California Law School 1L Study Guide for Legal Research and Writing

California Law School 1L Study Guide for Legal Research and Writing

Legal Research:

  • Primary Sources: Understanding the binding authority of statutes, regulations, and case law, particularly as they apply to California law.
    • California Constitution: Foundational document of California state law.
    • California Statutes: Laws passed by the state legislature, found in the California Codes.
    • California Case Law: Decisions from the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are binding on all lower state courts.
    • Federal Sources: U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and case law from the U.S. Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (applicable to California).
  • Secondary Sources: Utilized for explanations and interpretations of the law, including legal encyclopedias, treatises, law reviews, and restatements.

  • Legal Research Databases: Learning the use of Westlaw, LexisNexis, and other legal databases for researching California-specific law.

  • Citation Rules: Familiarity with the Bluebook and California Style Manual for proper legal citation in California.

  • Updating Legal Research: Using Shepardizing or KeyCite to ensure that legal authorities are current and still good law.

Legal Writing:

  • Predictive Legal Writing: Memos that provide an analysis without advocate for a position.

    • IRAC Method: Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion as a structure for legal analysis.
  • Persuasive Legal Writing: Motions and briefs aimed at advocating for a particular legal position.
    • CRAC Method: Conclusion, Rule, Application, Conclusion as an alternative structure.
  • Legal Correspondence: Drafting letters to clients, opposing counsel, and the court in a professional tone.

  • Proofreading and Editing: Techniques for effective revision of legal writing to enhance clarity and avoid errors.

Case Law Analysis (Using IRAC):

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803):

    • Issue: Whether the Supreme Court has the authority to issue writs of mandamus.
    • Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any law that is in conflict is void.
    • Application: The Judiciary Act of 1789 conflicted with the Constitution, so the provision giving the Supreme Court the power to issue writs of mandamus was invalid.
    • Conclusion: The Supreme Court could not issue the writ.
  • People v. Anderson (1968):
    • Issue: Whether the death penalty constituted cruel or unusual punishment in violation of the California Constitution.
    • Rule: The California Constitution prohibits cruel or unusual punishment.
    • Application: The court analyzed the disproportionality of the punishment and the evolving standards of society, finding the death penalty as applied was unconstitutional.
    • Conclusion: California death penalty at the time was found to be unconstitutional.

Concept Specifics:

  • Stare Decisis: The doctrine of precedent, which in California obligates courts to follow the decisions of higher courts within the same jurisdiction.

  • California Plain Language Statutory Interpretation: A method which requires that California statutes be interpreted to give effect to the intention of the Legislature, with a preference for plain meaning when possible.

  • Legal Ethics: Understanding the rules of professional conduct established by the California State Bar, including confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and attorney-client privilege.

  • California Civil Procedure: Familiarity with the procedural rules for litigating in California courts, including the stages of litigation, jurisdiction, and the unique aspects of the California Code of Civil Procedure.

  • Transactional Drafting: Techniques for drafting contracts and other transactional documents, with a focus on clarity, enforceability, and compliance with California law.

  • Oral Advocacy: Strategies for effective oral presentations in court, negotiations, and other legal proceedings within California’s legal system.

Preparing for a Final Semester Exam:

  • Outlining: Summarize and organize your notes, class lectures, readings, and case briefs into a coherent outline focusing on key concepts and their applications.

  • Practice Problems: Engage with hypotheticals and past exam questions to apply legal rules and improve your analytical skills.

  • Legal Analysis: Refine your ability to use the IRAC/CRAC methods for analyzing legal issues, particularly those relevant to California law.

  • Review Sessions: Join study groups or attend review sessions to discuss difficult concepts and test each other’s understanding.

  • Office Hours: Utilize professors’ office hours to clarify complex topics or to seek further insight into class material and exam expectations.

  • Time Management: Develop a study schedule that allows sufficient time for each topic and practice exams, while also allowing for rest and mental health care.

  • Self-Care: Ensure that you maintain a balanced lifestyle, with proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep to optimize cognitive function during study and exams.

By mastering these research and writing skills, as well as the substantive legal concepts, 1L students preparing for their final exams in a California Law School class will be well-equipped to succeed.

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