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Legal Research and Writing: A Practical Approach for Paralegals

By Robert P. O'Neill

Published by Pearson

Published Date: Jan 26, 2016


For courses in legal research and writing.


A comprehensive – yet very understandable – step-by-step approach to legal research and writing.

Legal Research and Writing: A Practical Approach for Paralegals introduces students to the process of legal research and writing with a very readable, yet thorough, step-by-step approach. Students will become proficient in legal research through easy-to-understand text and helpful visual aids, the application of learned concepts to a recurring case study, as well as many practical and engaging problems and fact-based exercises.


Utilizing both print and online sources, students will learn how to conduct legal research with maximum results. The text provides a unique guided approach to Westlaw® and Lexis® instruction and a comprehensive case study where students must apply the skills they’ve learned throughout the course. They will learn where to find the law, as well as how to effectively read, understand, analyze, and apply the law to any given fact pattern. In addition, detailed instruction is provided on the rules for quality writing and the important and practical skills of legal analysis, proofreading, editing, and cite-checking. In short, this book will equip the student with all the necessary tools needed to complete any basic legal research assignment.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

The Basics of Legal Research 3

Learning Objectives 2

What is Legal Research? 3

Introduction to the US Legal System 5

Federal Government 6

State Government 6

The Federal and State Court Structure 7

Levels of Court: Trial and Appellate 7

The Federal Court System 7

The State Court System 10

Federal and State Issues Combined 13

The Sources of Law 14

Types of Law: Civil and Criminal 14

Primary Sources 16

Secondary Sources 20

Mandatory and Persuasive Authority 20

Critical Thinking and Application 23


Chapter 2

The Five Components of Legal Research 25

Learning Objectives 24

Formulating and Developing the Issue 25

Defining the Issues 25

Knowing the Facts 26

Methods of Research: Print and Online 27

Print Resources 28

Online Resources 28

Which Is Better—Print or Online Research? 31

Research Strategies: The Citation and the Word Search Method 32

The Citation Method 32

The Word Search Method 33

Validating and Updating the Research 34

Print Sources 34

Online Sources 35

Cite-Checking 35

Citation: Identifying the Research 35

The Bluebook 36

The ALWD citation Manual 37

Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (Lii) 38

Critical Thinking and Application 39

Comprehensive Case Study


Part I The Facts and Issues 40

Chapter 3

Secondary Sources of Research 45

Learning Objectives 44

An Introduction to the Secondary Sources 45

Secondary Sources Used as References 46

Legal Encyclopedias 46

American Law Reports 56

Restatements of Law 63

Treatises 65

Legal Dictionary and Thesaurus 68

Loose-Leaf Services 69

Additional Secondary Resources 71

Secondary Sources Used in Practice 73

Formbooks in Print and Online 73

Jury Instructions in Print and Online 76

Critical Thinking and Application 79


Chapter 4

The Basics of Statutory Law 83

Learning Objectives 82

Introduction to Statutory Research 83

Adapting to the Needs of Society 83

How to Identify the Parts of a Statute in Print 84

Statute Publication 88

The Legislative Process: A Brief Look 88

The Stages of Statutory Publication 88

How to Conduct the Legislative History of a Law 93

How to Read a Statute 97

Statutory Construction 101

Critical Thinking and Application 102


Chapter 5

How to Search for a Statute 109

Learning Objectives 108

State and Federal Statutes in Print 109

Statutory Codes: Publication and Citation 109

Search Approach: The Citation and Index Methods 116

Finding State Statutes 119

Finding Federal Statutes 125

State and Federal Statutes Online 131

WestlawNext 132

Lexis Advance 136

Copy a Statute Citation into a Word Document 144

Additional Online Statutory Sources 145

Local Laws in Print and Online 145

Critical Thinking and Application 147


Chapter 6

The Basics of Case Law 151

Learning Objectives 150

Introduction to Case Law Research 151

How to Identify the Parts of an Opinion 153

The Elements of an Opinion 154

Case Publication 160

Published and Unpublished Opinions 160

The Stages of Case Publication 163

Researching Case Law by Jurisdiction 167

Case Briefing 169

The Components of a Case Brief 170

Critical Thinking and Application 185


Chapter 7

How to Search for a Case 187

Learning Objectives 186

State and Federal Cases in Print 187

Case Reporters: Publication and Citation 187

Search Approach: The Citation and Digest Methods 196

Finding State Cases 201

Finding Federal Cases 207

State and Federal Cases Online 209

WestlawNext 210

Lexis Advance 218

Copy a Case Citation into a Word Document 225

Searching Case Validation: KeyCite and Shepard’s 226

Print Source: Shepard’s 226

Online Source: Shepard’s 227

Online Source: KeyCite 228

Additional Online Case Law Sources 231

United States Supreme Court Opinions 233

Where to Find USSC Cases in Print 234

How to Find USSC Cases in Print 235

Where to Find USSC Cases Online 236

Critical Thinking and Application 242


Chapter 8

Administrative Law 245

Learning Objectives 244

An Introduction to Administrative Law 245

Executive Agencies 246

Independent Agencies 247

Agency Powers 248

Searching Federal Regulations 249

The Federal Register 249

The Code of Federal Regulations (Cfr) 254

How to Cite a Federal Regulatory Law 262

Searching State Regulations 263

Print Sources 264

Online Sources 266

Critical Thinking and Application 270


Chapter 9

Court Rules, Docket Searches, and Non-Legal Sources 273

Learning Objectives 272

Researching Rules of Court and Evidence 273

The State Rules 273

The Federal Rules 274

Citing the Rules 276

Validating the Rules 277

Researching the Professional Rules of Conduct 277

Validation 278

Citation 278

Docket Searches 279

State Dockets 279

Federal Dockets 280

Docket Access through Online Subscriptions 280

Researching Non-Legal Sources of Information 281

Local Resource Information 281

People 281

Experts/Consultants 282

Attorneys 282

Medical Information 282

WestlawNext and Lexis Advance Software 283

Critical Thinking and Application 285


Comprehensive Case Study

Part II Finding the Law 286

Chapter 10

Legal Analytical Skills 293

Learning Objectives 292

What Is Legal Analysis? 293

The Methods of Legal Analysis 294

Similar Facts Analysis 294

Similar Law Analysis 297

Utilizing Primary Sources Together 298

Critical Thinking and Application 300


Chapter 11

The Basic Rules of Writing 305

Learning Objectives 304

Grammar 305

Verbs 305

Nouns and Pronouns 307

Adjectives and Adverbs 308

Conjunctions 309

Preposition 310

Articles 310

Punctuation 311

Apostrophe 311

The Hyphen and Compound Words 312

Comma, Period, Semi-Colon, and Colon 312

Parentheses, Quotation Marks, Ellipses 314

Additional Rules 315

Critical Thinking and Application 317


Chapter 12

The Rules for Effective Writing 321

Learning Objectives 320

Being Clear 321

The Noun/Verb Format 321

Active and Passive Voice 322

Parallel Construction 323

Verb Tense 323

Vagueness 324

Nominalizations 325

Being Concise 325

Word Choice 325

Word Usage 326

Additional Writing Rules 329

Capitalization 329

Spelling 329

Numbers and Figures 330

Sentence Construction 331

Paragraph Construction 332

Critical Thinking and Application 335


Chapter 13

The Research Memorandum 339

Learning Objectives 338

What Is a Research Memorandum? 339

Objective Writing 339

Purpose and Use 340

Audience 340

Format and Components 340

Components of a Memorandum 341

Legally Significant Facts 344

Use of Citation 350

Using Citation Within a Memorandum 351

The Memorandum as a Writing Sample 354

Preparing the Memorandum 354

When to Submit 355

Critical Thinking and Application 356


Comprehensive Case Study

Part III Drafting the Legal Memorandum 360

Chapter 14

Legal Correspondence 365

Learning Objectives 364

Legal Letter Writing 365

The Components of a Legal Letter 366

General Correspondence Letters 369

Demand Letters 377

Opinion Letters 380

Collection Letters 380

Online Correspondence 380

Correspondence by E-Mail 383

Text Messaging 383

Critical Thinking and Application 384


Chapter 15

Proofreading, Editing, and Cite Checking 389

Learning Objectives 388

 Proofreading and Editing Skills 389

Proofreading and Editing 389

Cite-Checking Skills 393

Inserting and Validating Citations 393

Online Assistance 396

Validating Citations to a Record 397

Critical Thinking and Application 399


Comprehensive Case Study

Part IV Drafting Legal Correspondence 404

Appendix A

Sample Legal Memoranda 406

Appendix B

“My Law”—A State-Specific Citation and Jurisdication Guide 416

Appendix C

More Practice: An Additional Case Study 420

Index 424


Legal Research and Writing: A Practical Approach for Paralegals

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$113.32 $107.65 | ISBN-13: 978-0-13-380864-3

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