Legal Jobs: How to Become a Legal Researcher

Many people think of the law as a field for judges and lawyers only. But the legal profession is full of interesting types of jobs, many of which are challenging and interesting, and many of which pay well, too. The job of legal researcher is just such a job.

A legal researcher is someone who researches past cases, legal precedents and legal statutes for a lawyer or a law firm. The information a researcher gathers will become an important part of a lawyer’s presentation to a jury, or to motions that a lawyer files. Legal researchers used to spend hours toiling away in law libraries, poring over documents and pawing through thick law books. The Internet has changed this profession, however, as it’s changed so many professions. Now, much of a legal researcher’s work is performed online. Still, the job requires careful work, patience, and persistence. You might be searching for one obscure case among thousands of cases. Sometimes, you might not even know precisely what you’re searching for, only that you’ll know it when you find it. You also have to be someone who is an independent worker, and someone who is self-motivated and able to follow instructions well, because oftentimes you will simply receive a complicated set of instructions and be left unsupervised to complete them. Legal researchers also prepare legal documents and memos in many cases.

To become a legal researcher, you need to be an accredited paralegal (a paralegal is a legal assistant). That means you’ll have to have at least an associate’s degree, although more often nowadays legal assistants will need at least a bachelor’s degree in order to secure a good job. It wouldn’t hurt to have an advanced degree, either.

When it comes time to find a job, you have to decide whether you want to work for government lawyers at a private law firm. Most legal researchers work in private offices-about seven in ten. This work can be more stressful and more demanding, but it also tends to pay significantly better. If you choose government employment, you can either work for the Justice Department (most public legal researchers work for the Justice Department) or work for a district attorney. You might even think about becoming a freelancer. It was once highly unusual for a legal researcher to work for himself or herself, but with the Internet it’s becoming much less rare. This kind of work would involve firms all over the country assigning you research projects and legal documents to prepare over the Internet, and you would work one project at a time. The beauty of legal freelancing is that you can set your own hours and be your own boss. The downside, of course, is that income is not steady and there might be times when you are between assignments and not receiving a paycheck. Still, if you are tenacious and self-motivated it’s likely you’ll find plenty of employment.

Separate Legal Personality of a Company

In Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Utopia’, the concept of a limited company is described, rather poetically:

“Some seven men form an Association (If possible, all Peers and Baronets), The start off with a public declaration To what extent they mean to pay their debts. That’s called their Capital; if they are wary They will not quote it at a sum immense. The figure’s immaterial–it may vary From eighteen million down to eighteenpence. I should put it rather low; The good sense of doing so Will be evident at once to any debtor. When it’s left to you to say What amount you mean to pay, Why, the lower you can put it at, the better…

They then proceed to trade with all who’ll trust ’em Quite irrespective of their capital (It’s shady, but it’s sanctified by custom); Bank, Railway, Loan, or Panama Canal. You can’t embark on trading too tremendous– It’s strictly fair, and based on common sense– If you succeed, your profits are stupendous– And if you fail, pop goes your eighteenpence”.

How does the concept of separate legal personality and limited liability give rise to the circumstances Gilbert and Sullivan describe? Does you think that the law goes far enough in disregarding, or avoiding the consequences of, separate legal personality, when justice requires it to do so? This article explains further.

An incorporated company, “united or combined into an organised body”, is recognised by law as a separate legal entity, or ‘legal person’ distinct from the separate personalities of the members of the body. The law treats it like “any other independent person” having rights and liabilities. A company, as a legal person, may enter into contracts, own property and even commit crimes. It is this concept of the Company being a fictitious person (then under the ‘Stock Company Act’ ) ‘Utopia’ ridicules, where Gilbert, in his libretto, toys with the idea that there could be a convergence of natural persons and legal entities.

Where a private company limited by shares owes money, and becomes insolvent, the law holds that since its creditors dealt with the Company – not its individual members – regardless of “the ideas or schemes of those who brought it into existence”, the extent of financial liability of its members is limited to the amount the members agree to pay for their shares: their “public declaration.. to what extent they mean to pay their debts”. Gilbert’s words satirize the consequences of this: if the Company becomes insolvent, the creditors do not get paid, regardless of the personal financial situations of its members. This can be contrasted with a partnership or sole proprietorship, where the owner would be held responsible for all debts of the corporation.

Conversely, where a company owns assets, those assets belong to the Company, not its members: in contrast with a partnership or sole proprietorship, where the owner(s) of the assets are the partners or the proprietor. Members cannot claim an interest as the assets were purchased by the Company, as legal owner which, as in Macaura can be to the detriment of the member.

On occasions, the law is prepared to circumvent the usual consequences of legal personality by ‘lifting’ or ‘piercing’ the veil of incorporation – for example, where a company’s shareholders are using the Company as a device to avoid their responsibilities. In Jones v Lipman, Lipman transferred a property to his company, to avoid having to transfer the property to Jones. The Court held the Company was a “device and a sham, a mask which [Lipman] holds before his face in an attempt to avoid recognition by the eye of equity”.

This does not mean that the Courts will always lift the corporate veil wherever justice requires it. The Courts have vigorously fought against any attempt to allow anyone, let alone themselves, “peer under the skirts of a company”. In Adams v Cape Industries, a company that marketed asbestos set up subsidiaries so that if a customer sued for asbestos-related claims, only the subsidiary would be liable. The bankruptcy of a subsidiary would not affect Cape. The Court held that Cape were entitled to “organise affairs.. so that it would have the… benefit of the group’s asbestos trade in the USA without the risks of tortuous liability”.

Similarly, in Ord and another v Belhaven Pubs Limited a defendant company that was not trading, transferred all of its assets to other companies in its group, and consequently claimants attempted to sue those other companies for the debt the defendant owed. The court dismissed the claim, stating that the transactions were overt and “conducted in accordance with the liberties conferred upon corporate entities by the Companies Act”.

In recent times, the approach would seem to be that the Court will go to any length to avoid any obvious penetration of the corporate veil. In Allen v Amalgamated Construction Co Ltd the European Court of Justice examined the workings of a company to investigate whether transfers between subsidiaries were capable of being a transfer under the TUPE regulations. Similarly, in Pirelli Cable Holding NV v IRC the Court, whilst denying that it was lifting the veil, “availed itself of a jolly good rummage around the internal workings” in order to examine certain facts.

The Courts have on occasion held directors personally liable for their actions. In C Evans & Sons Limited v Spritebrand Ltd, the Court held that, in every case it is necessary to examine with care what part the director played personally with regards to the act complained of. The Court declined the opportunity to formulate a comprehensive definition of circumstances that would always give rise to liability.

More recently, in MCA Records Inc, whilst not setting out general principles, the Court held that per CBS Songs Ltd and Unilever plc v Gilette (UK) Ltd, liability may arise where the individual ‘intends and procures and shares a common design that an infringement takes place’. Consequently, these cases establish that directors can sometimes be personally liable for torts for which the company is also liable. Still, the Courts have retained the principles of separate legal personality and limited liability, and defended the protection they offer. Whilst permitting some ‘rummaging’ under the veil to establish facts, they have severely limited any encroachment on those principles.

We have seen how the principles of separate legal personality and limited liability sometimes result in circumstances that may seem favourable to the Company’s shareholders and detrimental to its creditors. On one hand, there are good reasons for retaining these principles. The Courts feel that to subject individual shareholders or directors to onerous personal liabilities would discourage commercial enterprise. Additionally, whilst creditors are exposed to risk, they are fully aware of this risk: the Company’s Memorandum, a public document, freely states that the company is limited by shares, the liability of its members is limited, and by how much. So when the Company “proceed[s] to trade with all who’ll trust ’em”, the risk creditors take is easily calculable.

On the other hand, there are cases where, if it were not for company law, other principles would require the Courts find individual members liable for their debts and actions. Cases such as Adams v Cape Industries, where members have deliberately arranged their affairs to avoid liability if sued, are difficult to correlate with equitable principles of justice. The law is moving towards introducing provisions to prevent members abusing the principles to avoid liability for serious crimes and should go further to introduce provisions preventing the avoidance of liability for serious losses.

Materials referred to:

Payne, J, MA (1998) Lifting the Corporate Veil, Company Law Gilbert, W S – Utopia, Limited Halsbury’s Laws of England from LexisNexis – Corporations (Volume 9(2) (2006 Reissue) Halsbury’s Laws of England from LexisNexis – Companies (Volume 7(1) (2004 Reissue) Hill, C, Hubble, P, Longshaw, A, Morgan, T & Roberts, S (2007) W223 Company Law and Practice, Oxford University Press, Oxford New Law Journal from LexisNexis – von Wachter, V (13 July 2007) The Corporate Veil, 157 NLJ 990 New Law Journal from LexisNexis – Pedley, P (6 May 2005) Hints for hungry litigators, 155 NLJ 702

CASES:

Adams v Cape Industries (1990) Ch 433
Allen v Amalgamated Construction Co Ltd: C-234/98 [1999] ECR I-8643, [2000] All ER (EC) 97
Jones v Lipman (1962) 1 All ER 442
Macaura v Northern Assurance Co Ltd (1925) AC 619 Ord and another v Belhaven Pubs Limited (1998) BCC 607
Salomon v A Salmon and Co Ltd (1897) Ac 22 [1895-99] All ER Rep 33

Campus Based Diploma Programs in Criminal Justice

Over the last few years the degree based programs in criminal justice have pulled the attention of many students of the United States. In recent times the ratio of young students opting for a degree based programs in criminal justice has doubled. In fact, today earning a degree in this field matters a lot then what it used to be few years back. These days, earning a degree in criminal justice is concentrated not just to the field of public safety, but law enforcement as well. Today while some students are earning degree as a springboard for furthering their education in the law, others are seeking to gain employment in different respective fields like detectives, paralegals or investigators. However, among different degree programs, one degree level that has witnessed the highest enrollment of students in recent years has been diploma degree programs in the criminal justice. And, adding to this, the campus based diploma programs in the criminal justice has been the format that has gained enough popularity. In case, you are looking to make a career in criminal justice then here are some of the popular campus based degree programs you can go for:

Diploma in Crime Scene Investigation: A diploma program in criminal investigation is one of the most diploma programs in criminal justice. It is one of its own kinds of program that trains students for being more competent in careers in law enforcement and other different forms of investigations. The curriculum in this discipline primarily includes studies in criminal justice, basics of ethics and psychology, defense strategies, and computer forensics. The key advantage of this program is that being a graduate in this stream, you can easily enter a different range of positions in law enforcement. The career prospects, once you complete the program are very good, due to rising demand for skilled criminal investigators.

Diploma in Court Reporting: Court reporters are professionals whose prime responsibilities revolve around recording the entire procedure that occurs in the courtroom and further provide proof for all decisions reached by the panel of judges. In fact, if you work as a court reporter then you would be responsible for all documentation handled during the trial. Now the campus based diploma program is ideally meant for individuals like you to train and upgrade your skills that are vital to work in law firms and government agencies. Generally, diploma programs in court reporting take one year to finish. However, at times this depends on the selection of school. Adding to this, having earned a diploma in court reporting you can easily earn between $30,000 and $50,000 annually. Though, this can vary depending on the nature of work, whether you are working as a freelance or salaried position.

Diploma in Legal Secretary: This diploma campus based program of legal secretary is not a pre-law course. In fact, it is a learning of law and its applications to day to day life. The key feature that makes this program unique is it helps students understand laws and policies that generally influence businesses or people. Apart from this, the coursework within this field primarily includes studies in the basics of the legal system, law, law writing, business ethics and liability, and its politics. A legal secretary diploma program can help you understand the process required to perform secretarial duties for a law firm.

Diploma in Paralegal or Legal Assistant: The primary task of a legal assistant is to investigate the facts of a given case. Working as a legal or paralegal assistant, you may be required to perform research and recognize suitable laws, legal articles, and other materials that your employing lawyer or law team might find helpful. Now in a diploma program of paralegal or legal assistant, you get the chance to learn the basic skills required in the profession. The program trains and makes you proficient in interviewing, and gain an understanding of the role of the legal assistant. Also, the program even trains you regarding the procedures that you generally require to apply to court applications, making bills, and small claims procedures.

In present scenario, around two million people are working in different fields of criminal justice after completing there diploma programs. If you are too looking forward to making a career in this industry then above mentioned programs are some of the most important diploma campus based programs that you can opt.

Seek Justice and Claim Compensation With the Help of Personal Injury Lawyer

Taking some time to get information on some things such as personal injury may be out of your priority right now. But it can help you for future reference just in case that you have been victimized and get injured through an accident or any personal injury related cases.

The knowledge that you have gain in learning things about personal injury cases can help you in times of trouble. You may not directly use it for your self, but in some cases that some of your relatives or friends are a victim and seriously injured due to negligence of an individual who is responsible to the injury that your relative have got.

Personal injury cases are usually being handled and discuss on legal courts, you need a professional to represent you and fight for your right as a victim. Miami personal injury lawyer are known to be the appropriate person who can help you with this kind of case. Of course you need someone that is reliable and trustworthy who can help you win and get some claims with the damages that your relative have gone through.

Seeking for a legal assistance can be very expensive, but you need to learn ahead of time that fees on legal assistance are not actually expensive. If your worry is about the money you need to pay for the profession fee of a Miami personal injury lawyer, then you can breathe well enough because a lot of this lawyers do not collect fees until they have represented you and until the case is close.

Fees usually depend on the policy of law firm, so before you sign any papers with them, make sure to understand their terms and condition in acquiring their services. Most of the time, there are certain percentage on the claim that you about to receive as for their service fee. And until the case is close or compensation is received you are not required to pay any fees for your lawyer.

At first your lawyer will negotiate but this is not recommended, getting full claims from the loss that your relative have been through should be your target. Hospitalization fee is not enough, you should consider loss of compensation, physical damages and other factors that you think can be considered a loss of money on your part as a victim. Miami personal injury lawyer are well experience with this kind of case and you will surely be well represented and claims will be at no time will be on your pocket as well as the justice will be served.

Locomotives and the Supreme Court

Things lose their utility with the passage of time. No matter how innovative and useful they were when first invented, most wind up in a scrap pile, or at the very best, in a museum.

Take Kitty Hawk – the first powered airplane in the history of mankind. A major breakthrough in the history of technology, it is of no use today, neither for transportation nor combat. Or how about another technological wonder – the first locomotive, built two hundred years ago that could pull a then-jaw-dropping twenty ton? There is no way for it to haul a today’s train.

Capacity matters. It is not enough to get the concept right; if a centuries-old invention is still to be of use today, its sheer brute power – the wattage that it runs on – needs to be sufficient for today’s tasks.

As far as industry is concerned, that is well understood; no one is trying to use the earliest locomotive to haul the latest train.

But look at law – and you will see a stunningly different picture.

Almost coeval with the first locomotive, the US Supreme Court started its work of giving the nation the ultimate legal guidance when that nation was comprised of five million people – roughly, 60% of today’s population of just the city of New York.

The nation has since grown sixty-fold, to three hundred million. Entire industries that were unheard-of and undreamed-of came into being; America’s lifestyle totally changed; the pace of life dramatically increased, introducing new and yet newer situations that bump against the old constraints and need resolution in the Court. And yet, the physical capacity of the Supreme Court to resolve new issues did not change one bit since the time when the very first locomotive was a grand technological wonder.

The stasis in its capacity is inherent in the very nature of the Supreme Court. Other institutions, be they governmental or private, can increase their capacity when needed by hiring help. The President, for example, deals only with the overall direction of policies but is not personally involved in the minutia of every aspect of every branch of the executive body. That would be physically impossible for him to handle, so he delegates his powers to departments where thousands work on implementing his policies. But the Supreme Court cannot delegate its tasks without defeating its very purpose of having the wisest and best legal minds (singled out as such by the President and confirmed to be such by Congress) deal with the issues brought to Court’s attention. The tasks of selecting cases, of their examination, of coming up with the decisions have to be performed by the justices themselves. Delegate any of these tasks to other, of necessity lesser, minds, and you no longer have the Supreme Court making the Supreme Court’s decisions.

The Supreme Court being of essence a single judge composed of nine individuals, it can bear only as heavy a workload as can be physically handled by any regular judge – a judge who works five days a week, eight hours a day, two thousand hours a year.

Hence, there is a definite physical limit to the number of cases the Supreme Court can possibly consider, as each case requires a lot of work. First, plaintiffs’ papers need to be read, then defendants’, than the decision needs to be made on whether to take the case; and then begins the big task of reading through the entire argument of both sides, of reaching a Court decision, of articulating it in a properly-worded opinion. The amount of time consumed by these tasks ultimately determines the limitations of the Supreme Court workload. Can it hear a million cases a year? No, because that would leave it with only 7.2 seconds per case. Ten thousand that actually get filed? No way – 12 minutes per case is hardly enough to even read a 30-page initial filing. One thousand? That’s better, at two hours per case, thought hardly sufficient to even type up the opinion, leaving alone the reading of hundreds of pages of briefs. Two hundred? At ten hours per case, that’s about adequate – and the actual figure of the cases that the Supreme Court takes annually is actually a bit lower – being less than 2% of the petitions, over 98% being denied.

One hears that the Supreme Court only takes the cases that it considers of constitutional impact, and it is fascinating that the number of “constitutional” cases matches so well the number of cases the Court can physically handle, and that a sixty-fold increase in the number of litigants over the last two centuries did not produce any increase in the number of such cases whatsoever – leaving alone a to-be-expected sixty-fold increase.

And then, there is an equally fascinating discrepancy between the function of the Supreme Court as perceived by the ordinary Americans, and the perception of this function by the justices themselves. Why would one appeal to the Supreme Court if not because he or she feels that the lower courts’ verdict was unjust, and needs to be reversed? Why go to the Supreme Court, if not in pursuit of justice? But astonishingly, the Supreme Court tells us, via its rules that it is not a place where one should come to in order to have an unjust verdict overturned: “A petition for a writ of certiorari is rarely granted when the asserted error consists of erroneous factual findings or misapplication of a properly stated rule of law” – or, translating from legalese into human, “the lower court did not take facts into account, or acted in an arbitrary manner by deciding against you when the law explicitly states that the court should have decided for you? Too bad. We cannot be of help.” One wonders, what is the purpose of the Supreme Court than? Who needs it? Whom does it serve? Whose cases do get considered?

The last of these questions is not a rhetorical one, and has a precise answer. As is always the case with a scarce resource – be it meat in the former Soviet Union or services of the Supreme Court in the United States, connections is everything. When it comes to the all-important stage of selecting the cases that are to be heard, the Court operates strictly along the lines of the “old boys’ network” – precisely as one would expect given the circumstances of high demand and low supply. The inner workings of the Supreme Court are covered in strictest secrecy, lest the lesser mortals get to see legal giants’ clay feet; yet those close enough to be in a position to make highly intelligent guesses if not actually know – like law professor Jeffrey Rosen of George Washington University writing in the New York Times tell us of powerful lawyers – “powerful” because they know the justices personally, having previously served as Supreme Court clerks, whose petitions are much more likely to be taken than those of an average Tom, Dick or Harry; and current clerks are hardly passive bystanders – “the vital task of selecting those few cases [that the Court is capable of considering] is substantially delegated to young law clerks who also help write the justices’ opinions,” we are unequivocally told in a New York Times article by professor Paul Carrington of Duke University Law School. So much for the myth that cases brought before the Supreme Court are decided by the Supreme Court.

This is not to say that the justices are bad people. They operate the way they do of necessity, simply because the sheer lack of physical capacity does not allow them to operate differently. They only do what is natural to do. A Soviet meat salesman was not a bad person either; he would have been perfectly happy to sell meat to everyone – but he just did not have meat for everyone. So he prioritized. Better pieces immediately went to friends and family; the fellow-vendors of other necessities were served next, in a quid-pro-quo arrangement; local authorities took their share immediately after; and the rest of the populace had to just wait in a line for hours, and hopefully, though not necessarily, get something. Justices of the Supreme Court who are dispensing a product which is as scarce, naturally operate in the exact same way. (Though what is not natural is the fact that the Supreme Court managed recently to give one of the precious, less-than-two-hundred-a-year hearings to Guantanamo detainees – while denying over nine thousand, eight hundred fellow-Americans this privilege of being heard.)

Well, but can anything be done about it?

It can. For one, the currently employed legal procedure that is based on individual judges’ “judicial philosophy” and hence is highly arbitrary and subject to gross abuse can be vastly improved upon – as suggested in my previous piece called “Judges, Justice, and a Gulf in Between;” perhaps the key process of selecting cases for Court’s consideration should be made public and entrusted to a different body, not the justices themselves so as to ensure transparency and hence, fairness – so regular people have as good a chance to be heard by the Supreme Court as do the nabobs who can hire justices’ favorite lawyers; even the sheer number of the Supreme Courts should be increased – preferably, 60-fold, in direct proportion to the rise in population – to allow them to adequately meet the needs of the nation instead of truncating those needs, in imitation of Procrustus of Greek mythology, to the physical capacity of the Court.

“This is not the liberty which we can hope, that no grievance ever should arise in the Commonwealth – that let no man in this world expect; but when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained that wise men look for,” John Milton wrote three and a half centuries ago in his immortal Areopagitica; and, it being that the very raison d’ĂȘtre for the courts is to provide people the ability to have their complaints “freely heard, deeply considered and speedily reformed,” courts should be doing just that. But how can this task be accomplished today, when its chief instrument, the Supreme Court of the United States, has neither the capacity, nor interest, to do so?

The Supreme Court of two hundred years ago that still operates today cannot be expected to provide adequate legal services to a nation that had since grown sixty-fold, any more than a two-hundred year old locomotive rolled out of a museum can be expected to pull a today’s freight train. Today’s American has a mere 1.6% of the access to the Supreme Court that his ancestor had two hundred years ago; simply put, we have only one sixtieth of the amount of justice of the first US citizens, all because the Supreme Court ran out of capacity to hear cases long, long ago. The way of fixing the Supreme Court capacity problem, thus making it provide real justice to real people rather than propound once in a while some abstruse “legal principle” as it does today, may not be immediately obvious, but for the sake of us all it needs to be actively sought out – and found.