West Virginia Law School 1L Study Guide for Legal Research and Writing

I. Legal Research and Writing Basics
Legal research involves finding primary sources of law in a particular jurisdiction and secondary sources that explain the law. Legal writing is a type of technical writing used by lawyers, judges, legislators, and others in law to express legal analysis, legal rights, and duties.

Primary Legal Sources:
1. Constitutions: The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and the West Virginia State Constitution provides specific laws for the state.
2. Statutes and Ordinances: Statutes are laws enacted by legislative bodies at any level of government, such as the U.S. Congress, West Virginia Legislature, and city councils.
3. Case Law: Judicial decisions that make up the common law, such as the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

Secondary Legal Sources:
1. Legal Treatises: Scholarly publications about the law.
2. Law Reviews: Scholarly journals focusing on legal issues, such as the West Virginia Law Review.
3. Restatements of the Laws: Summaries of court decisions on a particular area of law.

II. West Virginia Legal Research
A specific understanding of West Virginia legal sources is critical for legal research in the state.

  1. West Virginia Code: The statutory law of West Virginia, organized by subject area.
  2. West Virginia Case Law: Decisions from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and lower courts.
  3. West Virginia Administrative Code: Rules created by West Virginia state agencies.

Case Study: State v. Chase, 690 S.E.2d 293 (W. Va. 2010)
Issue: Whether the defendant’s right to self-representation was violated?
Rule: The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to self-representation.
Analysis: The court found that the lower court failed to hold a hearing to determine if the defendant’s waiver of counsel was knowingly and intelligently made.
Conclusion: The court reversed the conviction and remanded for a new trial.

III. Legal Writing

  1. Legal Memorandum: A legal memo presents research and legal analysis of a specific legal question. It typically includes an introduction, statement of facts, discussion, and conclusion.
  2. Briefs: Legal document submitted to the court arguing why one party to a case should prevail.
  3. Judicial Opinions: Written decisions by judges stating the decision of the court, the facts of the case, the legal issues, the reasoning used to reach the decision, and the case’s precedential value.

IV. Legal Citation
The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is the style guide for citing to legal documents within the United States.

Key Concepts:
1. The Basic Citation Formats: Cases, Statutes, Books, Periodicals, and Electronic Media and Other Authorities.
2. Signals: Words or phrases that introduce citation sentences or clauses, such as “see” or “compare”.
3. Parenthetical Information: Brief explanations or descriptions following a citation.

V. Legal Analysis: IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) Method
This method provides a structured approach to answering legal problems.

  1. Issue: Define the legal question that will be addressed.
  2. Rule: State the rule or law that applies to the issue.
  3. Analysis: Apply the rule to the facts of the issue.
  4. Conclusion: Summarize the conclusion reached in the analysis.

VI. Legal Research Tools
1. Westlaw and LexisNexis: Online legal research services for lawyers and legal professionals available in over 60 countries.
2. Google Scholar: Free web search engine that indexes the full text of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines.
3. Legal encyclopedias, such as Corpus Juris Secundum and American Jurisprudence 2d.
4. Sheppard’s Citations: A citator used in United States legal research that provides a list of all the authorities citing a particular case, statute, or other legal authority.

Note: This is a broad overview of the subject and it is advisable to delve deeper into each section for comprehensive understanding and preparation for a final semester exam.

Discover more from Legal Three

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading