New Jersey Law School 1L Study Guide for Legal Research and Writing

New Jersey 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 the ability to find and interpret legal authorities, and to communicate legal arguments effectively.

II. Legal Research

A. Primary Sources

  1. Statutes and Legislation
    • Understanding the New Jersey Statutes Annotated (N.J.S.A.)
    • How to find and interpret statutes; using legislative history for context
    • Example case: DeProspero v. Penn, 390 A.2d 261 (N.J. 1978) – Here the court provided insight into statutory interpretation in New Jersey.
  2. Case Law
    • Finding New Jersey Supreme Court and Appellate Division cases
    • Understanding the importance of precedent (stare decisis)
    • Example case: State v. Dively, 92 N.J. 573 (1983) – Demonstrates the application of case law to reach a decision.
  3. Constitutional Provisions
    • The New Jersey Constitution and its relevance
    • Federal Constitution as it applies to New Jersey law

B. Secondary Sources

  1. Legal Encyclopedias
    • E.g., New Jersey Practice Series
  2. Law Reviews and Journals
    • Scholarly analysis of legal issues
  3. Legal Dictionaries
    • Black’s Law Dictionary as the standard
  4. ALR, Am Jur, Restatements
    • These provide persuasive authority and helpful analysis of legal principles.

C. Legal Research Databases

  1. Westlaw and LexisNexis
    • Maneuvering through legal databases unique to New Jersey law.
  2. Internet Resources
    • Official state websites, like the New Jersey Courts online portal.

D. Citations

  1. The Bluebook
    • Understanding the citation format for legal documents.
  2. New Jersey-specific Citation Rules
    • Differences in citation styles for New Jersey courts.

III. Legal Writing

A. Components of Legal Writing

  1. Memoranda
    • Objective internal documents used to analyze legal issues.
  2. Briefs
    • Persuasive documents submitted to courts.
  3. Opinion Letters
    • Providing legal opinions to clients.

B. The Writing Process

  1. Pre-Writing
    • Outlining, issue spotting, and brainstorming.
  2. Writing
    • Clear and concise writing style; IRAC/CRAC method.
  3. Revision
    • Editing for clarity, coherence, and legal accuracy.

C. The IRAC Format

  • Issue: Identifying the legal question.
  • Rule: The legal rule or principle that applies.
  • Application: Applying the rule to the facts.
  • Conclusion: The outcome based on the application.

Example using the IRAC format:

Case: State v. Hempele, 576 A.2d 793 (N.J. 1990)

  • Issue: Whether the warrantless search of garbage left for collection violates the New Jersey State Constitution.
  • Rule: Expectation of privacy under the New Jersey Constitution is generally broader than the Federal Constitution.
  • Application: Hempele had an expectation of privacy in his garbage that the society is prepared to accept as reasonable.
  • Conclusion: The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the warrantless search violated the state constitution.

IV. Persuasive Legal Writing

A. Elements of Persuasion

  1. Ethos
    • Establishing credibility and authority.
  2. Pathos
    • Engaging the emotions of the reader.
  3. Logos
    • Logical and structured argumentation.

B. Fact Patterns and Hypotheticals

  1. Analyzing Fact Patterns
    • Identifying relevant facts and legal issues.
  2. Crafting Hypotheticals
    • Demonstrating how rules apply in varied circumstances.

V. Oral Advocacy

A. Moot Court and Oral Arguments

  1. Preparation
    • Knowing the record, cases, and being able to respond to questions.
  2. Presentation
    • Clarity, pace, and persuasiveness.

B. Public Speaking Skills

  1. Clarity and Precision
  2. Effective Use of Nonverbal Communication

VI. Ethical Considerations

A. Rules of Professional Conduct

  1. Duties to Clients and the Court
    • Confidentiality, competence, and candor.

B. Plagiarism and Proper Attribution

  1. Importance of Original Work
    • Understanding and avoiding plagiarism in legal writing.

VII. Conclusion

Legal Research and Writing are foundational components of a legal education. Mastery of these skills is essential for success in law school and in the legal profession, particularly in New Jersey where state-specific nuances can significantly impact legal practice. Students should focus on developing their ability to research thoroughly and write persuasively while adhering to ethical standards and New Jersey’s specific legal framework.

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