Legal Research and Writing Curriculum
In the first semester, students develop the basic skills needed to research, analyze, and explain the law objectively. Students will become familiar with the sources of law in the United States system of justice including constitutions, statutes, cases, and regulations. Students examine individual cases to strengthen their ability to analyze decisions and understand both the precedent established by an individual case and the reasoning behind it. Students then focus on synthesizing the results of several cases in order to understand larger principles and using a body of precedent to predict how the law will apply in an individual case. These same analytical skills become the foundation of the student's training both in legal writing and in other courses throughout the curriculum.
The remaining portion of the first semester is devoted to research and writing. Students are encouraged to think of legal research not merely as the use of particular sources, but as a process that requires strategy and planning. The writing component of the first semester teaches students to explain their analysis of legal problems in an objective and well-organized memorandum that defines the legal issues raised by a client's problems, explains which legal rules will govern the problem, and discusses how those rules will apply to the facts of the client's case. Students prepare five major written assignments. For two sets or problems, students prepare an initial memorandum and then rewrite it after receiving detailed written feedback on the first effort and meeting individually with the professor about the memo. Students also research a statutory problem and communicate their analysis in an email format.
In the second semester, students build upon all their first semester skills but shift to the craft of persuasive legal writing. Working with a single legal case, students prepare a trial memorandum of law and an appellate brief, then deliver an oral argument in the Charles-Evans Hughes Moot Court Program.
During the second year students receive advanced training in the research analysis, writing, and oral communication skills needed by lawyers.
They will receive an introduction to non-litigation-oriented transactional issues and documents, and to written and oral communication with colleagues and clients.
Additionally, they will choose an area upon which to focus their legal research and writing, such as environmental law, intellectual property, labor/employment law, civil litigation, or international law. Students are introduced to research resources and techniques in the particular area of focus, as well as to research in administrative materials, international legal materials, and empirical research. Students typically will prepare several legal documents representative of those prepared by lawyers practicing in the specialty area, and will engage in significant discussion of the substantive and procedural law that applies to the focus area.
All students at Chicago-Kent take an advanced seminar during their final year of law school. The seminar is an opportunity for students to explore a particular area of law. In addition the seminar is the final step in fulfilling Chicago-Kent's three year legal writing requirement.
Seminar papers should therefore reflect meticulous research, depth and clarity of analysis, and originality. Seminar papers are traditionally similar in style to law review notes, but individual instructors may vary the format in appropriate circumstances.
Instructors will provide students with detailed critiques of their drafts so that students have an opportunity to make their final draft a truly excellent piece of writing. The final draft should be one that would be suitable for publication in a scholarly or professional journal.