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

Legal Research and Writing is a fundamental course for 1L students, focusing on developing the skills needed to effectively research legal issues and communicate legal analysis. This guide will cover key concepts in legal research and writing, focusing on the state of Kentucky. It will address the process of legal research, sources of law, the structure of legal writing, and will provide examples of case law analysis using the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) format.

The Legal Research Process:

  1. Identifying the Legal Issue: Determine the legal question that needs resolution.
  2. Finding Primary Sources: Such as statutes, regulations, and case law.
    • In Kentucky, primary sources include the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS), Kentucky Administrative Regulations (KAR), and case law from the Kentucky Court of Appeals and the Kentucky Supreme Court.
  3. Finding Secondary Sources: Including legal dictionaries, encyclopedias, law reviews, and treatises that provide context and commentary.
  4. Shepardizing/Citators: Use citators like Shepard’s to ensure that cases or statutes are still good law.
  5. Updating Legal Research: Legal principles change, so it’s crucial to have current information, especially for Kentucky-specific law.

Kentucky Sources of Law:

  • Kentucky Constitution: The foundational legal document for the state.
  • Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS): The codified statutes of Kentucky, which outline the laws enacted by the Kentucky General Assembly.
  • Kentucky Administrative Regulations (KAR): Regulations created by Kentucky state agencies.
  • Case Law: Opinions from the Kentucky Court of Appeals and the Kentucky Supreme Court are binding precedents in Kentucky.

Legal Writing Structure:

  1. Understanding the Audience: Knowing whether you are writing for a client, a senior attorney, or a judge.
  2. Predictive Writing: Memos and briefs that predict how a court may rule on an issue.
  3. Persuasive Writing: Writing to convince a court to adopt a legal position, such as in a brief.
  4. Writing the Legal Memorandum:
    • Heading: To whom the memo is addressed, from whom, the date, and the subject.
    • Question Presented: A concise statement of the legal issue.
    • Brief Answer: A short answer to the legal issue, giving the conclusion first.
    • Facts: A factual background relevant to the legal issue.
    • Discussion: An analysis of the law as applied to the facts. Use IRAC here.
    • Conclusion: Summarizing the analysis and reiterating the answer to the question presented.

Case Law Analysis (IRAC Format):

  • Issue: What is the legal issue or question that the court is addressing?
  • Rule: What is the legal rule or principle that applies to the issue?
  • Analysis/Application: How does the rule apply to the specific facts of the case?
  • Conclusion: What is the court’s decision or holding regarding the issue?

Sample Case Law Analysis (IRAC):

Case: Commonwealth v. Wasson, 842 S.W.2d 487 (Ky. 1992)

  • Issue: Whether Kentucky’s sodomy statutes violate the Kentucky Constitution’s right to privacy.
  • Rule: Kentucky’s Constitution provides a broader scope of protection for individual privacy rights than the U.S. Constitution.
  • Analysis: The Kentucky Supreme Court compared the privacy rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Kentucky Constitution, determining that Kentucky’s Constitution affords greater protection. The court reviewed the sodomy statutes and found them too intrusive on personal relationships and autonomy.
  • Conclusion: The court held that Kentucky’s sodomy statutes were unconstitutional, as they violated the right to privacy guaranteed by the Kentucky Constitution.

Writing Citations:

  • Understanding the Bluebook: A guide for legal citation, which governs how to cite statutes, cases, and other legal materials.
  • Kentucky-Specific Citations: Familiarity with how to cite Kentucky sources like KRS, KAR, and decisions from Kentucky’s courts.

Legal Ethics and Plagiarism:

  • Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct: Governs the ethical practice of law in Kentucky.
  • Plagiarism in Legal Writing: Importance of attributing sources properly.

Practical Legal Writing Tips:

  • Clarity and Precision: Legal writing should be clear and precise to avoid ambiguity.
  • Active Voice: Generally preferred for better readability.
  • Editing and Proofreading: Essential to produce professional and error-free documents.

Kentucky Legal Research Databases:

  • Westlaw & LexisNexis: National databases that include Kentucky-specific legal materials.
  • Kentucky Court of Justice: Offers access to court opinions and rules.
  • Legal Aid Network of Kentucky: Provides resources for legal research related to public interest law.


This guide provides a foundation for the key aspects of legal research and writing, with a focus on Kentucky law. Mastery of this content is essential for 1L students preparing for exams and for their future legal practice in Kentucky. It is important to remember that legal research and writing are skills honed over time, with practice and experience.

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