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

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

This study guide is designed to assist 1L students at Iowa Law School in preparing for their final exam in Legal Research and Writing (LRW). The guide covers fundamental concepts, legal research tools, citation formats, and important cases that are essential to mastering the course. Please note that while this guide covers many key aspects of the course, your class syllabus, readings, and specific assignments should be the primary resources for exam preparation.

I. Introduction to Legal Research and Writing

  • Legal Research: The process by which you identify and retrieve information necessary to support legal decision-making. In its broadest sense, it includes each step of a course of action that begins with an analysis of the facts of a problem and concludes with the application and communication of the results of the investigation.

  • Legal Writing: The process of analyzing legal problems and communicating the analysis in writing. It includes the preparation of court documents such as briefs, memos, and opinions, as well as correspondence and contracts.

II. Primary Sources of Law

  • Constitutions: Provide the fundamental principles of government and rights. The U.S. Constitution and the Iowa Constitution are both starting points for constitutional legal research.

  • Statutes and Codes: Statutory law enacted by legislative bodies at the federal and state levels. In Iowa, the primary source is the Iowa Code.

  • Case Law: Judicial opinions interpreting laws. Includes both federal and state case law. The Iowa Supreme Court is the highest court in Iowa, and its decisions are binding on all other Iowa state courts.

  • Regulations: Rules created by administrative agencies. In Iowa, look for the Iowa Administrative Code for regulations from Iowa agencies.

III. Secondary Sources of Law

  • Legal Encyclopedias: Such as American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum. Useful for getting an overview of the law.

  • Law Reviews and Journals: Scholarly articles that can provide in-depth analysis of specific legal issues. The Iowa Law Review is a key resource for scholarly discourse pertaining to Iowa law.

  • Treatises: In-depth commentaries on specific areas of law written by experts.

  • Practice Manuals: Focus on the practical application of the law in specific practice areas.

  • Restatements of the Law: Scholarly works that aim to distill the common law into a series of principles or rules.

IV. Legal Research Tools

  • Westlaw & LexisNexis: Comprehensive legal databases that provide access to a wide range of legal materials, including case law, statutes, regulations, and secondary sources.

  • Bloomberg Law: Another online research platform that provides access to legal content, as well as business and news information.

  • Fastcase: A smaller legal research database that Iowa lawyers and law students often have free access to through bar associations.

  • Google Scholar: A free resource that can be used to access case law and academic articles.

V. Legal Citation

  • The Bluebook: The most widely used system of legal citation in the United States. Mastery of Bluebook format is essential for proper legal writing.

  • Iowa Rules of Appellate Procedure: Outlines specific citation rules and formats for legal documents submitted to Iowa appellate courts.

VI. The Writing Process in Legal Context

  • Pre-Writing: Includes brainstorming, outlining, and researching. It is crucial to have a clear understanding of the legal issue before beginning to write.

  • Writing: Consists of drafting the document, whether it is a memo, brief, or opinion. Clarity, precision, and adherence to legal writing conventions are paramount.

  • Editing and Revision: Involves checking for grammar, coherence, and argument strength. Editing also includes ensuring proper citation and compliance with legal writing standards.

VII. Important Case Law

When reviewing case law, the IRAC method (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) is helpful for breaking down and understanding how the decision was made. Here are a few examples of case law summaries following the IRAC format:

  1. Varnum v. Brien (2009)
    • Issue: Whether restricting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.
    • Rule: The Iowa Supreme Court held that the Iowa Constitution’s equal protection clause requires that civil marriage be open to all individuals, not just heterosexual couples.
    • Analysis: The court analyzed the purpose of the equal protection clause and the history of discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals.
    • Conclusion: The court concluded that the law prohibiting same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
  2. Gartner v. Iowa Department of Public Health (2013)
    • Issue: Whether both members of a same-sex marriage can be listed as parents on their child’s birth certificate.
    • Rule: The Iowa Supreme Court held that the Iowa Department of Public Health must issue birth certificates listing both same-sex spouses as parents.
    • Analysis: The court analyzed equal protection under the Iowa Constitution and found that banning same-sex parents from appearing on birth certificates was discriminatory.
    • Conclusion: The court concluded that the Department of Public Health’s actions were unconstitutional.
  3. Anderson v. State (2013)
    • Issue: Whether Iowa’s statute of limitations for post-conviction relief applications could bar a claim.
    • Rule: The Iowa Supreme Court held that certain claims, such as those involving actual innocence, are not barred by the statute of limitations.
    • Analysis: The court examined the purpose of the statute of limitations and the fundamental right to assert actual innocence.
    • Conclusion: The court concluded that the statute of limitations must be interpreted to allow claims of actual innocence to proceed.

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