Successful Summer Strategies: Research in the Real World
Research in the Real World Starts Here: Questions to ask when receiving a research assignment
Don't be afraid to ask questions when receiving an assignment. Although you
may be reluctant to reveal that you don’t know much (if anything) about
a topic, asking questions can save a huge amount of time later. Also, it may
be difficult to track down a busy attorney when your questions arise, so try
to obtain as much information as much as you can at the outset.
Among the important questions are:
When is the assignment due? Is it more or less urgent than other
assignments you may have been given?
Does the assigning attorney want in-depth research or a quick overview?
How much time is it reasonable to spend?
What is the expected work product? Does the assigning attorney expect
an oral report, a research log or other report (some firms and attorneys
have forms for these), a written memo, or something else?
Does the attorney expect you to check in periodically during the course
of the project?
Are there terms of art or "buzz words" that are commonly used
in the area of law; what do any acronyms the assigning attorney uses stand
Are there available resources I should consult such as knowledgeable
people in the office, case or memorandum files, or key publications?
Verbally summarize the assignment before you leave the room, by saying
words to the effect, "As I understand the assignment, I am going
to ....... Is that what you are looking for?" It may also be a good
idea to send a follow-up e-mail.