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

I. Introduction to Legal Research and Writing

Legal research and writing is a foundational course in law school that introduces students to legal reasoning, research methodologies, and effective legal writing.

II. Legal Research

A. Introduction to Legal Research: Involves familiarization with primary and secondary legal sources, statutory interpretation, and case law analysis.

B. Primary Sources: These are sources of law that have binding authority (e.g. statutes, regulations, court decisions).

C. Secondary Sources: These are materials that explain, criticize, or help locate primary sources of law (e.g. legal encyclopedias, law review articles, legal treatises).

D. Wyoming Specific Law: Understanding Wyoming Statutes, Wyoming Administrative Code and Wyoming court decisions is crucial for law students studying in Wyoming.

E. Legal Citation: It’s important to familiarize oneself with The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, which is a style guide for legal citation in the United States.

III. Legal Writing

A. Parts of a Legal Brief: Includes components like the case name, legal issue, facts, procedural history, rule, application, and conclusion.

B. The IRAC Method (Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion): A legal writing technique that helps organize legal analysis.

C. Writing a Case Brief: A summarization of a legal decision, including the facts, legal issue, court’s decision, and reasoning.

IV. Case Law

A. Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803): This case established the principle of judicial review.

  • Issue: Whether the Supreme Court has the authority to review acts of Congress and determine whether they are unconstitutional and void.
  • Rule: Under Article III of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to review acts of Congress and determine their constitutionality.
  • Analysis: The court asserted that Marbury had a right to his commission. Nevertheless, the court denied Marbury’s request, holding that it lacked jurisdiction because Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which granted the Supreme Court the authority to issue such writs, was unconstitutional.
  • Conclusion: The Supreme Court does not have the authority to issue writs of mandamus under the Constitution.

B. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954): This case ended racial segregation in schools.

  • Issue: Whether segregation of public education based solely on race is unconstitutional.
  • Rule: Segregation of public education based solely on race violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Analysis: The Court reasoned that, in the context of public education, racially segregated schools are inherently unequal, and thus, they denied Black children equal protection of the laws.
  • Conclusion: Racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.

V. Legal Analysis: Hierarchy of Authority

A. Mandatory Authority: Consists of binding precedents such as statutes, regulations, and court decisions within the jurisdiction.

B. Persuasive Authority: Consists of precedents that the court may consider but is not obligated to follow.

VI. Legal Research Strategies

A. Identifying Relevant Facts: Facts that directly impact the legal issue at hand.

B. Issue Spotting: Recognizing potential legal issues based on the relevant facts.

C. Using Legal Databases: Understanding how to use databases like Westlaw, Lexis Nexis, and Bloomberg Law to conduct legal research.

D. Updating Legal Research: Checking to see if a case is still good law, or if a statute or regulation has been amended or repealed.

VII. Legal Writing Strategies

A. Clear and Concise Writing: Legal writing should be clear, concise, and free of legal jargon.

B. Proper Grammar and Punctuation: Errors in grammar and punctuation can undermine the credibility of the legal argument.

C. Proofreading and Editing: Essential for producing a polished and persuasive legal document.

D. Legal Ethics in Writing: Lawyers must accurately represent the law and facts and should never plagiarize.

Remember, the goal of legal research and writing is not only to learn the law but also to learn how to think, write, and argue like a lawyer. This study guide should provide a good starting point for mastering these skills.

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