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

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

Introduction to Legal Research and Writing

Legal research and writing is a foundational course for law students, equipping them with the skills necessary to analyze legal problems, find relevant authorities, and effectively communicate legal arguments. By mastering these skills, students will be prepared to draft memos, briefs, and other legal documents.

Legal Research

Primary Sources

  • Statutes: Understand how to locate and interpret North Dakota Century Code (NDCC) and applicable federal statutes.
  • Case Law: Learn how to find relevant case law using reporters, such as the North Dakota Reports and the North Western Reporter for state cases, and the Federal Reporter for federal cases.
  • Constitutions: Study the United States Constitution and the North Dakota Constitution for foundational legal principles.
  • Administrative Law: Identify relevant regulations from the North Dakota Administrative Code and the Code of Federal Regulations.

Secondary Sources

  • Legal Encyclopedias: Familiarize yourself with general legal principles using resources like American Jurisprudence 2d and Corpus Juris Secundum.
  • Law Reviews and Journals: Use articles for in-depth analysis on specific legal issues, including those relevant to North Dakota law.
  • Treatises and Practice Guides: Learn from experts in the field and obtain practical guidance on various areas of law.

Legal Research Databases

  • Westlaw and LexisNexis: Develop proficiency in using these databases for finding cases, statutes, and secondary sources.
  • HeinOnline: Utilize this database for historical and government documents, law journals, and specialty collections.


  • The Bluebook: Master the rules for legal citation to ensure proper referencing of legal authorities.
  • North Dakota Citation: Be aware of any state-specific citation formats or practices.

Legal Writing

Legal Memorandum

  • Learn how to write an objective legal memo, including the following key components:
    • Heading: Clearly identify the subject and involved parties.
    • Question Presented: Summarize the legal question being addressed.
    • Brief Answer: Provide a concise answer to the legal question.
    • Statement of Facts: Present relevant facts in a neutral manner.
    • Discussion: Analyze legal issues, applying relevant statutes and case law.
    • Conclusion: Restate the answer to the legal question and summarize the analysis.

Appellate Brief

  • Acquire the skills to write a persuasive appellate brief with these elements:
    • Table of Contents and Table of Authorities: List sections and cited authorities.
    • Statement of the Issues: Present the questions on appeal.
    • Statement of the Case: Provide a factual and procedural background.
    • Argument: Present legal arguments with supporting authorities.
    • Conclusion: Summarize the relief sought.

Case Analysis Using IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion)

  • Develop the IRAC framework for analyzing and writing about legal issues.

Case Law Review Using IRAC

Case: State v. Jones (North Dakota Supreme Court)

  • Issue: Whether the evidence obtained during a warrantless search of Jones’s vehicle was admissible.
  • Rule: Under the North Dakota Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, evidence obtained from an unlawful search is inadmissible unless an exception applies.
  • Application: The search was performed without a warrant; however, the officer had probable cause to believe that the vehicle contained evidence of a crime, which falls under the “automobile exception.”
  • Conclusion: The court held that the evidence was admissible because the search was justified under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement.

North Dakota-Specific Concepts

  • Understand the unique aspects of North Dakota law, such as the state’s oil and gas regulations, agricultural law, and the nuances of the NDCC.
  • Explore the jurisprudence of the North Dakota Supreme Court and its interpretation of state law.

Practical Exercises

  • Engage in mock research and writing assignments to apply the concepts learned.
  • Participate in peer reviews to develop critical analysis and writing skills.

Exam Preparation

  • Review course materials and outline key concepts.
  • Practice writing clear and concise legal arguments under timed conditions.
  • Analyze past exam questions and sample answers for insight into effective legal writing.


Success in Legal Research and Writing requires a comprehensive understanding of both the sources of law and the techniques for effective communication. Utilize this study guide to navigate through North Dakota law and develop the necessary skills for research and writing proficiency.

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