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Legal Research and Writing

Generally, when law students graduate, they serve as lawyers, law clerks, professors, government officials, activists and corporate executives.  They may also work with lay people and professionals from a wide range of other disciplines.  At law school, the subject of Legal Research and Writing prepares students for these demands by focusing on the analysis of sophisticated legal problems and clear, persuasive writing.

Law schools usually train students in the legal analysis and writing, since this is what they will do most as practicing lawyers.  However, these skills are transferable across many professions.  In Legal Research and Writing, students develop analytical and research skills and they learn to become agile as writers and speakers, in the context of resolving a legal problem.

Legal Research and Writing is a required course for all law students because it teaches students the fundamental aspects of lawyering: how to read a case; how to parse a statute; how to distinguish between material and immaterial facts; how to find legal authorities relevant to legal problems; how to analyze a legal issue using facts and law; and how to communicate legal analysis logically, clearly and concisely.  Legal Research and Writing also serves as a bridge to the clinical program, advanced writing courses, externships, and ultimately to law practice.

Many law schools also teach Legal Research and Writing as a simulation.  The simulation materials in most law schools often consist of mock client interviews, depositions, and exhibits.  Students work, independently and in groups, to resolve a client’s legal problem using these simulation materials.  By situating the legal writing assignments in the context of legal problem-solving, students learn through experience the interplay between fact investigation, legal research, legal analysis and writing.  Law students, in their role as lawyers, work collaboratively with co-counsel and opposing counsel.  The settings are used in law schools to emphasize professional norms, ethics, timeliness, and courtesy, in addition to legal strategy.

There are various legal research methods including traditional and electronic resources.  It is important for students to learn to use both traditional and electronic resources.  Law schools often give students research issues involving state and federal law, and use a broad range of legal authorities, including judicial opinions, statutes, legislative history, administrative regulations, law review articles, encyclopedias and practice manuals. Research is generally taught by both librarian lecturers, who bring their vast knowledge of traditional and electronic resources, and Legal Research and Writing lecturers, who teach using a process-oriented approach familiar to practicing lawyers.  This result in students getting exposed to all major legal research methods.

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