LEGAL RESEARCH AND OPINION

Category: Legal Services
Written by David J. O. Tuhusula on 10/09/2022
The author’s views are entirely their own and may not always reflect the views of Putranto Alliance.

Having a well-researched answer is always helpful in solving complex issues. By having all of the necessary facts and precedents, one can produce a complete and satisfying answer. Hence the importance of doing research cannot be refuted. Especially in legal aspects, proper legal research may provide the necessary support for the clients – making it one of many cores of law practice.

WHAT IS LEGAL RESEARCH?

Legal research is a process designed to help find legal precedents or to find the fitting “authorities” that can help answer various legal questions/problems. In this case, “authorities” would refer to the rules of law binding on the courts, government, and individuals. The rules of law may vary from statutes, regulations, jurisprudence, and so on. Most rules of law were generated by the government, while some rules resulted from the endorsement of international agreements or foreign constitutions. Opinions of legal experts may also be used as one of the resources for legal research. Because although the opinions may lack the binding effect that statutes/regulations have, expert opinions may be able to help explain what the law is or what the law should be.

Legal research can generally help just about any case, as it can be adjusted depending on the needs and how intense the research is required. Due to how vast the resources can be used for legal research, correctly interpreting the resources is just as important so that proper research may be conducted. Therefore, finding the right tools and the correct point of comparison may greatly contribute to finding the needed answers.

TYPES OF LEGAL RESEARCH

When it comes to conducting research, of course, there’d also be methodology – which is how the research is being conducted – in play. Depending on the method used to conduct the research, it produces different kinds of results that provide aid and/or solution to different legal issues. As such, there are several types of legal research, which can be described as follow:

  1. Quantitative Legal Research

    This method attempts to collect information that can be used for statistical analysis of the population sample, making it the most fitting to describe the nature of a certain demographic at a certain time in a certain place. Ways of collecting data/information include but are not limited to surveys, polls, questionnaires, and so on, with the result later depicted in numerical form.

  2. Qualitative Legal Research

    This research method relies on analyzing a relatively small group of subjects, with the data being analyzed narratively rather than statistically. This kind of method is usually adopted to study people or to study already existing systems.

  3. Applied Legal Research

    This method is the kind that focuses on finding the solution for a pressing problem at hand. It involves doing full-fledged research on a specific area followed by collecting information on all technical rules and principles, to be later formed into an opinion contributing to aiding the client.

  4. Conceptual Legal Research

    This research method is conducted by observing and analyzing already present information and/or topic. As such, it doesn’t involve conducting any actual experiments but is much more related to analyzing concepts and ideas. An example includes re-interpreting ancient laws so they may be improved and simplified.

  5. Empirical Legal Research

    This method describes the role of investigation of legislation, regulation, policies, and other arrangements as they’re being applied to society. It is the main guide for legal professionals and law students to conduct research, covering the span of history, methods, evidence, growth of education, and knowledge while enforcing the links with normativity. This method combines various insights and approaches from multiple social sciences, evaluation studies, data analytics, and ethics.

  6. Doctrinal & Non-Doctrinal Legal Research

    The main focus of doctrinal research would be questioning “what is law?” on a certain issue being handled. The main concern is to find what the law is, combining rigorous analysis and logical reasoning so it may contribute to the continuity, consistency, and certainty of the law. Due to the somewhat idealistic scope of the research, it may fail to focus on the actual practice and/or actual happenings within the court.

    Conversely, non-doctrinal research would analyze how the law and legal proceedings shape and affect society. Here, the law is explored as a social phenomenon. Its primary goal is to understand how ideas, practices, and institutions are influenced within the cultural, economic, historical, political, and social context.

  7. Comparative Legal Research

    As the name mentioned, this research involves a comparison of legal doctrines, legislations, and foreign laws. The process highlights the cultural and social aspects and how it’s adopted into multiple different settings. Usually, this research aims to develop, amend, and/or modify the currently existing law.

WHAT IS LEGAL OPINION

Tightly related to legal research, a “legal opinion” is a formally expressed letter from licensed legal professionals (usually lawyers), with the content usually containing legal analysis regarding a certain matter, as requested by the client. The Black’s Law Dictionary defines a legal opinion as a “lawful statement written by a court judge, judicial officer, or legal expert. Decision on an action, condition, or intent being within the law. Also, refer to the opinion of counsel.”

Legal professionals usually provide legal opinions to provide solace for clients who are not familiar with the workings of the current law. However, they may also be used for cross-border business transactions. In a legal opinion, the legal professional expresses their understanding in writing regarding the connectivity of the legal issue at hand with the governing provisions to identify the issue further and/or the risks that might surface.

For example, a client wants to open a branch for their business in another country, but naturally, the country in question adopts a different kind of law from the client’s country. In this case, the client may ask their legal advisor to contact the law practitioners in the destination country to seek a legal opinion to further understand the law in the said country. By doing this, they can understand whether the type of business is valid, complies with the law, and so on.

Fundamentally, a legal opinion cannot be a substitute for legal advice.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LEGAL OPINION?

The main purpose of a legal opinion is to inform the client regarding: a) the legal effect of the matter at hand; and b) to identify and inform the legal risks that the client may face in the future so it can be considered and evaluated. To put in detail:

  1. Identifying the Legal Effect

    As the legal professional learns of the issues at hand, they will also be able to inform the client/the requester regarding the effect of being involved in such matters. For example, in a business case, the client may request legal advice from their legal advisor regarding whether a document/agreement is valid and enforceable and whether it complies with the law.

  2. Identifying and Informing the Legal Risk

    It informs the client/the requester regarding the legal risk of the issues at hand. For example, the letter may notify the client regarding provisions that are no longer valid, documents that have not been validly executed, and other unenforceable things. Through this, the client/the requester can use the opinion as leverage to decide whether they continue with legal advice, legal proceedings, and so on.

To provide aid to clients optimally, a legal opinion would contain searches conducted regarding the issue, assumptions regarding what the legal professional cannot reasonably check (usually due to privacy/confidentiality matters at play), the qualification of the legal professional (to limit the opinion as it’s not ethical to provide absolute assurance), and the opinion of the legal professional who worked on the opinion itself.

WHY DO YOU NEED LEGAL RESEARCH AND LEGAL OPINION?

Legal research is important due to its capability of providing law analysis (by categorizing the necessary elements such as issues, facts, and existing regulations into separate elements for more straightforward analysis) and blending the previously separated elements into one coherent legal writing while associating it with doctrinal/theoretical issues (to see if it’s applicable or compliant with the existing situation of the society). As a result, after proper legal research has been conducted, it will be easier for the legal professional to identify the issue and later find a solution.

Conversely, receiving a legal opinion is just as important for the client’s side as it can provide valuable legal documents to protect them before a certain legal action is conducted or even within legal proceedings. Not to mention, clients are sometimes non-experts in law (thus needing advice from legal professionals). The client receives the assistance they need in the form of legal opinion that saves their time and money, resulting in the client being able to perform their obligations optimally.

HOW CAN WE HELP

Our experienced legal advisors are well-versed in providing legal opinions (and, if required, legal advice) so that the involved parties can avoid both legal and/or financial consequences that may prove to be fatal in the future. From doing legal research, analyzing documents, and participating in any possible confrontational situations, we go above, and beyond to provide the opinion and/or advice you may need for your future endeavours in business.

REFERENCES

FAQs

No, legal opinion and legal advice constitute two different things, although those unfamiliar may use them interchangeably, one with the other.

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines it as “legal advice is the guidance given by lawyers to their clients.”

This is important to differentiate because guidance would mean advising the client regarding what future action they should take. A legal opinion is based on past and/or present facts, where the goal that wants to be achieved is to identify and inform any possible legal risks. Whereas guidance regarding what the client should take – for example, should one produce a demand letter, file a lawsuit, and so on – is within the scope of legal advice.

As both legal opinion and legal advice offer different results and might charge a different rate, being aware of the differences helps save time and money while ensuring one gets the help and the aid that’s much needed.

No, but it is more optimal should it be done by people with a background in law education.

 

In general, legal research can be performed by just anyone with a need for legal information, including but not limited to: laymen, lawyers, librarians, paralegals, and many others.

 

Generally speaking, legal research is well-known to take a lot of time and effort to be conducted properly, not to mention that access to an online research database (and to governmental institutions, should it be required) can be costly. Consequently, with extreme consideration to ethical concerns, the client/the requester may be asked for their understanding should the research take a while to complete.

Thank you for sharing

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