Monday, August 7, 2017

Running with the Big Dogs

Everything is easy when you do it long enough
The other day I was reading an article on the 15 skills employers just expect people to have.  Number 8 was the ability to do online research.  The article stated, simply, that any fool can do research - just type a search in Google and you can find what you want.

Really?  It's that simple - just google it?  Do you realize how many people have tried to "just google" their legal work and were blown away by the judge or the clerk or opposing counsel? 

The thing is that research is not all that easy for someone who doesn't do it all day, every day.  Heck, even though I've been doing legal research for almost 2 decades, I still get stumped.  Take, for example the question an attorney asked me the other day.

Seems attorney had done some work on a case but was substituted out (client wanted to hire someone else).  Attorney decided that the work he had done on the case thus far warranted compensation - so he put a lien on the case (so that he could get paid when there was a settlement).  Fast forward a few months and the parties reached a settlement - except that the parties didn't bother to include Attorney in their settlement discussions.

Attorney now wants a copy of the settlement agreement but the parties refused to cough it up.  So, to the law library he went.  Yeah, I didn't have a clue what Attorney was talking about. What I did have were mad research skills - so, I first headed over to California Practice Guide: Enforcing Judgments and Debts (TR).  A few minutes futzing around liens and settlements, I see a small reference to intervention.  Back to Attorney I went but, turns out Attorney didn't want to intervene in the case - he just wanted a copy of the settlement agreement.

So, next moved over to Debt Collection Practice (CEB), looked in the Index under Liens, and found a notation for Intervention in pending action by judgment creditor, § 11.16 which really didn't help me but it did have a notation to California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) § 708.470.  

I then looked under CCP § 708.470 in Deering's California Codes and found a notation under the Heading: Collateral References to look in California Forms of Pleading and Practice Chp. 318 (Judgments).  Without hesitation, I moved over to to California Forms of Pleading and Practice, pulled Vol. 27, Chp. 318 and, after a little perusing, found Sections 
  • 392 (Notice and Motion to Apply Rights Under Judgement to Satisfaction of Lien)
  • 393 (Declaration in Support of Motion for Order Applying Rights Under Judgement to Satisfaction of Lien), and
  • 394 (Order Granting Motion to Apply Judgment Debtor's Property to Satisfaction of Lien)
...which was exactly what Attorney was looking for.

Did you see what I did there?  
  1. First I started with a reputable secondary authority (Enforcing Judgments and Debts), to get a basic understanding of what I'm dealing with
  2. Then jumped to another secondary authority (Debt Collection Practice) to get more foundational information
  3. Followed by a primary authority (CCP § 708.470) to see what the law is
  4. Followed by another secondary authority (California Forms of Pleading and Practice) which led me to what was wanted.
Start with something that tells you about the subject, move to the law, follow up with something that explains what the law is.  Four steps in little under 25 minutes.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  

So, when you're ready to play with the big dogs and bone up on your legal research skills, head on over to your local county law library and we'll help you get where you need to be.