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Research Assistant and Journal Member Training: Professionalism

Information for Research Assistants and Journal members.



  • Make sure you get clarity on all your assignments:
    • Always find out when the assignment is due.
    • Always learn what format the professor desires for the results. (Just copies of the sources? A memorandum? An email? An oral briefing?)
    • Ask to repeat the essentials of the assignment back to the professor in your own words.
  • Use your professor’s preferred communication method (e.g., in person, telephone, memorandum, email), but remember:
    • In-person contact can resolve questions and build your working relationship.
  • When reporting on results and/or asking questions in person or over the phone, organize your thoughts beforehand; anticipate questions the professor is likely to ask and be prepared to answer them.
  • Ask questions in batches if possible rather than piecemeal.
  • Write professionally—spelling, grammar, tone, format, etc.—in all communications, including email (even if your professor does not).
  • Make sure your professor knows your “end date;” remind her as it draws closer.

Work Process and Work Product

  • Use your Bluebook.
  • Start with secondary sources—don’t reinvent the wheel.
  • Keep a research log for each project.
  • Keep an assignment log that notes a brief description of the assignment, date assigned, deadline, and where your work is stored.
  • Use the legal research database your professor prefers (if any), but go beyond it.
  • Scrub your written work. Reread more than once. Time permitting, you may want to set it aside for a half-day or more and reread again.


  • This is an important step in your career—treat it that way.
  • It can feel like school, but it is a job.
  • Remember that in your interactions with professors, classmates, librarians, administrators, and staff, you are establishing your professional reputation.

Do your job well, and your professor can serve as a valuable reference and recommender.


  • Be organized.
  • Be reliable.
  • Be on time for all meetings.
  • Show good judgment.
  • Earn trust.
  • Use good time management skills.
  • Beat deadlines.
  • Be self-aware and self-regulating.
  • Show energy and positivity.
  • Maintain a balanced workload:
    • Let your professor know if you need more to do, but—
    • Do not over-commit.
  • Use library resources:
    • Research guides and LibGuides.
    • Inter-Library Loan.
    • Legal and other databases.
    • Reference librarians.
  • Spend time in the building.