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

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

Introduction to Legal Research and Writing

  • Purpose of Legal Research: To gather legal information necessary to support legal decision-making.
  • Purpose of Legal Writing: To communicate legal analysis clearly and effectively.

Legal Research Process

  • Understanding the Problem: Identifying the legal issues and relevant facts.
  • Finding Primary Authority: Statutes, regulations, case law.
  • Finding Secondary Authority: Treatises, restatements, law reviews, legal encyclopedias.
  • Updating the Law: Using citators like Shepard’s or KeyCite to ensure law is current.
  • Research Strategies: Boolean searches, keyword searches, terms and connectors.

Primary Sources of Law

  • Constitutions: U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions, structure, and principles.
  • Statutes: Minnesota Statutes, hierarchy, and interpretation.
  • Case Law: Opinions from Minnesota courts and the relevant appellate procedure.
  • Administrative Law: Regulations from Minnesota agencies and administrative decisions.

Secondary Sources of Law

  • Restatements of the Law: Summarizes common law, often cited in opinions.
  • Legal Encyclopedias: Such as American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum.
  • Law Reviews and Journals: Scholarly articles on various legal topics.
  • Practice Manuals and Form Books: Practical guides for practicing attorneys.

Legal Writing Components

  • IRAC Structure: Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion.
  • Clear and Precise Language: Avoiding legalese and writing for the intended audience.
  • Citation: Bluebook format, proper attribution to authorities.

The Legal Memorandum

  • Structure of a Legal Memo: Heading, question presented, brief answer, facts, discussion, conclusion.
  • Objective Analysis: Presenting the law neutrally and applying it to the facts.

The Case Brief

  • Purpose: To summarize and analyze court opinions for better understanding.
  • Components: Facts, procedural history, issue, holding, reasoning, disposition.

Persuasive Legal Writing

  • Advocacy: Writing to persuade the reader to a particular legal conclusion.
  • Trial Briefs: Documents submitted to the court outlining arguments and legal theory.
  • Appellate Briefs: Focused on legal errors and interpretation of the law.

Case Law Analysis using IRAC

Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803)
Issue: Does Marbury have a right to his commission? Can he sue for his commission in the Supreme Court?
Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and it grants the Supreme Court original jurisdiction in specific cases.
Application: Marbury has a right to the commission, but the Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus.
Conclusion: Marbury has a right to the commission, but the Supreme Court cannot grant it because it lacks original jurisdiction in this case.

Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co., 449 U.S. 456 (1981)
Issue: Did the Minnesota statute that prohibited the retail sale of milk in plastic nonreturnable, nonrefillable containers violate the Equal Protection Clause or the Commerce Clause of the Constitution?
Rule: A statute does not violate the Equal Protection Clause if it is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. A statute does not violate the Commerce Clause if it does not discriminate against interstate commerce or if it serves a legitimate local interest and the effects on interstate commerce are incidental.
Application: The statute was rationally related to the state’s goals of promoting resource conservation, easing solid waste disposal, and aiding the local dairy industry. The effects on interstate commerce were incidental.
Conclusion: The statute did not violate the Equal Protection Clause or the Commerce Clause.

Legal Citation

  • Understanding The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.
  • Minnesota Citations: Specific formats for citing Minnesota statutes, cases, and administrative materials.
  • Parallel Citations: Citing to more than one source where the same authority can be found.

Editing and Proofreading

  • Importance of multiple drafts and revisions.
  • Checking for grammar, punctuation, and citation errors.
  • Strategies for clear and logical presentation of legal analysis.

Professional Communication

  • Email Etiquette: Communicating with professors, attorneys, and other professionals.
  • Legal Correspondence: Drafting letters to clients, opposing counsel, and the court.

Ethical Considerations

  • Plagiarism: Importance of original work and proper citation.
  • Confidentiality: Maintaining client secrets and attorney-client privilege.

Legal Research and Writing Resources in Minnesota

  • Minnesota Law Library: Access to physical and digital legal resources.
  • Minnesota State Law Library: Providing services to the legal community and the public.
  • Online Legal Databases: Westlaw, LexisNexis, and other legal research platforms.


Legal Research and Writing is a foundational skill for law students and practicing attorneys. Mastery of these concepts is essential for success in law school and the practice of law in Minnesota. Students should focus on developing their ability to perform thorough legal research, analyze case law effectively using the IRAC method, and present their findings with clear, precise, and persuasive legal writing.

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