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

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

I. Introduction to Legal Research
Understanding Legal Authority: Primary sources are binding legal materials such as statutes, regulations, and case law. Secondary sources offer commentary, analysis, and may influence legal arguments but are not binding.
Federal vs. State Authority: Federal law is derived from the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes, while state law arises from state constitutions and statutes. Both have their own case law and administrative regulations.
Hierarchy of Law: In Illinois, the order of authority is the Illinois Constitution, Illinois statutes, and then case law from the Illinois Supreme Court, followed by the Illinois Appellate Court and Circuit Courts.

II. Legal Research Strategy
Starting Your Research: Begin with secondary sources to gain an understanding of the topic. Then move on to primary sources, such as statutes and case law, to find the controlling law.
Utilizing Research Tools: Familiarize yourself with online legal databases like Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg Law, as well as public resources like the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) and Illinois Administrative Code.
Citation Form: The Bluebook (latest edition) and the ALWD Citation Manual are authoritative guides on legal citation. The Illinois Style Manual provides state-specific citation forms.

III. Legal Writing Fundamentals
IRAC Structure: The Issue-Rule-Application-Conclusion structure is a fundamental framework for legal analysis and writing.
Clarity and Conciseness: Legal writing should be direct and to the point. Avoid legalese and use plain language wherever possible.
Objective vs. Persuasive Writing: Objective writing presents balanced analysis, while persuasive writing advocates for a particular conclusion.

IV. Case Briefing using IRAC
Issue: What is the legal question that the court is answering?
Rule: What law is the court applying to the case?
Application (or Analysis): How does the court apply the law to the facts of the case?
Conclusion: What is the decision or holding of the court?

Case: People v. Aguilar, 2013 IL 112116 (2013)
Issue: Whether the Illinois statute criminalizing the possession of firearms violated the Second Amendment.
Rule: The Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for self-defense.
Application: The court found that the Illinois statute was too broad and impinged on the right to bear arms for self-defense, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
Conclusion: The Illinois Supreme Court held that the statute was unconstitutional.

V. Statutory Analysis
Reading Statutes: Pay close attention to the language of the statute, including definitions, exceptions, and operative words.
Applying Statutes to Facts: When analyzing a statute, consider how its terms apply to the specific facts of a situation or problem.
Statutory Interpretation: Use tools such as legislative history and principles of interpretation (e.g., plain meaning rule, rule against absurd results) to understand the meaning of a statute.

VI. Legal Memoranda and Briefs
Memorandum of Law: This is an objective document used to analyze legal issues for internal use. It explains the law and applies it to specific facts.
Appellate Brief: A persuasive document submitted to an appellate court. It advocates for a client’s legal position and cites pertinent statutes, regulations, and case law.

VII. Legal Citation
Importance of Citation: Citations allow the reader to locate your sources and assess the authority and relevance of your legal arguments.
The Bluebook and Illinois Style Manual: Ensure you are familiar with both general citation rules and Illinois-specific citation conventions.
Parallel Citations: Illinois courts may require parallel citations when citing cases, providing the citation for the regional reporter and the Illinois official reporter.

VIII. Analyzing Legal Problems
Spotting Issues: Train yourself to identify legal issues in hypothetical fact patterns.
Applying the Law: Use relevant legal rules and principles to analyze the issues, arguing both sides when appropriate.
Crafting Arguments: Develop a thesis statement and organize your arguments logically, backing them up with statutory and case law.

IX. Research and Writing Exercises
Hypothetical Scenarios: Engage in exercises that require you to perform research and apply your findings to hypothetical legal situations.
Writing Samples: Draft memoranda, appellate briefs, and other legal documents to hone your writing skills.
Peer Review: Exchange and critique writing samples with classmates to gain feedback and improve your work.

X. Ethics in Legal Research and Writing
Plagiarism: Understand the importance of proper attribution of sources in legal writing.
Confidentiality: Maintain the confidentiality of client information in all research and writing exercises.
Professional Conduct: Adhere to the ethical standards of the legal profession, including the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.

To prepare for your final semester exam, practice by briefing cases using the IRAC format, draft legal documents based on hypothetical scenarios, and conduct thorough research using the legal resources available to you. Familiarity with Illinois-specific laws, cases, and citation standards will be crucial for performing well on your exam and in your future practice as a lawyer in Illinois.

Discover more from Legal Three

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading