It is generally a good idea to contact an attorney if you are not totally confident in your ability and knowledge of the legal system. However, there are many instances when you just need to see for yourself what the laws are regarding your situation or a situation that is likely to occur. Your own legal research is also a good idea to keep you informed even when an attorney is representing your case.
The first thing you must accept before conducting your own legal research is that you are not going to be able to learn everything that is taught in law school in just a short while. Yet, you should know the basics of law. This includes knowledge of the types of laws, and which ones apply to you. This is basically being aware of jurisdiction, and the fact that some laws have higher bearing on a case than others.
Now, after gaining a little knowledge about the types of laws and their relationships to each other, you are now left figuring out where to find these laws. As a non-legal professional, you may want to focus your legal research on secondary sources.
These sources are not written laws, but they may reference statutes and regulations and are easier to find at times than the statutes and regulations themselves. In effect, the secondary source, which can be an article or legal reference book, has presented a similar situation and has even linked it to some relevant laws.
If you get stuck with your legal research, don’t be afraid to ask for help. In fact, there may sources to help you with your legal research. Your state web site may offer a link to some assistance. The Library of Congress offers an ask the librarian link that allows you to gain helpful information. Some states even offer their statutes online in a searchable database.