Mind mapping might not be the first tool that comes to mind when one thinks of legal research. However, it is a helpful means by which to assist lawyers to focus on key legal issues and keep them aware of the latest legal changes. Lisa Sylvester, a consultant to the legal sector and Adjunct Lecturer at The College of Law, spoke to Insights about what mind mapping involves, and how it can benefit lawyers.
“The concept of mind mapping focuses the person conducting the research on the key issues they need to work through – what is material to the matter,” said Lisa. “In the first units of legal research in law, students are taken through the IRAC method to help develop a strategic approach to their research. Mind mapping fits into step 2 of the IRAC of ‘determining the legal issues involved and formulating the research question.’”
However, after law school, the use of mind maps tends to decline – which Lisa feels is much to the detriment of time-poor lawyers.
“What practitioners tend to do is note the facts then start putting those into their legal research without developing this further to focus on what is important to the matter. For example, this might involve identifying the underlying cause of action, remedy, or relief sought.”
For Lisa, the ability to easily and actively visualise all the relevant issues and facts in a legal matter attracted her to mind mapping.
“You can be quite creative with the map to include various paths, colours and sub-issues. The paths can include the alternative approaches to the issue as there may not be one single avenue for redress. This helps in formulating a better research outcome to ensure that all paths are considered, particularly where they are quite visual.
“Mind maps enable you to work out the key issues and then explore those issues further through sub-issues and keywords. It provides an easier way to collaborate on the research required, particularly if it can be quite complex. It moves the focus away from just plugging in the facts, and more towards the legal issues.”
As well as opening the minds of lawyers to all available options to resolve a legal dispute, students can find many benefits in mind mapping legal research.
“It is a great option to put together notes from lectures to see the path a certain action would take or legislation would require you to follow. It’s quite like a checklist approach.”
Lisa believes mind mapping is underutilised in practice, and lawyers have much to gain by understanding and applying mind mapping as a tool.
Lisa emphasises the importance of staying informed of changes to the law and how to set up useful searches.
"The law is not static but evolves and practitioners need to ensure they keep up with the law as it changes to ensure they are providing their client with the most up to date advice. Practitioners however are very time poor, and need some tips about how to get this information quickly or regularly provided. Where should they look or how should they setup searches which provide this assistance will be covered."