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

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

Legal Research

Primary Sources

  • Statutory Law: Understand the Montana Code Annotated (MCA) and how to locate statutes relevant to Montana-specific issues.
  • Case Law: Familiarize with the Montana Supreme Court decisions, which bind lower state courts. Learn to use reporters such as the Pacific Reporter and online databases like Westlaw or LexisNexis.
  • Constitutions: Study the U.S. Constitution and the Montana Constitution, focusing on their structures, amendments, and interpretations.
  • Administrative Law: Review the rules and decisions from Montana state agencies.

Secondary Sources

  • Legal Encyclopedias: Such as American Jurisprudence 2d and Corpus Juris Secundum.
  • Law Reviews: Focus on publications from the University of Montana’s Montana Law Review for scholarly analysis.
  • Restatements of the Law: For summaries of common law in various areas.
  • Legal Dictionaries: Black’s Law Dictionary for legal terminology.

Research Strategies

  • Understand the hierarchy of authority and binding vs. persuasive sources.
  • Develop keyword and subject matter search techniques.
  • Use citators like Shepard’s or KeyCite to check the history and treatment of legal authorities.

Legal Writing

Writing Process

  • Pre-writing Techniques: Outlining, issue spotting, and brainstorming.
  • Drafting: Writing clear, concise, and organized drafts.
  • Editing and Revision: Techniques for self-editing and peer-review feedback.


  • Objective Analysis: Writing an internal memo that neutrally evaluates legal issues.
  • Components:
    • Question Presented
    • Brief Answer
    • Statement of Facts
    • Discussion: Apply IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion)
    • Conclusion


  • Persuasive Writing: Crafting a brief for submission to a court, advocating for a particular outcome.
  • Components:
    • Table of Contents/Authorities
    • Statement of Issues
    • Statement of the Case
    • Argument: Including IRAC for each issue
    • Conclusion


  • Mastery of the Bluebook for proper legal citation in Montana and federal documents.

Legal Correspondence

  • Effective communication with clients, attorneys, and the court, including letters of advice and demand letters.

Case Law Analysis Using IRAC

Montana v. Engelhoff, 518 U.S. 37 (1996)

  • Issue: Whether Montana’s statute that prohibits the introduction of evidence about the defendant’s intoxication to negate the mens rea of a crime violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
  • Rule: The Due Process Clause does not guarantee the right to introduce all relevant evidence; states have the authority to establish rules excluding evidence from criminal trials.
  • Analysis: The Supreme Court found that Montana’s statute served legitimate state interests and did not offend any principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.
  • Conclusion: The Court upheld Montana’s statute, ruling that it did not violate the Due Process Clause.

IRAC Format:

  • Issue: State the legal issue in the case.
  • Rule: Articulate the governing law or legal principle at play.
  • Analysis: Apply the rule to the facts in a detailed and logical manner.
  • Conclusion: Reach a conclusion based on the analysis.

Practical Application

Legal Ethics

  • Montana Rules of Professional Conduct.
  • Understanding confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and duties to the court.

Legal Analysis

  • Synthesizing case law and statutory law to form legal arguments.
  • Applying Montana-specific laws to hypothetical situations.

Oral Advocacy

  • Techniques for effective oral argument in moot court and other simulated court settings.
  • Understanding the structure of oral argument and how to respond to judges’ questions.

Professional Writing

  • Drafting legal documents specific to Montana practice, such as complaints, answers, motions, and contracts.
  • Emphasizing clarity, precision, and adherence to Montana procedural rules.

Technology in Legal Practice

  • Familiarity with legal research software.
  • Understanding electronic filing procedures in Montana courts.

Exam Preparation

  • Create outlines for each topic.
  • Engage in practice writing assignments and hypothetical problem-solving.
  • Participate in study groups to discuss and clarify complex legal issues.
  • Review past Montana bar exam questions for style and substance.
  • Meet with professors for clarification on difficult concepts and feedback on writing.

This study guide provides a structured approach to 1L legal research and writing concepts, with a focus on Montana law. Consistent application of these principles through practical exercises and review will prepare students for success in their final semester exams and beyond in their legal careers.

Discover more from Legal Three

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

Continue reading