Understanding what classes you will encounter in your first year will give you the one-up to the rest of your classmates. You do not need a full, in-depth understanding about what these classes entail, especially since each law school follows a different curriculum. However, it is a good idea to understand an overview of each course so you feel comfortable on your first day and comprehend the context of this subject of law. One of the first classes you encounter as a 1L is Legal Research and Writing.
Bluebook Is Your Friend
Citations are always something people struggle with as 1L’s. However, lawyers use a certain style of citation: Bluebook. In your legal research and writing course, you will learn how to properly cite cases, secondary materials, statutes and more! I suggest you purchase a bluebook for yourself. You will need it beyond your law school career, and it is not something you are going to fully memorize. There are many different rules, abbreviations, and styles, and each state has their own way of citing cases and reporters. Thus, you will (and continue to) consult your Bluebook frequently to ensure you have the correct citation.
Since it is in the name, this should not surprise you: you will learn how to conduct legal research. There are three main legal databases: LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg. Each database has their own quirks and features, but they all essentially do the same thing: allowing you access to an infinite supply of cases, secondary sources, statutes, and more. Legal Research and Writing will challenge you by giving you real-life examples that you might encounter every day. When a person comes into a law firm, they are not going to say, “I have a negligence claim on products liability manufacturer’s defect, and this is the standard you should follow…” Instead, a person will come to you (the attorney) and say they got hurt by a manufactured item while using it normally and wondering what their rights and claims are. This is where the research comes into play. Even seasoned attorneys who have been practicing in the same field of law for decades sometimes get strange cases for which they don’t have an initial answer. LRW will teach you how to translate a random pattern of events into searchable terms and legal authority.
Each professor teaches the class differently, but many first-year law students have to complete a research memorandum in their first semester. What does this mean? A research memo is a document that evaluates a case objectively by searching for the applicable statutes and case law in order to figure out the rule of law and specific standards to follow. Essentially, you are taking your legal research and citation skills and turning them into a nice cohesive document that you will send to your supervising attorney (In this case, your professor). This is great practice for what many 1Ls do during the summer at their first legal position (normally at a firm). Memos are the most effective ways to explain to your attorney whether or not your client has a case and if they do, what we should argue.
Trial Brief And Oral Argument
For most 1Ls in their second semester, their main LRW project is a trial brief. You’re probably wondering what a trial brief is or maybe you think it is something you use to argue during trials. If so, you’re on the right track. In Civil Procedure, you’ll learn there are many stages to a lawsuit. Briefs are used for motions (during litigation) or for appeals (after litigation). Appellate briefs deal more on the standards of review and whether there was an error in law. Trial briefs are used for motions which are to argue in support or against ending the litigation early or issuing sanctions. These briefs, depending on what side you are on, argue the merits of the case and why the court should grant or deny the motion. These briefs are then argued at an oral argument. These are not like what you see on T.V., asking witnesses questions and presenting evidence. Instead, you are merely giving a speech to a panel of judges based on your memo. It will just be you and the opposing counsel, each trying to persuade the judges one way or the other. The judges are also allowed to interrupt you and ask questions about the brief, case, merits, motion, or issues of law. However, this is all less stressful than it seems, as long as you know your brief and come prepared.
Legal Writing Does Not Have To Be Hard
Legal research and writing is much different than what students have done earlier in their education or careers. Thus, it takes some time to be an effective writer. Things will definitely be challenging at first (especially if it is your first semester!) but as long as you work hard, you will be able to a successful writer and advocate. If you need help understanding, get tutoring or purchase a supplement in order to fully grasp this difficult subject.
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