What do law students need? Core (Research) Knowledge!

Guest Blog by Ann Walsh Long, Head of Research & Digital Collections and Assistant Professor of Law, Lincoln Memorial University School of Law


Would you benefit from having an extra virtual librarian on staff during this pandemic, and beyond? I have a solution: Core Knowledge for Lawyers! With the irregular rotation of quarantining students and library faculty, I have found the quizzes and research exercises available through Core Knowledge, tied to Eric Voigt’s Legal Research Demystified: A Step-by-Step Approach, extremely valuable. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that it took a pandemic to make me reassess the tools we use for our legal research courses, but maybe it is a silver lining?

Here at LMU, we teach three required one-credit hour courses over the first three semesters of law school (Legal Research I, II & III). We are using the Core Knowledge end-of-chapter quizzes and research exercises to supplement our legal research instruction for our 1L students.

Professor Voigt’s interactive research exercises on common law and statutory issues are unique. Each exercise has multiple lessons that teach students to research issues on Westlaw Edge and Lexis+ (yes, recently updated!), and each exercise takes students from start to finish with one fact pattern and one primary legal question.

Here are a few highlights from the interactive exercises:

  • More than 200 (!) auto-grading and teaching questions;
  • Instant feedback to students after each question (similar to Core Grammar);
  • Screen captures and tips to keep students on track; and,
  • Spaced repetition helps to maximize students’ long-term retention!

In addition to all the features that help make my life easier, Professor Voigt’s book is written for today’s law students. His step-by-step approach is a good way to train future lawyers how to conduct legal research, and his writing style echoes some of the thoughts I have in my head but rarely speak out loud. For example, in the intro paragraph to researching the common law, he states, “If you skipped the first three chapters in Part I, that was a mistake; read them now.” One of my teaching frustrations is thinking my students must not have read what we have assigned. However, now I am beginning to think that perhaps our students have read the chapters, but just didn’t fully understand what they’ve read. Legal Research Demystified meets law students where they are and ties together the process of legal research with the concepts they are learning in their first-year doctrinal curriculum.

If you are like me and have been meaning to review Professor Voigt’s book, you may want to begin by reading Pamela G. Smith’s positive review in the Law Library Journal. However, don’t stop there! CAP generously offered us a trial period to preview Core Knowledge for Lawyers, and Professor Voigt has been extremely responsive to our questions and suggestions. I am hopeful that Legal Research Demystified will make your life easier, too!

About malikahhalllibrarian

Malikah Hall is a Reference Librarian and Instructional Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University. She was previously the Diversity Fellow, Research Services Librarian, and Lecturer in Law at Cornell University. Malikah is very active in AALL where she is the current RIPS Law Librarian Blog editor, Immediate Past Chair of PEGA-SIS, a member of the AALL Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and a member of the AALL Legal Research Competencies Review Special Committee. Malikah graduated from North Carolina Central University with a J.D./M.L.S. joint degree. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her sweet dog and anything true crime related.
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