Legal Research Writing at Chicago-Kent
Sample Syllabus




MASTER SYLLABUS (Evening Division - Greene and Warner) DRAFT 7/5/99


FALL 1999

[Note to writing faculty: Please insert an introduction setting out your office hours, office location, E- Mail address, and office telephone. You should also include words of welcome, a brief statement of the goals of the course, and an overview of how the Learn-Ed format will work. The format will encompass two aspects. The first will consist of a web-based format for research lectures and other legal writing topics. The second aspect will be the more familiar use of conventional E-Mail to answer questions from the class on pending assignments.

You should also set out your grading policies in writing, either in this syllabus or in a separate handout, and a written statement of the margin and font guidelines. Finally, please distribute and discuss the handout on "Ethics Guidelines for Legal Writing Students," and ask the students to sign and hand in the certification that they have read the Ethics Guidelines. Please keep the certifications in your files.]

Required Texts:

Neumann, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing (3rd ed 1998). [or other text of your choice]

Kunz, Schmedemann, Erlinder & Downs, The Process of Legal Research (4th ed. 1996).

Harvard Law Review Association, A Uniform System of Citation (16th ed. 1996).

Grinker, The Legal Writing Teaching Assistant (1994) (available on-line at no cost; if you wish to require or recommend hard copies, please notify the book store)

Recommended Text:

Le Clerq, Guide to Legal Writing Style (1995).

[You may also want to recommend "Cite-Mate" or "A User's Guide to the Bluebook."]


Summary of Major Assignments:

1. First Memo (5% of grade) - 5 - 7 pp. discussion - Due Sept. 13

2. First Memo Rewrite (15% of grade) - 5 - 7 pp. discussion - Due Oct. 11

3. Second Memo (35% of grade) - 8 - 10 pp. discussion - Due Oct. 25

4. Second Memo Rewrite (30% of grade) - 8 - 10 pp. discussion - Due Nov. 22


The remaining 15% of the grade will be attributed to research exercises, with special weight on the final research exercise, and to class participation.




Monday, August 16th, 8:00 p.m. - Professor Lien

Introduction to Legal Writing - Meeting in Room C50 with Professor Molly Lien

Monday, August 16th 8:30 - 9:30 p.m. - Legal Writing Exercise

[Note to faculty: This is a diagnostic exercise that the writing program gives to the entire first year class. It is not graded. Rather, the exercise helps writing professors identify particular areas where the class may need extra work or emphasis. The exercise will be administered by the student orientation advisors, and graded by the TAs.]



Tuesday, August 17th - 7:05 - 8:30 p.m. Legal Writing

Assignment: Shapo & Shapo - Chaps. 2 and 3; Neumann Chap. 5 [for those using Neumann}

Overview of Course: Introduction to the Work of the Lawyer: The Importance of Analysis, Research and Writing

Overview of How to Read and Brief a Case

How Cases Make Law: Determining the Holding of a Case [Note to faculty: Since this class precedes the lecture on the structure of the legal system, you will need to briefly explain the importance of case law in the American legal system.]


Tuesday, August 17, 8:35 - 10:00 p.m. Introduction to American Law (taught in large sections by Professors Brill, Ehrenberg, Lien & Sowle)

Assignment: Shapo & Shapo - Chapter 1

Introduction to the American Legal System: Origin and Structure

Primary Sources of American Law: Constitutions; Statutes and Regulations; Judicial Decisions as Precedents

Structure of the Court System; Differing Roles of Trial and Appellate Courts

The Sources and Uses of Secondary Authority

Civil v. Criminal Law; Private v. Public Law


Wednesday, August 18, American Legal System - Class 2 - 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.

Assignment: Shapo & Shapo, Chaps, 6-10.

Legal Reasoning: Defining Rules; Inductive Reasoning: Broad and Narrow Interpretations of Rules; Deductive Reasoning; When is There Room for Argument?; Creating Exceptions to Rules; Reasoning by Analogy; When Do Courts Overrule Precedent?

Interpreting Language; Statutory Interpretation

Analyzing Cases from a Policy Perspective


Precedent, Stare Decisis and the Power of Courts to Create and Modify Law: A 20th Century Example . [Note: This session should consist of a review of stare decisis and the showing of "The Road to Brown" in the classroom during the class.]


Thursday, August 19th - American Legal System - Class 3 - 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.

Assignment: Shapo & Shapo Chaps. 4, 5, and 11

The Structure and Jurisdiction of the Federal and State Courts: An Introduction to Federalism

Civil Procedure: The Structure of a Lawsuit: Pleadings; Motions to Dismiss; Obtaining Information for Trial; Summary Judgment; Trial; Post-trial Motions; Appeals; Remedies

Thursday, August 19, 7:30 - 8:30 p.m.(Legal Writing Professors)

Hand in and Discuss Case Briefs. Sample briefs distributed.

Deep Reading and Analysis of Judicial Decisions: The Structure of a Decision - Majority, Concurring and Dissenting Opinions; How a Case Makes Law - Holding v. Dicta; Deep Reading of Cases

[Note to faculty: At the close of class, distribute the cases for the closed memo and ask the students to brief them for the next week. Use your discretion about whether you want to tell the students about the subject of the memo, but do not distribute the memorandum assignment until the first week of class.]





Assignment: Neumann Chaps. 2 and 7

Comments on case briefs returned.

Introduction to the Legal Memorandum: Preparing to Advise the Client; Purpose of the Memorandum; Understanding Your Audience; Predictive v. Persuasive Writing

Format: Cover Page; Questions Presented; Statement of Facts; Brief Answer; and Discussion. Distribute sample memorandum. Distribute first assignment. DUE MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13th at 6:00 p.m..

[Instructions: closed memo; one issue involving intentional infliction of emotional distress; maximum 5 - 7 pages of discussion; 5% of grade; no additional research]


Assignment: Neumann Chaps. 6 and 8

Topic: Discussion of the first memorandum assignment; beginning the writing process; gathering the facts about the clientís case; eliciting rules from the cases and applying rules to your clientís situation; the need for objectivity in evaluating the clientís case [Note to faculty: Neumann has some good exercises on formulating and applying legal rules, but they are quite long and require extensive preparation. If you want to use shorter in-class exercises, look at Exercises 1B, 2D and 3E in Shapo.]





Assignment: Neumann Chaps. 9 and 10 .


Topic: Writing a Legal Memorandum; (getting started, breaking the problem into component parts; framing the issues; reaching a conclusion; organizing your discussion of legal rules to support your conclusion; applying legal rules to your client's case; analysis and counter-analysis of opposing arguments on facts and law).



[Note to faculty: This is perhaps the most important class you will teach all year and one of the most difficult. Students must learn that good legal analysis has a structure, that it must be organized around issues rather than around cases (you will read countless memos that do nothing more than list case descriptions), that a relevant legal rule must be identified before one can use the facts of the assignment to predict a legal conclusion, and that any relevant counter-analysis must be presented in a legal memo but organized so as to avoid the "ping-pong" match format. Focus on preventing the mistakes students are most likely to make (although any legal writing veteran will tell you that many students will do precisely what you tell them to avoid)].



Assignment: Neumann Chaps. 11, 12, 14,


Topic: Refining your discussion of the applicable law; working with precedent: hierarchies of cases; mandatory v. persuasive authority; analogizing, distinguishing and synthesizing cases. Working with facts.







Assignment: Neumann chaps. 15, 16 and Appendix A; access and log in to the Legal Writing Teaching Assistant on the network.


Topic: Style (clarity, simplicity and economy in language; perfection in grammar and syntax; avoiding sexist language). Using a personal revision checklist.

Available for personal conferences.


Assignment: Neumann Chap. 17

Topic: Introduction to citation form.

Available for personal conferences.


[Note to writing faculty: You may also wish to assign some exercises from "The Userís Guide to the Bluebook" or "The Citation Workbook" if you have required either of those texts. At this point, students will be most concerned about the citation form for their first memos. It is usually best to simply give them the citations from the cases you have included in the first memo assignment, and to emphasize the rules on attribution and quotations. You should also emphasize the importance of learning to use the index to the Bluebook.]



Monday, September 13th: First memo due in professorís office at 6:00 p.m..


[Instructions to faculty on research training in print media. In the first session, "Introduction to Legal Research," professors will provide an in-class overview of different types of authority (primary/secondary) and research media (print/on-line). The professor will then work with students on the process of defining issues and research terms in a new fact situation. The next five research training sessions will incorporate a Learn-Ed format and will focus on specific types of research tools in print media. These sessions will provide an overview and guidelines for mastering different types of research materials.

Each Learn-Ed session will contain some lecture material, filmed in the library, and will feature screen captures of comparative pages from various research sources. The Learn-Ed research sessions will feature faculty and reference staff, and will include clips about how and when the tool is most helpful in the practice context. All presentations will emphasize that research is a process which requires strategy and planning.

In addition to the Learn-Ed classes, the students will read the Kunz text for more detailed information, and should complete a library tour and exercise relating to each resource. You may choose an exercise from Kunz or any other source, or may make up an exercise of your own. If you believe that the Learn-Ed tutorial adequately covers the material, you may have the students simply access it in lieu of class. Many professors, however, prefer to hold a class session to discuss the usefulness of particular tools. Alternatively, in lieu of a formal class, you may choose to take the students into the library in smaller groups to work with each reference tool.]



Assignment: Kunz, Chaps. 1 and 2

Topic: Introduction to Legal Research: Overview of sources of law; review of primary authority v. secondary authority; finding tools and citators; comparison of research media (print and on-line) and searching techniques (indexes, topic outlines and boolean searches); research as a process; developing a research strategy; in-class exercise on research terms.





Assignment: Learn-Ed Research Session 1. Please access the first part of the on-line web tutorial. It will provide a helpful overview of secondary materials. After you have done the tutorial, read Kunz Chapter 4 A, B, C, and E, which will provide more detailed information.


Topic: Finding Secondary Sources: encyclopedias, treatises and legal periodicals. Distribute and discuss second memo assignment. DUE OCTOBER 25th IN PROFESSOR'S OFFICE AT 6:00 p.m.. [Instructions: Open memo assignment on common law issues; 8-10 pp. maximum discussion; 35% of grade.] Pass out research exercise on secondary sources.



(First Class Rescheduled        

from Yom Kippur)





Assignment: Please read Kunz, Chapter 4 D, F, G, and H, and Chapter 5. Begin work on library exercise covering secondary sources.


Topic: More on Secondary Sources: ALR Annotations, Restatements and Pattern Jury Instructions; research strategy for commentary sources.







Assignment: Turn in research exercises on secondary sources. Access second Learn-Ed web tutorial. Please read Kunz Chap. 6, except section 6(D)(1)(b) and (D)(2).

Topic: Finding Cases: case reporters and digests Distribute research exercise on case law research. [Note to faculty: If you can devise an exercise that incorporates at least some issues that are relevant to the memorandum assignment, the students will be very appreciative.]





Assignment: Turn in research exercises on case reporters.

Graded and critiqued first memos returned and discussed. REWRITE DUE MONDAY, OCTOBER 11th IN PROFESSOR'S OFFICE AT 6:00 p.m..

Schedule conferences.



Assignment: Please read Neumann, Chap. 17 and Shapo & Shapo, Chap. 14.


Topic: Panel discussion on taking law school exams. Preparing for and writing exams: identifying issues; adapting memorandum structure to the essay exam; the importance of applying the law to the facts; the importance of allocating time. [Note to writing faculty: We will coordinate these sessions with the Academic Empowerment Program.]







Assignment: Kunz, Chap. 6(D)(1)(b).

Access third Learn-Ed tutorial.

Topic: Updating Research with Citators and Using Citators as a Finding Tool: Shephard's and Keycite. Pass out research exercise on citators. [Note to faculty: It would be both effective and easy to develop a citator exercise around key cases and secondary authorities in your second memorandum assignment.]



Assignment: Review Neumann Chaps. 15 and 16 and read Appendix B. Hand in citator exercise.

Topic: Rethinking the Basics: Common problems in grammar, style and citation form.

[This is a good time to discuss paragraphing as well, but there are some problems with the Neumann chapter on paragraphing and you may want to omit it and substitute other materials or your own lecture. If you have not already done so, this is also a good time to make sure that students know how to use "The Legal Writing Teaching Assistant," available on the web.]


Available for conferences.





Assignment: [You may want to assign some of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (handout) Some of the rules that bear on the ethical issues confronting legal writers are 1.1 -1.3, 1.5, 1.16, 2.1, 3.1 (this one is essential reading), 3.3 (also essential), 3.8, 5.1, and 5.2. Alternatively, please feel free to assign other readings you think appropriate.]

Topic: Ethics and Professionalism in Legal Writing: stating the law accurately; competency; cost effectiveness in legal research; the nature of the advocacy role; advocating positions you do not agree with; plagiarism.


Assignment: Read the handout containing excerpts from Bird by Bird by Anne Le Mott, The Dancing Mind by Toni Morrison, and Tim Terrell and Stephen Armstrong, Effective Editing.

Topic: The Process of Writing: first drafts; the art of editing.


Note to faculty: The assignment suggested above is at your discretion. Hopefully, it will serve two objectives. First, many students have a problem with the process of writing. They feel overwhelmed and at a loss as to how to start. Certainly this describes the majority of students who find their way to my office. This problem has become worse in recent years, as students do less writing during their undergraduate careers. One method for generating discussion would be to ask students to keep a journal while writing their first memo.

A second objective of this class is to create an awareness that everyone struggles with the writing process, and a climate of mutual support within the class. To this end, you may want to involve your TA in the discussion, especially since you will be in the process of grading. If you do choose to hold one or more sessions on the writing process, please feel free to substitute your own readings. These sessions will require a personal touch, and you should use materials you are completely comfortable with. Several sections tried this last year. The consensus was that while not all the students needed or liked this material, about one-third of the class felt that they benefitted greatly from the discussion]





Monday, October 18th - Coping With Writerís Block. A discussion in the auditorium at 11:00 a.m. with Professor Lien on the problems that confront all writers. (Attendance optional for evening students. If students request it, I am willing to do a second session for evening students at 5:00.]

Topic: No class. Available for E Mail questions on the second assignment.


Graded rewrites returned and discussed.








Assignment: Please access Learn-Ed web tutorial 4 and then read Kunz, chap. 7.


Topic: Research training: Finding constitutions, statutes, regulations, and model and uniform laws. Statutory research exercise distributed.


[Note to faculty: In conjunction with the statutory research training, you should develop an exercise on statutory research. This exercise should involve the same issue you intend to use on the first assignment of the second semester. This will be a trial brief involving a statutory problem. During this research assignment, students should receive a summary of the problem and the issues and produce the following:

1. Research Diary: A research diary should demonstrate the progress of the studentsí research, and show use of all of the research tools that have been taught during the first semester. The diary should indicate what avenues turned out to be useful and what avenues led to dead ends. Students should also include the search terms that proved to be useful for both online and print research.

2. List of Best Authorities: Students should list separately the cases, statutes, law review articles, non-legal materials, etc. that are on point, with a sentence or two of commentary about each. Remember to Shepardize.

3. Preliminary Conclusions: Students will include a typewritten summary of preliminary conclusions on the legal problem. (1 Ĺ - 2 pp.) ]



Assignment: Read Kunz, chap. 3 and chap. 6.D.2. Begin work on statutory research exercise.

Topic: Introduction to Computer-Assisted Legal Research: data bases; identifying search terms, connectors and limiters; browsing on line; special types of searches (e.g. finding cases by name in print and on-line; other types of segment searches). Costs of legal research (pricing structures, choosing the most cost-effective tool). On-line exercises distributed, due in two weeks. [Note to Writing Faculty: This lecture will be done by you in the classroom. The library reference staff will prepare an outline or sample lecture to assist you in your presentation. They will also prepare web-based on-line exercises. The on-line exercises are self-paced and do not take long to complete. The reference staff will conduct sessions throughout this and next week, designed to give students a hands-on experience, on-line tutorial, and assistance in completing the exercise. You may require attendance at the computer lab or make it optional. If you require attendance, you may reserve particular lab sessions for your class. If you do so, please plan on attending these sessions. It will be much more helpful for the class. The reference staff will need all of the available time to assist the students, so please do not ask them to take attendance for you. Students who are having difficulty may also schedule individual on-line tutoring sessions with the reference staff.]







Please attend as many of the on-line tutorial sessions throughout the week as you need to feel comfortable with LEXIS and WestLaw.


No class. Work on on-line and statutory research exercises.





Assignment: Hand in on-line exercises.

No class.


Assignment: Hand in statutory research exercise.

Topic: Graded and critiqued second memos returned and discussed. Rewrite due Wednesday, November 24th in professorís office before 6:00 p.m..





No class. Personal conferences.


No class. Personal conferences.





Assignment: Rewrite due in professorís office at 6:00 p.m.


Thanksgiving holiday.