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

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

I. Legal Research

Legal research is the process of identifying and retrieving information necessary to support legal decision-making. In its broadest sense, legal research includes each step of a course of action that begins with an analysis of the facts of a problem and concludes with the application and communication of the results of the investigation.

  1. Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary sources are official forms of laws and regulations, including statutes, case law, and constitutions. They are considered binding authority within a jurisdiction.

Secondary sources analyze primary sources, providing commentary and interpretation. They are not law themselves but can be persuasive authority.

  1. Statutory Research

Statutory research involves researching laws passed by legislative bodies, such as the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

  1. Case Law Research

Case law research involves researching judicial decisions for rules of law that apply to specific situations.

Case: Miranda v. Arizona
– Issue: Whether the government must notify the detained criminals of their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and right to counsel.
– Rule: The court ruled that prosecutors cannot use statements stemming from custodial interrogation unless they demonstrate the use of procedural safeguards.
– Analysis: The Court noted that the modern practice of in-custody interrogation is psychologically, rather than physically, oriented and that the blood curdling warnings given by police are part of a complex of highly effective stratagems.
– Conclusion: Thus, the need for counsel to protect the Fifth Amendment privilege comprehends not merely a right to consult with counsel prior to questioning, but also to have counsel present during any questioning if the defendant so desires.

  1. Legal Citations

Legal citations provide a way of locating cases, statutes, and other legal materials. The Bluebook is the standard citation guide used in legal writing.

II. Legal Writing

Legal writing is the practice of drafting a balanced analysis of a legal issue.

  1. Legal Memorandums

A legal memorandum presents research and analysis on a specific legal question, and it is meant to be persuasive.

  1. Appellate Briefs

Appellate briefs are documents submitted to appellate courts by parties involved in a lawsuit. They contain legal arguments and citations to case law and statutes that support their arguments.

  1. Office Memorandums

An office memorandum is an internal document, informing an attorney about the status of a legal matter and offering advice about a particular question.

Case: Donoghue v. Stevenson
– Issue: Whether a manufacturer owes a duty of care to the ultimate consumer of a product.
– Rule: The general rule is that a manufacturer owes a duty of care to the ultimate consumer of a product.
– Analysis: The Court reasoned that it was foreseeable that the ginger beer would be consumed by individuals other than the original purchaser, and therefore, the manufacturer had a duty to ensure the product’s safety.
– Conclusion: The Court concluded that the manufacturer was liable for the damages caused to the consumer, based on the negligent process of manufacturing.

III. Legal Analysis

Involves using legal reasoning to come to a conclusion about how a court would decide a case. The IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) is a standard structure for legal analysis.

IV. Legal Ethics

Legal ethics is the study of moral choices made by lawyers in their professional lives. Understand the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, and how they guide legal professionals’ behavior.

Case: Cohen v. Virginia
– Issue: Whether the First Amendment protects flag desecration as symbolic speech.
– Rule: The court ruled that nonverbal expressive conduct is protected under the First Amendment.
– Analysis: The Court reasoned that Cohen’s jacket fell into the category of protected political speech despite its offensive language.
– Conclusion: The Court concluded that states cannot prohibit public display of offensive language and symbols as it is protected under the First Amendment.

Remember, this guide is just a starting point. Good legal research and writing involves practice. Therefore, make sure to complete all assignments, participate in classroom discussions, and seek feedback from your professor.

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