simplify : Proper labeling and formatting. Easier to read legalese.
Research is only as good as the end goal. The new Constitution Annotated is a modern research tool designed for professors and students learning about the US Constitution by putting the users first and letting them complete their research goals by letting them find the content they need in intuitive ways. Users have different priorities and ways to find information. By letting users search directly, browse all topics, look at the most recent essays, and find commentary on ongoing Supreme Court cases, ConAn lets them discover the content they need the most right from the homepage.
Users are already used to looking at information across tabs pages. Putting relevant information like footnotes, key cases discussed and topics covered in the article lets them analyse information without leaving the context of the article.
Additionally tooltips on case citations and jargon demystify complicated legalese. Cases are long and full of irrelevant information. By summarizing and showing key details, users can decide if a case is worth diving deeper into. Analyzing content requires collection and curation of research. Letting users save and tag text in personalized buckets lets them view all their highlights in one place. Introducing the feature through the natural act of highlighting lets users discover it organically. Research is only as important as the end goal. ConAn takes the annoying task of formatting documents and copying content and citation from between tabs and apps by offering templates and all highlighted text right beside your document.
ConAn on mobile is a quick reference tool that lets users find and consume content on the go while being able to save content to their accounts to use on desktop.
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Feedback on early design sketches during contextual inquiries. We added contextual search boxes in areas with lots of text and highlighted important information. We added links to relevant information in plain sight and provided external links to content not available within the Library of Congress collections. Through our use of the split screen, we were able to provide all the information at once, based on the feedback we added lists of key cases and definitions of key phrases within the sidebar.