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

  1. Legal Research
    Legal research is the process of identifying and retrieving information that is necessary to support legal decision-making. It involves the identification of legal resources, such as statutes, case law, and secondary sources, and the evaluation of these resources in the context of a legal problem.
  • Primary Sources: These are authoritative statements of the law. They include statutes, regulations, case law, and constitutions.
  • Secondary Sources: These are resources that explain, interpret, or analyze the law. They include legal encyclopedias, treatises, law review articles, and legal dictionaries.
  • Legal Citations: These are standardized references to legal materials. They allow readers to locate and verify legal sources.
  1. Westlaw and LexisNexis
    These are two of the most popular online legal research platforms. Westlaw and LexisNexis provide access to a vast array of legal resources, including case law, statutes, regulations, and secondary sources.
  • Understand how to use Boolean search terms and connectors such as AND, OR, NOT, and quotation marks to narrow or broaden your search.
  • Familiarize yourself with how to set jurisdictional limits, how to use filters, and how to review and save your research.
  1. Legal Analysis
    Legal analysis is the process of applying the law to a set of facts to reach a conclusion. This involves identifying relevant legal issues, applying the appropriate rule of law, analyzing the facts in light of the rule, and making a conclusion.
  • Issue: The legal question or dispute that needs to be resolved.
  • Rule: The legal principle that will be applied to resolve the issue.
  • Analysis: The application of the rule to the facts of the case.
  • Conclusion: The outcome of the analysis.
  1. Legal Writing
    Legal writing is a type of technical writing used by lawyers, judges, legislators, and others in law to express legal analysis and legal rights and duties.
  • IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application/Analysis, Conclusion) format: This is a common structure used in legal writing. It provides a clear and logical framework for presenting legal analysis.

Case Review: Marbury v. Madison (1803)
Issue: Whether the Supreme Court has the authority to review acts of Congress and determine whether they are unconstitutional.
Rule: The Constitution establishes the judicial power of the United States in the Supreme Court, and it has the duty to interpret and apply the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
Application/Analysis: The court determined that it had the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate government acts that conflict with the Constitution.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court established its authority to exercise judicial review over acts of Congress.

  1. Legal Citation
    Legal citation is the practice of crediting and referring to authoritative documents and sources. The most commonly accepted guide is the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.
  • Understand how to cite case law, statutes, regulations, and secondary sources.
  • Learn the abbreviations, structure of citations, and the use of signals.
  1. South Dakota Specific Laws/Cases
    South Dakota has its own set of state laws and cases that you should be familiar with. For example, South Dakota has unique laws about Native American reservations, hunting and fishing, and agricultural practices.

Remember, the key to success in legal research and writing is practice. Refine your skills through continual usage and application, and don’t hesitate to ask for help or clarification when needed. Good luck with your studies!

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