Sunday, October 30, 2016
First Legal Research Assignment
Last week was a hectic week for me at school, because not only did I have my first writing assignment due, but I also had my first research assignment due. The research assignment was little bit shorter and easier, and was only worth 10% of my grade. But since every person this year has told me that my grades are the most important thing, I still wanted to do really well. My law school splits our writing and research classes into two separate, 2 credit classes. This is somewhat nice, but also more tedious at times since each class comes with separate assignments and tasks. Especially since each class had an assignment due at the same time.
My first research assignment was to look at a hypothetical client problem and research the issue trying to find the answer to the client's question and then writing a short, informal memo about the issue. For this first assignment, we were specifically researching case law. Later in the semester, we will have assignments about statutory law and administrative law, as well as a wrap-up assignment that pulls everything together. Limiting the research to only one type of source makes things a little bit easier.
Most law schools provide you with a plethora of research tools. Obviously, every law school has an extensive library with volumes and volumes of legal authority looking regal on the shelves. However, in the modern day, the electronic databases that your school provides are probably what you use most. It's so much easier to type in a search query and get thousands of results than it is to browse the shelves of the American Law Reports or legal encyclopedias. My school provides LexisNexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg, HeinOnline - basically all of the sources you can think of. This is both good and bad. Having these resources is great, because it makes research a hell of a lot easier. It also can be detrimental, because not all of us will have access to these amazing tools when we actually enter practice.
The assignment that I had made me use Lexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline to find the answer's to the client's problem. The assignment was actually pretty easy - there was a number of guided questions, and as long as you followed directions, you should have got the right answer. The informal memo I had to write was a little more open-ended, as was the research log I had to make while I was doing the research. Because grading in law school is based on a curve, I knew that I had to put in more effort on these sections. I couldn't focus on just getting the right answer, I had to have the best and most thorough answer.
Luckily, my efforts paid off. After turning the assignment in and waiting about a week for grades, I earned my first A in law school. Although it's only a small portion of my grade, I was pretty proud of the score that I received. I definitely earned points for being the most thorough, so I would recommend doing the same on your assignments.
Good luck to everyone as you begin turning in your graded assignments as well!