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PRDV301: Introduction to Paralegal Studies

Unit 7: Legal Research and Legal Citation   Knowledge of what the law currently says about particular legal issues is the foundation of any legal work.  Many people seem to assume that lawyers know the answers to all legal questions and have those answers readily at hand when presented with a particular scenario.  However, it is more usual that a lawyer will need to familiarize him or herself with at least some issues of law with which the lawyer is not fully familiar.

Much of the work of researching the law has fallen to paralegals.  For example, a particular legal scenario– or fact pattern– may involve the legal standards applicable when a child is injured by falling into a swimming pool on a neighbor’s property.  You will review court cases, which will most likely present very similar facts or legal issues.  In addition, you will need to check state and possibly federal statutes to see whether any statutory law applies.  There are also a range of resources that can assist a paralegal in finding related cases and statutes.  In this unit, you will learn about how to access this important information.

Unit 7 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 3 hours to complete.

☐    Introduction: 0.25 hours

☐    Subunit 7.1: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 7.2: 1.25 hours

☐    Subunit 7.3: 0.5 hours

Unit7 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Conduct basic legal research. - Describe the resources available in a typical law library. - Explain the importance of legal citation in the legal process.

  • Reading: Free Law Coalition: Sarah Glassmeyer’s “Research Primer” Link: Free Law Coalition: Sarah Glassmeyer’s “Research Primer” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this entire webpage, which provides a handy summary of a great approach to legal research.  This is a more broad-based approach to the subject of legal research, but the numbered tips are practical in any setting, whether the resources being used are proprietary or free.  You may even want to print this page out and keep it with you as you conduct legal research for future courses and in your career.

    Reading this material should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.1 The Law Library   7.1.1 Where to Find Open Access Law Libraries   - Reading: FindLaw’s “Public Law Libraries” Link: FindLaw’s “Public Law Libraries” (HTML)

 Instructions: This resource presents a list with links of law
libraries in the United States that provide public access.  These
public access law libraries are an important source of information
to the public and to legal professionals for primary and secondary
authority on the law.  You are invited to click on various links to
get a flavor of what is on offer at the publicly accessible law
libraries.  If you do not live in the United States or if your state
is not represented here, you should explore your country or state’s
government websites for information regarding publicly accessible
law collections.  Lastly, be sure to click on the link to the
“Internet Public Library” to view online legal resources
available.  

 Exploring this resource should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

7.1.2 What You Will Find in a Law Library   - Reading: Educational Resources Information Center’s “How to Use a Law Library” Link: Educational Resources Information Center’s “How to Use a Law Library” (PDF)

 Instructions: To access this reading from the ERIC website, click
on the link to “ERIC Full Text.”  This is a 1977 document, but it
still remains applicable to the volumes found in law libraries
today.  This document is particularly valuable, because it lays out
a systematic, four-method approach to using the resources found in a
law library.  Note the value of beginning with legal encyclopedias
to familiarize yourself with a topic and related law.  Also, note
that hard copy legal materials often contain “pocket parts” attached
to the back cover or supplements to update the ever-changing law.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

7.2 Computer-Based Research   7.2.1 Proprietary Tools   - Reading: The Cleveland Law Library Association: Kathleen M. Sasala, Esq.’s “Westlaw Digest System and LEXIS Headnote System” Link: The Cleveland Law Library Association: Kathleen M. Sasala, Esq.’s “Westlaw Digest System and LEXIS Headnote System” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this
introduction to the Westlaw Digest System and LEXIS Headnote
System.  Westlaw and Lexis are the leading proprietary
computer-based legal research systems in the United States.  Most
every law office, law school, law library, and government agency
pays considerable amounts for access to these resources.  Billing
for use of Westlaw and LEXIS can be time-based or search-based, but
either way, a good paralegal will know that fees can add up very
quickly and any employer will appreciate efficient, cost-sensitive
research.  As a paralegal student, you should familiarize yourself
with both of these resources, as you are very likely to use them in
your professional career.  A publicly accessible law library may
provide access to Westlaw and LEXIS.  Like hard copy volumes, there
are various approaches to using these resources, including key
number searches, topic searches, and case-based searches.  

 Reading this material take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

7.2.2 Non-Proprietary Tools   - Reading: Free Law Coalition: Sarah Glassmeyer’s “Research” Link: Free Law Coalition: Sarah Glassmeyer’s “Research” (PDF)

 Instructions: Like all areas of life and employment, the Internet
is changing access to the law.  This page contains an introduction
and links to free legal research resources on the Internet.  You
should read the links to “Primary Federal Law,” “Secondary Sources,”
and “Primary State Law.”  Each of these, in turn, provides links to
resources for cases, codes, regulations, articles, and other
secondary authority.  Be sure to go through each one to familiarize
yourself with the expansive range of materials freely available on
the Internet.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: YouTube: John Broggi’s “Legal Research on the Internet” Link: YouTube: John Broggi’s “Legal Research on the Internet” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch this video, which presents a more focused summary of free legal research available on the Internet.  This video covers three resources – Google Scholar, Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, and the Internet Legal Research Group.  These are key free resources available on the Web, and free means less expense for your employer.  Through these resources, you can gain access to cases, statutes, regulations, and scholarly resources.

    Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.3 Legal Citation   7.3.1 Cite-Checking   - Reading: Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute: Peter W. Martin’s Introduction to Legal Citation, § 1-200 “Purposes of Legal Citation” Link: Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute: Peter W. Martin’s Introduction to Legal Citation, § 1-200 “Purposes of Legal Citation” (HTML)

 Instructions: This material provides a brief introduction to the
purposes of legal citation.  Legal citation follows a select few
standard formats that may seem a bit confusing to the uninitiated.
 There is, however, a strict logic that applies to these formats.
 Note in particular from this reading the three main functions of
legal citation, and keep these in mind as you approach the
subject.  

 Reading this introduction should take approximately 10 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Drescher ProParalegal Newsletter: Daphne Drescher’s “Practice Tip: A Cite-Checking Checklist” Link: Drescher ProParalegal Newsletter: Daphne Drescher’s “Practice Tip: A Cite-Checking Checklist” (HTML)

    Instructions: This reading provides a brief introduction to the topic of cite-checking.  A key role for a paralegal is insuring that the citations, or “cites,” used in legal writing are accurate and conform to the standard used by the attorneys for which the paralegal works.  This reading addresses what cite-checking is and why it is important, as well as provides a useful list of tips for the paralegal to keep in mind when cite-checking.

    Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.3.2 Citation Standards   - Reading: Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute: Peter W. Martin’s Introduction to Legal Citation, § 1-600 “Who Sets Citation Norms” (HTML) Link: Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute: Peter W. Martin’s Introduction to Legal Citation, § 1-600 “Who Sets Citation Norms” (HTML)

 Instructions: As you consider the subject of citation, you may
wonder who gets to set the standards for citation.  Is it the
courts?  Some other agency of government?  As this article notes,
for years the standard was *The Bluebook* produced by a consortium
of four law school journal editorial boards.  In fact, it still
maintains a position as the leading citation authority.  However,
others do exist and, in fact, court rules also have an impact on
legal citation.  Nonetheless, it is very likely that any law firm
with which you gain employment is likely to have a copy of *The
Bluebook* in its library.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.