Legal Research Strategies for Five Legal Practice Areas

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Winning a case takes considerable work long before going to court. No matter what field of law you’re practicing, creating a winning legal argument takes a substantial amount of research. You need access to accurate, current information and data to have a successful outcome for your clients. Legal research strategies are key to that success.

Public and private records provide legal professionals with a variety of different kinds of data for legal research — from personal information like addresses and names, to more detailed information like asset records and criminal records. However, gathering information through traditional methods, like going to a court to pay for records, can be costly and take up unnecessary time.

Search engines like Google are a free and convenient way to gather information. But the data in these web search engines isn’t always up-to-date or accurate, and you can’t always find the records you’re looking for. So what’s the solution to both of these issues? A public and private records database that gathers a wider variety of information than a single search can uncover.

 Searching a public and private records database more cost-effective and efficient than requesting physical records. It also provides more comprehensive and accurate data than a free search engine. Putting Tracers search tools to work for your firm gives you an edge that leads to better results for your clients. 

While many different practice areas can benefit from using a records database for legal research, here are the best legal research strategies for five different legal practice areas.

Personal injury attorneys need to gather significant amounts of facts in order to prove that a person was injured and they were injured because of another individual or business’s actions. So what types of searches can help you win your personal injury cases? A new and very useful type of legal research strategy to use in personal injury law is a social network people search

A social media search will scan someone’s social media profiles, social media mentions, and other social activity and combine all the information into one report. If a person tagged a specific location on social media around the time of the injury, you can use this location to verify that they were in a specific place at a specific time when they got into the accident. You could also use photos or social activity that discuss the injury to show they were in fact injured. Conversely, if they claim to have been injured but posted a photo of themselves doing physical activity after the time of the injury, this social media evidence could disprove their claim. 

Another useful legal research tip for personal injury cases is a business records search. Not only is investigating a business important for performing a due diligence investigation if a person is suing a business, it can also help you determine who and how much money to go after for settlement. You can search UCC filings and a Business Credit Report to investigate a party’s relationship to a business and uncover a business’s payment history and credit worthiness, which can be used to pierce the corporate veil and determine the amount that a business or individual who works for a business could pay your client for damages.

  • Personal injury attorneys can use a social media search to search an individual’s profiles and find social media evidence of the time, place, and extent of their injury.
  • A business records search that includes a Business Credit Report can also help personal injury attorneys with their legal research for both discovery and settlement.
  • With a Business Credit Report, lawyers in personal injury practice can learn about a business’s payments, pierce the corporate veil, or find other sources of recovery. 

If you work in criminal defense, an effective legal research strategy to use in a software for criminal attorneys is a criminal records search. A criminal records search will uncover any past convictions or arrests of either your party or the opposing party, which could be used to demonstrate a person’s character, such as to show that they could be lying if they have a past conviction of fraud. Criminal records searches can also help you determine the best strategy for court — if your client has a past criminal record, it may be better to go to try to get a plea deal and avoid going to court altogether.

Criminal defense attorneys also often need to locate someone to testify, and a public and private records database can be incredibly helpful in doing so. You can use a Premium People Search to uncover any relatives or business associates who may be able to testify to your client’s character. Or, if you’re trying to locate a specific witness who may have been at the scene of a crime, you could use a license plate recognition system to find vehicles that were around the area at that specific time and get in contact with the owners of those vehicles using a vehicle registration search. 

  • Criminal defense lawyers can use a criminal records search to learn more about both their client and opposition’s history and character, which can be useful for preparing for questioning and determining the best strategy for court. 
  • If criminal defense attorneys need to find a character witness to testify against the opposition or for their client, they can use a people search to find family and associates.
  • A license plate lookup may provide information on people whose vehicles were sighted near the scene of a crime, which can help criminal attorneys locate eyewitnesses.

In estate planning, you often need a full picture of someone’s family in order to properly plan an estate. How much does the person have in assets, and where? How many children, grandchildren, or other beneficiaries are involved? What about potential additional beneficiaries, such as a parent, cousin, or child born outside of or in a previous marriage? A client may have assets they’ve forgotten but need to include in their estate planning.

Conducting an asset search is also an effective legal research strategy in estate planning because it will help you verify the existence of any assets mentioned in a will as well as uncover ones that weren’t mentioned. With a complete picture of the client’s assets, you can work with them to ensure that everything is distributed according to their wishes, making it easier before and after their passing. 

  • A people search can uncover family members, even estranged family members, that can help estate planning and probate attorneys properly execute wills or estates.
  • An asset search can help attorneys executing wills verify and confirm the existence of assets that are mentioned so they can be included in the probate process, then handled or distributed to the correct beneficiaries. Related liens and judgements can also be located. 

Because a probate lawyer handles a deceased person’s estate from the date of death through the completion of probate, you’ll need to ensure that the estate is handled the way it was planned. However, finding and contacting family members can be particularly difficult if the person has passed away. A people search in a public and private records database can help you find all family members so you can construct a family tree, and then locate and contact them.  

Many times, a person dies intestate, or without any form of a will, and the probate court must decide how to handle the person’s estate according to state law. The person’s wishes are not a deciding factor unless they are written into a will. It’s up to the probate lawyer to connect the dots and fill in the gaps.

A family member or friend may approach a probate lawyer to take care of a person’s final affairs. Even if the person had little assets and property, a probate lawyer must then begin a search to locate heirs, beneficiaries, and any unknown assets for distribution. If the deceased had no immediate relatives, a careful search could also locate more distant relatives to distribute remaining assets from the estate.

When someone suffers with the death of a loved one, handling their final affairs is easier when their lawyer has access to everything they need to complete the job. Tracers’ software uses both public and private records to find persons, assets, and other important information to make probate easier for everyone.

In many divorce cases, people may have an incentive to hide assets to get a more favorable settlement from the court. This is especially true in states with community property laws. The less assets, the lesser the settlement, and the less one party has to share with the other. It’s illegal, of course, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.

Dividing the assets requires a complete picture of the couple’s financial situation. It’s not uncommon for spouses to open their own new bank accounts once they’ve decided to divorce. Those are listed during discovery.

But for the party that conceals assets, a divorce asset search can uncover all those assets, even hidden ones, to help you determine a fair settlement for your client. This search can help bring all the marital assets to the table to ensure their client gets what is rightfully theirs.

What if the spouse has vanished? A skip tracing people search is vital for a person whose spouse has disappeared, either by themselves or with the couple’s children. Because divorce can still happen even though one spouse is non-cooperative, it’s possible to locate them to have them served.

People searches can also find relatives where the spouse may be living after they’ve disappeared. Relatives may also be useful for testifying for your client’s character in family law if you’re also handling a custody battle.

For both divorce and custody cases, having the right and most current data is vital. Utilizing both public and private records search engine helps get all the information you need. Tracers offers both and includes additional and alternative information such as credit headers and utility records that are not found in public record searches.

If you’re a collections attorney trying to collect on debt for your client, you need to be able to skip trace the debtor ad in contact with them. This can be particularly difficult if a person is hiding, but a public and private records database can provide you with the information you need to locate and get in contact with debtors. You can perform an old address lookup in order to uncover past addresses of a debtor and make guesses as to where they might move to, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find them. If you’re not able to pinpoint a debtor’s location with an address search, you may be able to skip trace the debtor using their utility bill records. These will show you when and where a utility, like water, gas, electricity, or  Internet service, was set up. 

Skip tracing debtors is the first step to collecting on debt as a collections attorney, but you also need to get in contact with a debtor. To find up-to-date contact information for right-party contact, you can use a phone append in a public and private records search engine, which allows you to find phone numbers — even business phone numbers and landlines — by searching just a name and an address. 

If you’re looking for other methods of contact and you only have a phone number, you can use a reverse phone append. This will take a phone number and provide you with lists of other contact information, like physical addresses and email addresses. Whatever contact information you’re looking to access as a collections attorney, a public and private records database will provide you with the most up-to-date data available for increased right-party contact.

  • Collections attorneys can use an address history search and utility listings data to glean insight into a debtor’s possible locations and skip trace that debtor for collection.
  • A phone append can provide collections attorneys with up-to-date contact information for debtors, even if they only have a small amount of information initially, for right-party contact.
  • A reverse phone append provides additional information by using a phone number. This can also help collections attorneys skip trace, locate, and contact particularly hard-to-find debtors.
  • Alternative records such as credit applications, banks, the US Postal Service, the state department of motor vehicles, and even voter registration records may have current location information.
  • Social media profiles can be a wealth of information for those who can’t resist posting.
  • Batch skip tracing and processing can help gather records for multiple individuals at once. It’s quicker and more efficient than trying to find each person individually.

Finding these records can take time. Using Tracers software gets your agency access to billions of current and accurate records, making collections and recovery faster and easier. 


Legal research strategies are important for most types of law firms. For most cases, you’ll need to locate people and vital information to proceed. With more than 6,000 available sources finding billions of records, Tracers offers a much wider range of information that you won’t get from a free search.

If you’re interested in using a public and private records database for your legal practice, get started with Tracers today.