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

  1. Introduction to Legal Research and Writing
    It is important to understand that legal research and writing are essential skills for lawyers. Legal research is the process of identifying and retrieving information necessary to support legal decision-making, while legal writing is applying the law to a given set of facts and persuasively arguing a client’s position.

  2. Legal Analysis
    Legal analysis is the application of one or more rules to the facts of a client’s case to answer a legal question. It involves understanding how laws, regulations, and precedents apply to a particular fact pattern.

  3. IRAC Method
    The IRAC method (Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion) is a fundamental aspect of legal writing. It provides a structured approach to legal analysis.

For instance, in the case of Riggs v. Palmer (1889):
Issue: Whether a grandson, who murdered his grandfather, can inherit his grandfather’s estate?
Rule: The Rule against public policy.
Application: Though the grandson is the stated beneficiary, he cannot profit from his own wrong.
Conclusion: The court held that the grandson could not inherit from his grandfather.

  1. Bluebook Citation
    The Bluebook, a Uniform System of Citation, is the standard method of citation in American legal writing. It provides guidelines on citation format, typography, and arrangement.

  2. Case Law
    Case law refers to the precedents established by court decisions. Understanding key case law relevant to your research is important.

  3. Constitutional Law
    Constitutional law involves the interpretation and implementation of the U.S. Constitution. It covers areas like the rights of individuals, the role of the federal government, and the relationship between state and federal laws.

  4. Statutory Interpretation
    Statutory interpretation involves understanding the meaning and application of statutes. Courts often have to interpret and apply statutes.

  5. Legal Research Databases
    Understanding how to use legal databases like Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg Law is crucial for effective legal research.

  6. Legal Writing
    Legal writing involves writing various legal documents like memos, briefs, and contracts. It requires clarity, precision, and the ability to present complex information in an understandable way.

  7. Legal Memorandum
    A legal memorandum is a common type of legal document that presents an objective analysis of a legal issue. It includes sections like the statement of facts, questions presented, brief answer, and discussion.

  8. Appellate Brief
    An appellate brief is a written legal argument submitted to an appellate court. It contains a statement of the facts, a statement of the issues, the arguments, and the applicable laws.

  9. Persuasive Writing
    Persuasive writing in law involves making a case for your client’s position, using legal precedent, statutory law, and policy arguments.

  10. Ethical Considerations
    Legal research and writing also involve ethical considerations, such as the duty of candor to the court, the duty to avoid plagiarism, and the duty to provide competent representation.

  11. Vermont-Specific Laws
    Understanding Vermont-specific laws and legal resources is also crucial. For example, the Vermont Statutes is the authoritative compilation of the state’s laws. Additionally, case law from the Vermont Supreme Court and local ordinances can also be relevant to your legal research and writing.

Remember, this study guide is meant to provide an overview of the topics you might encounter in a 1L Legal Research and Writing course at Vermont Law School. Be sure to review your course syllabus, textbooks, and notes thoroughly in preparation for your final exam.

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