Legal research, especially for a litigating attorney (meaning one who presents and develops legal actions to be presented in court, whether they be criminal, civil, tort, and so on), their paralegals, or firm presents the majority of the activities that need to be undertaken to get a case to the level where it can be considered “actionable.” Thus, the legal research undertaken in formulating a case must usually not only find support for an argument, but usually seek out anything that represents a counterargument.
To contend with this, most legal research these days is performed by paralegals, or legal assistants, who are tasked with helping lawyers with the legal work that is not necessarily required to be completed by a lawyer. Research paralegals emerged in private practices for two reasons, one was economic and the other competitive.
The economic reasoning for paralegals was that lawyers were billing too many hours where they would be performing time consuming research at a point in history (this would have been the 1960s to 1970s) where legal costs were growing beyond the capability of most people to afford them.
The competitive reasoning was due often to matters where legal issues would be centered on issues of policy, especially when one side was supported by an attorney who also functioned in an academic capacity, namely as a law professor. To counteract this, private practices hired their own legal professions tasked for research purposes, which led other firms and even government agencies to follow suit as a way of staying competitive.
What the rise of paralegals has led to has been an increase in the overall quality of legal research, which has led to more valid legal arguments being presented and argued in most courts, which many feel has been an boon to the legal system.