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

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

Introduction to Legal Research and Writing

Legal research and writing are foundational skills for law students and practicing attorneys. In Maine, as in other jurisdictions, the ability to find and apply legal authorities effectively is critical to legal practice. Legal research involves identifying and retrieving information necessary to support legal decision-making, while legal writing involves the analysis and synthesis of law and facts into written form.

Research Sources and Hierarchies

  1. Primary Sources: These are the actual laws and include constitutions, statutes, administrative regulations, and case law.
  • Federal and Maine Constitutions: Understand the supremacy of the constitution and its role as the fundamental law.
  • Statutes and the Maine Revised Statutes: Learn how to navigate the Maine Revised Statutes, including how they are organized and how to update them with pocket parts or online updates.
  • Case Law: Focus on understanding the Maine court system hierarchy (Supreme Judicial Court, Superior Courts, and District Courts) and how to locate Maine cases using reporters and electronic databases.
  • Administrative Regulations: Review how to find Maine administrative regulations and the Code of Maine Rules.
  1. Secondary Sources: These include legal encyclopedias, treatises, law review articles, and legal dictionaries. They provide commentary and analysis that can aid in understanding legal topics.

Legal Research Strategies

  • Developing a Research Plan: Learn to craft a research plan that delineates the steps to find the relevant authorities, starting with secondary sources to gain an overview, then moving to primary sources for binding authority.
  • Electronic Legal Research: Gain proficiency in using online legal research platforms such as Westlaw, LexisNexis, and free resources like Google Scholar or state government websites.

Legal Writing Components

  1. IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion):
    • Issue: State the question that needs to be resolved.
    • Rule: Identify the rule of law that applies to the issue.
    • Application/Analysis: Apply the rule to the facts of the case.
    • Conclusion: Provide the answer to the issue based on the application of the rule.
  2. Case Briefs: Learn to summarize a case by identifying the facts, issues, holding, reasoning, and any dissenting opinions.

  3. Memoranda and Legal Opinions: Understand the structure and content of legal memoranda used for internal communications and legal opinions for client advice.

  4. Legal Correspondence: Be familiar with the format and tone for various types of legal correspondence, such as demand letters and correspondence with courts and opposing counsel.

Maine Specific Case Law

  • State v. Brown (2015): Involving Maine criminal procedure, this case can be used to discuss the application of the Fourth Amendment in state court.
    • Issue: Whether the evidence obtained in the search was admissible.
    • Rule: The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
    • Application: The court determined that the search did not meet the criteria for a warrantless search and was thus unreasonable.
    • Conclusion: The evidence was excluded.
  • Doe v. University of Maine System (2002): A significant case regarding Maine public records law.
    • Issue: Whether certain documents were subject to disclosure under the Maine Freedom of Access Act.
    • Rule: The Maine Freedom of Access Act requires that public records be available for inspection and copying.
    • Application: The court analyzed which parts of the university’s documents constituted public records.
    • Conclusion: The court ordered that the documents be disclosed with appropriate redactions.

Legal Citation

  • The Bluebook: Master the rules of The Bluebook, the primary citation guide for legal documents.
  • Maine Legal Citation: Review the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure and the Maine Rules of Appellate Procedure for specifics on citing Maine authorities in court documents.

Ethical Considerations

  • Maine Rules of Professional Conduct: Familiarize yourself with the ethical rules governing lawyers in Maine, including duties to clients, the court, and the profession.

Writing Style and Clarity

  • Plain Language: Emphasize clarity, precision, and avoiding legalese to make legal writing more accessible to clients and the courts.
  • Editing and Proofreading: Develop a systematic approach to editing and proofreading to improve legal documents’ quality.

This guide should serve as a starting point for your final exam preparations. Delve into each topic, practice your research and writing skills, and review the ethical obligations you will have as a future attorney in Maine.

Discover more from Legal Three

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

Continue reading