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

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

Legal Research and Writing (LRW) is a critical course in the 1L curriculum that equips students with the essential skills to conduct legal research and to communicate effectively in writing. Below is a comprehensive guide to the core concepts, skills, and case law relevant to New York law that you will need to master for your final semester exam in a 1L LRW course.

I. Legal Research

Legal research is the process of finding an answer to a legal question or checking for legal precedent that can be cited in a brief or at trial.

A. Primary Sources
1. Constitutions – Fundamental law of the land, both federal and state (e.g., New York State Constitution).
2. Statutes – Laws enacted by the legislative branch (e.g., New York Consolidated Laws).
3. Cases – Judicial interpretations of laws; mandatory versus persuasive authority.
4. Regulations – Rules issued by executive branch agencies (e.g., New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations).

B. Secondary Sources
1. Treatises
2. Law Review Articles
3. Restatements of the Law
4. Practice Manuals

C. Legal Research Databases
1. Westlaw
2. LexisNexis
3. Bloomberg Law
4. Google Scholar
5. New York State Unified Court System’s eCourts

D. The New York Approach
1. New York Official Reports
2. McKinney’s Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated

E. Citator Services
1. KeyCite (Westlaw)
2. Shepard’s (LexisNexis)
3. BCite (Bloomberg Law)

II. Legal Analysis

Legal analysis is the process of applying legal research to factual scenarios.

A. Issue
1. Identifying the relevant legal issue.

B. Rule
1. Summarizing the applicable law or legal principle.

C. Application/Analysis
1. Applying the law to the facts.

D. Conclusion
1. Summarizing the outcome based on the application of the law.

III. Legal Writing

Legal writing is the process of expressing legal analysis in written form.

A. Predictive Writing
1. Office Memoranda
2. Legal Briefs

B. Persuasive Writing
1. Appellate Briefs
2. Motions

C. The Memorandum of Law
1. Question Presented
2. Brief Answer
3. Facts
4. Discussion
5. Conclusion

D. The Importance of Clarity, Brevity, and Precision

E. The New York Style
1. Citations conforming to the New York Law Reports Style Manual.

IV. Citation

A. The Bluebook
1. The standard system of legal citation.

B. New York Variations
1. New York Law Reports Style Manual – specific citation guidelines for New York legal documents.

V. Case Briefing

A. Case Name
B. Citation
C. Facts
D. Issue
E. Holding
F. Reasoning

VI. Selected New York Case Law

Now, we will look at some foundational New York case law using the IRAC format:

People v. Molineux (1901)
Issue: Is evidence of a defendant’s prior wrongdoing admissible in court to show that the defendant has a propensity to commit the current crime?
Rule: New York courts generally prohibit the introduction of evidence of uncharged crimes for the purpose of showing a defendant’s propensity to commit the crime charged.
Application: The court determined that such evidence may be admitted for purposes other than showing propensity, such as to show intent, identity, the absence of mistake or accident, a common scheme or plan, or malice.
Conclusion: The New York Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of prior uncharged crimes without instructing the jury on the limited purpose for which such evidence could be considered.

Martin v. Herzog (1920)
Issue: Does a party’s unexcused statutory violation constitute negligence per se in an accident case?
Rule: In New York, the unexcused omission of a statutory duty is considered negligence per se.
Application: The court analyzed whether the failure to have lights on a buggy, as required by statute, automatically constituted negligence contributing to an accident.
Conclusion: The New York Court of Appeals concluded that such a statutory violation is evidence of negligence and that the absence of lights was a contributing cause of the accident.

In preparing for your final exam, you should focus on understanding and applying these legal research and writing concepts, mastering legal citation, and being able to analyze case law effectively. Practice writing and analyzing hypothetical legal scenarios using the IRAC format and familiarize yourself with the New York specific laws and citation style. This will be invaluable for both your exam and your future practice as a member of the New York Bar.

Discover more from Legal Three

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

Continue reading