Maryland Law School 1L Study Guide for Legal Research and Writing
I. Introduction to Legal Research and Writing
Legal research and writing are fundamental skills for any law student and practicing attorney. These skills involve finding and analyzing legal authorities, such as statutes, regulations, case law, and secondary sources. Effective legal writing is clear, concise, and persuasive, tailored to the needs of the specific audience.
A. Legal Research
1. Primary Sources – binding law that includes constitutions, statutes, regulations, and case law.
2. Secondary Sources – non-binding materials that help to explain or locate primary sources, such as law review articles, treatises, and legal encyclopedias.
3. Mandatory vs. Persuasive Authority – Mandatory authority refers to legal principles that a court must follow. Persuasive authority refers to sources that the court may consider but is not required to follow.
B. Legal Writing
1. Objective Writing – providing a balanced analysis of the law, such as in office memos.
2. Persuasive Writing – advocating for a particular legal position, such as in briefs and motions.
3. Citations – the proper format for citing legal authorities using the Bluebook citation system.
II. The Structure of the Maryland Court System
Understanding the structure of the Maryland court system is essential when conducting legal research and determining which cases are binding.
A. Maryland Court Structure
1. Maryland Court of Appeals – the highest court in Maryland.
2. Maryland Court of Special Appeals – the intermediate appellate court.
3. Maryland Circuit Courts – trial courts with general jurisdiction.
4. Maryland District Courts – lower trial courts with jurisdiction over certain types of cases.
III. Legal Analysis: IRAC Method
The IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) method is a critical framework for legal analysis.
A. Issue – Identifying the legal question or problem.
B. Rule – Determining the relevant legal rules or principles.
C. Application – Applying the rule to the specific facts of the case.
D. Conclusion – Drawing a conclusion based on the application of the rule to the facts.
IV. Case Briefing
Case briefing is a technique for summarizing and analyzing court opinions.
A. Case Components
1. Facts – relevant details about the parties and circumstances leading to the dispute.
2. Procedural History – the sequence of events in the legal process leading to the appeal.
3. Issues – legal questions the court must answer.
4. Holding – the court’s decision on the legal issues.
5. Reasoning – the court’s explanation for its decision.
B. Case Law in Maryland
1. Stare Decisis – the principle that Maryland courts should follow the precedent set by higher Maryland courts.
V. Statutory Analysis
Understanding and interpreting statutes is a fundamental part of legal research and writing.
A. Maryland Code – the codified laws of the state of Maryland.
B. Rules of Statutory Interpretation – techniques for determining the meaning of statutes, such as looking at plain language, legislative history, and purpose.
VI. Persuasive Legal Writing
Crafting effective arguments in legal writing requires an understanding of argumentative structure and rhetorical strategies.
A. Components of Persuasive Writing
1. Statement of Facts – a narrative that presents the facts in a light most favorable to the argument.
2. Argument – the section of a brief where legal reasoning and evidence are presented.
3. Counterargument – addressing potential arguments from the opposing side.
VII. Legal Citations
Proper citation is crucial for credibility and allows readers to locate cited authorities.
A. The Bluebook – the style guide for legal citation in the United States.
B. Maryland Citations – special rules for citing Maryland-specific sources, such as Maryland reports and Maryland statutes.
VIII. Legal Ethics in Research and Writing
Legal research and writing must adhere to ethical standards.
A. Plagiarism – representing the work of others as your own, which is strictly prohibited.
B. Confidentiality – maintaining the confidentiality of client information during research and writing.
IX. Legal Research Resources
Familiarity with research databases and libraries is essential for efficient legal research.
A. LexisNexis and Westlaw – primary online legal research databases.
B. Maryland State Law Library – a resource for accessing Maryland-specific legal materials.
X. Legal Memoranda and Briefs
Legal memoranda and briefs are common forms of legal writing in practice.
A. Memorandum of Law – a document that objectively analyzes a legal issue for internal use.
B. Appellate Brief – a document submitted to an appellate court arguing why that court should affirm or reverse a lower court’s decision.
XI. Practice and Revision
Effective legal writing requires continuous practice and revision.
A. Drafting – the process of creating the initial version of a legal document.
B. Revising – the process of refining and improving a draft, including checking for clarity, coherence, and errors.
XII. Legal Writing Samples
Developing a strong writing sample is important for law school success and future employment.
A. Selection – choosing a writing piece that demonstrates analytical ability and writing skills.
B. Polishing – ensuring the sample is well-written, well-researched, and error-free.
This study guide is an overview of key concepts and skills for a 1L legal research and writing class with a focus on Maryland law. It is important to delve into each topic, study relevant Maryland case law, and practice both research and writing to fully prepare for a final semester exam.