Arizona Law School 1L Study Guide for Legal Research and Writing
Introduction to Legal Research and Writing
Legal research and writing are foundational skills for law students. Mastery of these skills is crucial for success both in law school and in legal practice. This guide will cover key concepts, resources, cases, and methodologies specific to legal research and writing, with a focus on Arizona law where applicable.
Part I: Legal Research
A. Understanding Legal Authority
- Primary Authority: This comprises the law itself, including constitutions, statutes, regulations, and case law.
Secondary Authority: These are resources that explain or comment on the law, such as law reviews, treatises, and legal encyclopedias.
Mandatory vs. Persuasive Authority: Mandatory authority must be followed by the court, while persuasive authority can be considered but is not binding.
B. Legal Research Process
Identifying the Legal Issue: Understanding the issue is key to efficient research.
Developing a Research Strategy: Choose which resources to consult and in what order.
Conducting the Research: Use both primary and secondary sources, starting with secondary to gain an understanding, then moving to primary to find binding precedent.
Updating and Validating Research: Ensure the law is current by using citators like Westlaw’s KeyCite or LexisNexis’s Shepard’s.
C. Research Resources
Statutory Research: Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) are the starting point for statutory research.
Case Law Research: Use the Arizona Reports for state case law or the Pacific Reporter for regional cases that include Arizona.
Regulatory Research: The Arizona Administrative Code provides regulations from state agencies.
Secondary Sources: Arizona-specific secondary sources include the Arizona Law Review and the Arizona Practice Series.
D. Electronic Research
Legal Databases: Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg Law are commonly used.
Online Public Access: Many legal materials are available through public websites like the Arizona Legislature’s website for statutes.
Bluebook: The Bluebook provides the rules for legal citation and is widely used in the legal field.
Arizona-Specific Citations: Follow the Arizona Style Manual for citations in Arizona courts.
Part II: Legal Writing
A. Writing Basics
Clarity and Precision: Legal writing should be clear and precise to effectively communicate legal analysis.
Conciseness: Be succinct without sacrificing completeness or clarity.
Organization: A well-organized document allows the reader to follow your argument or analysis easily.
B. Predictive Writing
Memoranda: Legal memos are used to predict the outcome of a legal issue and are internal documents.
Elements of a Legal Memo: Include a header, question presented, brief answer, facts, discussion, and conclusion.
C. Persuasive Writing
Motions and Briefs: These documents persuade a court to take a certain action.
Structure of a Brief: Typically includes a table of contents, table of authorities, statement of issues, statement of the case, argument, and conclusion.
D. Legal Argumentation
IRAC Method: Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion is a common framework.
Case Precedents: Integrate case law to strengthen your argument, using analogies or distinguishing cases based on the facts or law.
E. Drafting Legal Documents
Pleadings: Draft complaints and answers with attention to the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure.
Contracts: Be clear about the terms and conditions, mindful of Arizona’s contract law nuances.
Part III: IRAC Case Examples
Marbury v. Madison (1803)
- Issue: Does Marbury have a right to the commission he demands?
- Rule: The Constitution grants the Supreme Court original jurisdiction in certain cases.
- Application: Marbury has a right to the commission, but the Court cannot grant it because the relevant statute extending the Court’s original jurisdiction conflicts with the Constitution and is therefore null and void.
- Conclusion: Marbury’s request was denied as the Court had no jurisdiction.
Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
- Issue: Does the police practice of interrogating individuals without notifying them of their right to counsel and their protection against self-incrimination violate the Fifth Amendment?
- Rule: The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination and guarantees the right to an attorney.
- Application: Miranda’s conviction was overturned because he was not informed of his rights, which is a necessary safeguard to ensure that the privilege against self-incrimination is protected.
- Conclusion: The Supreme Court established the Miranda warnings requirement.
Arizona v. Gant (2009)
- Issue: Is a warrantless vehicle search incident to a recent occupant’s arrest constitutional if the arrestee is secured and cannot access the interior of the vehicle?
- Rule: The search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement is limited to situations where the arrestee is unsecured and within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search.
- Application: Gant was arrested, handcuffed, and locked in a patrol car when his car was searched, so he could not access his vehicle to destroy evidence or grab a weapon, making the warrantless search unreasonable.
- Conclusion: The search violated the Fourth Amendment, and the evidence seized was inadmissible.
Mastering legal research and writing is a continuous process that evolves with practice and exposure to legal problems. This guide provides a framework for understanding and executing effective legal research and writing, with an emphasis on Arizona law where relevant. Use this guide along with active engagement in legal writing exercises and research projects to hone your skills.
Note: This guide is intended for educational purposes and does not substitute for legal advice or the experience gained through the active practice of law. Always consult the most current legal resources and consider the local rules and standards of the jurisdiction in which you are practicing.