Partners/Seniors: If an associate does not turn up the research you thought should be out there, do they lose points with you? Often I am asked to research XYZ and about half the time, the answer is “no law on this/unclear/here is something that comes close.” Sometimes the assigning atty says “there has to be something” when they assign the work. Curious to hear what goes on in your mind after we give you something you weren’t expecting.

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If it's presented in a way that makes me comfortable there really isn't anything out there, that's fine. If not, I'm very annoyed because I have to double check myself / ask a bunch of questions to make sure that you did a good job searching. There's been good threads on how to handle these kind of "nothing on point" situations, but briefly, outline your search strategy and just generally show your work.

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Thanks for this. What is an example of an instance where it is annoying. I doubt anyone just says “yo nothing on point peace!” I used to present my research plan but that made the emails way too long. Now I go with a quick summary of what I did find, possible solution, and an invitation to modify my scope of research.

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I stole this from another associate in my firm - if there is truly nothing on point in the desired jurisdiction I find it in another if it won’t take to me too long. Then the partner doesn’t think they’re crazy, because the proposition does exist, and then they can decide if they want to cite the out of jurisdiction case. And I have something to show for the hours I spent searching.

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This. Always look in other jurisdictions.

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I run into this issue a lot and what I do is include literally all relevant sources that I went through to give the partner or senior associate more confidence that I am correct in my findings (or lack thereof). I spent 3 hours on a very novel issue recently and my answer was basically “too soon to know, need to wait for more guidance and things to change which they will” and then I included like 9 links with a sentence explanation for each link about what it’s relevance is. In the end the partner and other associate that reviewed it agreed with my findings and I made it easy for them to verify.

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I work with a junior associate that half asses research a lot and I often have to double check to make sure there really isn’t anything. I think a good way to do it would be to say what you did and which jurisdictions, then ask for further directions e.g. I haven’t been able to find anything on point in —- state and —— circuit; here’s the closest thing I found; is there anywhere else you’d like me to look?

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From experience. Sometimes, I can afford to do a 5 minute search on Westlaw to see what generally pops up before I assign to the junior associate for more digging/details. Other times, I do a quick search after I get the “I didn’t see anything” response. If my search showed/shows some potential results, I know they half assed it. If it happens a couple of times, I know I have to look closely each time or find someone else.

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You don’t lose points if there’s actually nothing out there. If something turns up after the fact (or, even worse, opposing counsel finds something), then yes, you would lose points.

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I would just say “I can keep looking, where do you think I should look?” Or “do you have a minute to help me, where would you look?” If it happens over and over again I would probably get annoyed but eventually you would learn all the places they want you to look. Basically- just ask for help.

I really don’t like this either. You’re better off asking another associate or calling the library/Westlaw line.

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