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

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

Introduction to Legal Research and Writing

  • Legal Research: The process of identifying and retrieving information necessary to support legal decision-making. Involves finding primary sources (statutes, cases, constitutions) and secondary sources (law reviews, treatises).
  • Legal Writing: The process of expressing legal analysis in a structured and formal way. Includes the creation of legal documents such as memos, briefs, and opinions.

Primary Legal Research

  1. Case Law: Judicial opinions that can be binding (mandatory) or persuasive.
    • Key Concepts: Stare decisis, precedent, dictum, holdings, and obiter dicta.
    • Case Law Research Tips:
      • Use legal databases (e.g., Westlaw, LexisNexis) to find relevant cases.
      • Understand the hierarchy of courts to determine the binding nature of case law.
      • Read headnotes and use key numbers to find cases on specific legal issues.
  2. Statutory Research: Involves the analysis of legislative acts and statutes.
    • Key Concepts: Codes, session laws, legislative history, and statutory interpretation.
    • Statutory Research Tips:
      • Use official state resources (e.g., Delaware Code) for current statutes.
      • Consider the legislative intent and history for a deeper understanding.
  3. Administrative Law: Rules and regulations created by administrative agencies.
    • Key Concepts: Agency regulations, administrative decisions, notice-and-comment rulemaking.
    • Administrative Law Research Tips:
      • Find relevant regulations through the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) or Delaware Register of Regulations.
      • Research administrative decisions through databases or specific agency websites.

Secondary Legal Research

  • Secondary Sources: Books, articles, and other commentary that discuss and clarify primary sources of law.
    • Key Concepts: Encyclopedias, treatises, law reviews, restatements, legal dictionaries.
    • Secondary Sources Research Tips:
    • Start with broad overviews like legal encyclopedias for background information.
    • Use secondary sources to find leads to primary sources.

Legal Analysis and Writing

  1. IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion): A method for organizing legal analysis.
    • Issue: The legal question to be answered.
    • Rule: The law applicable to the issue.
    • Analysis: Applying the law to the facts.
    • Conclusion: The result of the analysis.
  2. Legal Memorandum: An internal document used to discuss legal issues and advise clients or colleagues.
    • Key Sections: Heading, question presented, brief answer, statement of facts, discussion, conclusion.
  3. Appellate Brief: A document submitted to an appellate court advocating a legal position.
    • Key Sections: Table of contents, table of authorities, questions presented, statement of the case, argument, conclusion.
  4. Opinion Writing: Judges’ written explanations of their decisions.
    • Key Sections: Introduction, background, legal analysis, holding, dicta.

Citation and Authority

  • Bluebook: The most widely used system for legal citation in the U.S.
  • Delaware Citation: Specific citation rules for Delaware legal documents.
  • Binding vs. Persuasive Authority: Understanding which legal sources must be followed and which can be considered.

Delaware-Specific Legal Research

  • Delaware Court System: Knowledge of Delaware courts, including the Delaware Supreme Court, Court of Chancery, Superior Court, Family Court, Court of Common Pleas, and Justice of the Peace Courts.
  • Delaware Cases and Statutes: Familiarity with Delaware-specific legal resources like the Delaware Code, Delaware Court Rules, and decisions from Delaware courts.
  • DE LexisNexis: Specific databases for Delaware legal research.

Notable Delaware Case Law

Smith v. Van Gorkom (488 A.2d 858, Del. 1985)
Issue: Whether the directors of TransUnion Corporation breached their fiduciary duty by approving the sale of the company without sufficient information.
Rule: Directors have a fiduciary duty to act on an informed basis when making business decisions.
Analysis: The court determined that the directors did not adequately inform themselves about the sale before approving it.
Conclusion: The Delaware Supreme Court held that the directors breached their fiduciary duty by approving the sale without adequate information.

Caremark International Inc. Derivative Litigation (698 A.2d 959, Del. Ch. 1996)
Issue: The extent to which a board of directors must oversee the corporation’s business and affairs to satisfy their duty of care.
Rule: Directors are obligated to ensure reasonable information and reporting systems exist in the corporation.
Analysis: The court analyzed whether there was a sustained or systematic failure of the board to exercise oversight.
Conclusion: The court concluded that liability would only ensue for failures that were sustained or systematic.

In re Walt Disney Co. Derivative Litigation (906 A.2d 27, Del. 2006)
Issue: Whether Disney directors violated their fiduciary duties in the hiring and termination of Michael Ovitz.
Rule: Directors have a fiduciary duty to act with due care, good faith, and loyalty.
Analysis: The court examined the directors’ conduct in approving Ovitz’s employment agreement and severance.
Conclusion: The Delaware Supreme Court held that while the directors’ conduct fell significantly short of best practices, it didn’t reach the level of gross negligence necessary for a breach of fiduciary duty.

This study guide provides a foundational framework for legal research and writing, with a focus on Delaware-specific law and sources. To prepare for a final exam, students should engage in active legal research, draft legal documents, and analyze case law using the IRAC method. Practicing citation and understanding the nuances of Delaware’s legal system will be crucial for success in a Delaware Law School 1L legal research and writing course.

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