Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis Chapter Essay

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Legal Research, Writing, & Analysis

Chapter 1 deals with general definitions that would be used in the book, including the difference between civil and criminal law, the particularities of substance and procedure, with examples as to what might fall under each category, as well as definitions of notions such as common law and equity. The chapter details on the role of the facts in a judicial case, as well as on how this falls in the framework of the law and interacts with other judicial elements.

Chapter 2 details on the elements that form the legal system, notably the court systems and the legal authority. The court system usually includes three different levels where the case can be tried. These are the trial court, the appellate or appeal court and the supreme or high court. The concept of original jurisdiction is discussed and described as the court that first hears a case. In most cases, the trial court, as the lowest level in the court system, is the one with original jurisdiction, but occasionally, the original jurisdiction may fall under some of the upper levels, including the appeal court or even the supreme court. In the latter case, it often refers to legal disputes between states.

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Chapter 2 discusses the federal court system as well, a system that is divided into the federal district court, the federal court of appeals and the United States Supreme Court, as well as special federal courts, if the case requires a separate court to be set up. The federal court system is usually mirrored by the state court system, with the addition of the small claims court, where no criminal cases are heard.

TOPIC: Essay on Legal Research, Writing, & Analysis Chapter 1 Assignment

The chapter emphasizes on the importance of the precedent as the basic principle of Anglo-American law: decisions in court are reached based on previous precedents, that is on previous decisions. This is described in a practical example of two different cases, one of which sets the precedent and the other abides by it. The general rule of the precedents is that the lower courts will follow the decisions made by the higher courts in their jurisdiction, but they are also bound by their own decisions when making future ones. Persuasive authority is a consultative opinion that a court in a different state might use from a decision from another state. The chapter ends with a set of useful recommendations as what legal research implies.

Chapter 3 is a detailed discussion on legal cases. It introduces the report system, important because it reports on the court decisions and opinions, including the ways these decisions were reached. Most of these opinions are included in the National Reporter System. At the same time, decisions of the United States Supreme Court appear in four different reporters, of which the United States Reports is the official reporter. Other level court decisions are similarly published in official and unofficial reporters.

The chapter details on how such court reports on decision should be read and interpreted, including in terms of identifying the case name, reading the case syllabus and understanding the opinion of the court. It also shows how case opinions and decisions can be identified in a reporter depending on the title or citation of the case.

Chapter 4 expands the judicial framework and introduces different forms of judicial acts, such as statues, constitutions and treaties. All these are amply defined, with examples used for a better understanding. Legislative history is explained and shown as an instrument that can be used to better understand the way a legislative act was adopted in Congress.

Chapter 5 refers to secondary sources as instruments to be used whenever the information is not found in a statute. Such secondary sources include expert opinions from the attorney general, state encyclopedias, treatises or digests for lists of cases referring to a certain aspect of the law. All these secondary sources are presented and explained in detail.

Chapter 6 deals with the administrative agencies, entities empowered by legislative acts to put such acts into actual application and to regulate activities in a legislative framework. The chapter defines the agency powers, and refers to some of the main actions that an agency can implement, notably regulating activity and adjudication functions (as the power of some agencies to decide disputes). The chapter is completed with some useful information on researching agencies and administrative law, including how to use the Federal Register, the Code of Federal Regulations and other sources of administrative agency information and law.

Chapter 7 starts from the premises that law is constantly changing, which means that research needs to include a constant update on information. This chapter provides some of the best means to stay in touch with the potential changes in legislation, with new judicial decisions and cases that might influence future outcomes in court. The chapter proposes two ways to update online, namely Shepard's and KeyCite, as electronic verification systems. Time lag on print versions is usually long, so the online version should be preferred. This chapter also includes several other methods of updating legal information, including Looseleaf Services and different websites.

Chapter 8 completes the previous chapter in terms of online legal research, continuing the description of such services as LexisNexis and Westlaw. The two are referred to as the computerized legal research systems in widest use. These are completed by governmental websites that provided updated materials on legal evolution.

The chapter continues with a description of both services. LexisNexis is composed of over 15,000 databases, containing materials relevant from a judicial or legal perspective. Sources include federal, state and international sources. A search system allows the user to search either after plain English terms or through the "terms and connectors" system. Through the latter, judicial terms that may appear in the text can be interconnected with logical interconnectors such as and/or.

Chapter 8 also refers to Westlaw, a similar system for online research that also includes several federal materials, such as the full text of the United States Code, as well as decisions from the United States Supreme Court, circuit court of appeals or district courts. The database includes relevant information from other legal systems, including regulations from the European Union.

Chapter 9 moves into reading and understanding a legal case and introduces the important notion of a case brief, a "concise outline of the court decision." The case brief will help the researcher by better organizing the information available for a case and thus making the entire research more efficient. The chapter provides a suggested outline for briefing a case, including 10 different categories that should potentially be included in such a brief. Such an outline may include elements such as name and citation, facts of the case, reasoning and final decisions, as well as concurring and dissenting opinions.

The chapter does a great job in exemplifying the theoretical approach by actually presenting a sample of what a case brief should look like. Starting with an actual case, which is thoroughly presented, a one-page case brief is created that includes the elements previously mentioned.

Chapter 10 deals with the searching through legal sources methodology. It discusses sourcebooks and online sources as the two most important inputs for legal information. The methodology is explained in detail as to how the search processes should work to most efficiently deliver the required results.

Chapter 11 covers the legal writing and analysis basics. Among the most important elements to be considered are the organization of the analysis, a clear outline that will help the writer in the process, a highlight on the most important points and a clear focus on the reader, with an easy language that even an inexperienced reader might be able to understand. This chapter presents the IRAC approach to legal analysis, which basically focuses in issue, rule, application… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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