Monday, July 8, 2019

Bottom's Up

Confidence is sexier than faking it
Do you like to cook?  I do.  While I really like to create desserts I also bake bread and often grill/bbq for the family.  What inspires me are those cooking shows on television like Iron Chef.

Iron Chef is a great show.  It pits a master chef against a challenger chef and they have to cook a 5 course meal using a mystery ingredient.  Sometimes it's fish.  Sometimes it's some exotic meat.  One time it was cotton candy (I know, right?)  But this one time that really caught my attention, the mystery ingredient was leeks.

For those not in the know, a leek is a type of onion.  The master chef grabbed a whole bunch of different leaks and started cooking using the leeks as the main component of every dish.  The challenger chef, on the other hand, thought they'd be clever and while he used leeks in each dish, he also paired the leaks with other things like swordfish and potatoes and, well, other stuff.

When it got down to the judging, everyone praised the master chef because not only did he use the leeks but the judges could taste the leeks in every bite.  When the challenger stepped up, his dishes were creative and well presented but in almost every dish, a comment that came out was, "I don't taste the leeks."  The master chef won simply because his foundation was stronger than any creative thing he threw in the pot.

The thing is, I'll bet the master chef became a master chef only after YEARS of learning the "how" of cooking.  S/he didn't become a master chef over night.  

  • Nope, I'm guessing they got their start washing dishes in some hole-in-the-wall restaurant while finishing up high school.  
  • Then, four years in culinary school (or some equivalent, thereof). 
  • Then, it was the decades of practical experience, the cutting of fingers, the burning of flesh, the scalding of arms, the hours and hours of learning the trade.

It's the same way with legal research and writing.  Wait, what?!  Yeah.  Thing is, I've been teaching students, lawyers, judges and pro se litigants how to do their own legal research for little over 25 years.  In all that time, I worked hard to understand how to research legal things using a variety of platforms.  

  • I mixed my use of print materials with online resources.  
  • I mixed my use of online resources with my print materials.  
  • Then I started teaching legal research and writing and I learned a whole lot more stuff.  
  • Then I started giving presentations to local and professional groups on all things law and legal research and writing and I learned a whole lot more stuff.  
  • Then I started writing about legal research and writing and I learned a whole lot more stuff.

Then I started blogging about law and legal research and I learned a whole lot more stuff and now, when I help people conduct legal research, having established a foundation built on years of getting smarter about law and legal research and writing, it's no wonder that the #1 thing everyone says to me is, "WOW!  This is so easy!"

Thing is, if you establish a solid foundation and learn how things work, legal research really is easy.

My philosophy is simple: When you know what you're looking at, you know what best to look for.  Doesn't matter if you're using a book or looking at a computer, if you don't understand (and have not practiced differentiating the difference between) the concepts of primary authority, secondary authority, mandatory authority or persuasive authority, you're never going to know what not to read or use when you start writing your legal documents.  Good thing I know and can help you get started.  

So, trust me when I ask, "Do you need any help?" because I know what I'm talking about.

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