North Carolina Law School 1L Study Guide for Legal Research and Writing

North Carolina Law School 1L Study Guide: Legal Research and Writing

Introduction to Legal Research and Writing

Legal research and writing are fundamental skills for law students and practicing attorneys. This study guide focuses on the principles, resources, and strategies for conducting legal research, as well as the techniques for effective legal writing, tailored specifically to the context of North Carolina law.

Legal Research

Understanding Primary Sources:

  • Statutes: Familiarize yourself with the North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS), which are the codified law of the state.
  • Case Law: Look at decisions from the North Carolina Supreme Court and the North Carolina Court of Appeals for binding precedents.
  • Constitution: The Constitution of North Carolina forms the legal foundation for state law, and federal constitutional principles may apply to North Carolina cases where federal law is implicated.

Understanding Secondary Sources:

  • Legal Encyclopedias: Such as North Carolina Jurisprudence, which provide a broad overview of state law.
  • Treatises: In-depth analysis of specific areas of North Carolina law.
  • Law Reviews: Scholarly articles that can provide insight into legal issues, legal trends, and critical analysis.

Legal Research Databases:

  • LexisNexis and Westlaw: These are two primary databases for conducting legal research that includes North Carolina-specific resources.
  • NC Court System’s website: Offers access to the latest decisions from North Carolina’s appellate courts.

Research Strategies:

  • Issue Spotting: Identify the legal issues that need researching.
  • Keywords and Search Terms: Develop a list of relevant terms.
  • Shepardizing/Citator Use: Utilize tools to check the validity of case law.
  • Research Logs: Keep track of where you have searched and what you have found.

Legal Writing

Understanding the Audience:

  • Legal Memoranda: Written for an in-firm audience, usually a senior attorney, to summarize legal issues and analysis.
  • Briefs: Submitted to courts, they advocate for a client’s legal position.
  • Opinion Letters: Written to clients to provide legal advice on a particular situation.

Key Components of Legal Documents:

  • Facts: A clear and concise statement of the relevant facts tailored to the legal issues.
  • Issues: A statement of the legal questions that you are analyzing.
  • Rules: Identification of the applicable legal principles or statutory provisions.
  • Analysis/Application: Discuss how the legal rules apply to the facts of the case.
  • Conclusion: A summary of your findings or arguments.

IRAC Method:

A widely used framework for legal analysis, IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion.

  • Issue: Identify the specific legal question or issue addressed.
  • Rule: State the rule or legal principle that applies to the issue.
  • Analysis: Apply the rule to the facts of the case in a detailed and logical manner.
  • Conclusion: Provide a clear and concise conclusion that answers the legal question.

Case Law in IRAC Format:

Marbury v. Madison (1803)
Issue: Does Marbury have a right to the commission he demands?
Rule: The law establishes the right to receive the commission.
Analysis: The Supreme Court has the authority to review acts of Congress and determine whether they are unconstitutional.
Conclusion: Marbury has a right to the commission, but the Court cannot issue the writ of mandamus.

North Carolina Specific Writing Conventions:

  • Citation: Follow the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure for proper citation format.
  • Style: Adhere to the North Carolina-specific writing style, which may include particular phrases or terms used predominantly within the state’s legal documents.

Practical Writing Exercises

  • Drafting a client advice letter based on a hypothetical legal issue.
  • Preparing a trial court brief for a North Carolina-specific case.
  • Writing a memo that analyzes a legal problem using North Carolina statutes and case law.

Editing and Revision

  • Clarity and Precision: Strive to communicate legal analysis as clearly and precisely as possible.
  • Grammar and Punctuation: Ensure correctness in grammar, punctuation, and usage.
  • Legal Citations: Check all citations for accuracy and adherence to citation rules.
  • Fact-Checking: Verify all factual statements for accuracy.

Ethical Considerations

  • Confidentiality: Maintain strict confidentiality regarding all client information.
  • Plagiarism: Always provide proper attribution for sources and avoid any form of plagiarism.
  • Accuracy: Do not mislead the court or parties with false statements of law or fact.


This study guide outlines the fundamental aspects of legal research and writing specific to North Carolina law. It provides a foundation for understanding how to locate and apply legal sources and principles, as well as how to effectively communicate legal analysis. For law students preparing for their final semester exams, mastery of these concepts will be critical to success both in law school and in practice.

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