COURSE SYLLABUS: LEGAL RESEARCH & WRITING
Fall Semester 2004: Section B1
Professor Michael D. Murray
Room 127 Law Building
Office Phone: 333-4960
Class Hours & Location: Mondays 2:00-2:50 pm (Room A), Thursdays 9:00-9:50 am (Aud)
Office Hours: Office hours are whenever I am in, and I will be in on most
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. You are welcome to
come in and talk with me about anything. If my door is closed,
please knock, but I may be too busy to meet with you at that time.
I will do my best to be in my office for set office hours on Monday
from 1-2 p.m. and Thursday from 2-3 p.m. I would also gladly
meet with you at a time that works for both of us. Please email me
to set something up.
Required Texts: Murray & DeSanctis, Legal Research and Writing (2004);
The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (17th ed. 2000)
COURSE OBJECTIVES AND FORMAT: Your goal in this course is to learn how to research
and analyze legal problems, and to convey your legal analysis of a problem in a written form that
adheres to the conventions of the legal profession. This course is a bridge between the other
courses you will study this semester because it teaches the skills necessary to analyze legal issues
any area of law. You will the learn the day-to-day skills that are necessary to practice law, and
you will use these skills starting in your first legal job, which may be as soon as next summer.
Fellow lawyers, judges, and clients will know you and evaluate you based on your research,
analysis, and writing. You will learn how to perform legal analysis while preparing two drafts of
a legal memorandum for which no research is required. You will simultaneously learn how to
research legal problems by touring the library and completing research exercises. Finally, you
will apply what you have learned by interviewing a mock client, performing research on the
client’s legal problem, and drafting a legal memorandum concerning the matter. You will then
present the findings of this research and analysis in a meeting with a mock partner at a law firm.
ASSIGNMENTS: Assignments due "in class" must be turned in at the beginning of the class,
unless you are instructed otherwise. Assignments turned in after the beginning of class or
other assigned deadline will be considered late and we will use www.time.gov to
synchronize our watches. You are responsible for making sure that you turn in all assignments.
I reserve the right to make additional assignments or change assignment deadlines or modify the
TIMELINESS: Due dates and times for both the research and the writing assignments are
strict. Extensions will not be granted except in the case of a genuine emergency such as a
significant, verifiable illness or a death in the family. You must make the request for an
extension as soon as you know of the emergency. A computer crash is not grounds for an
extension. It happens all the time and is a contingency for which you should be prepared. Back
up all work on at least one disk, preferably two, so there will not be any problems. You should
also be aware that the printers at the law school may be formatted differently from your printer at
home. Thus, you may arrive to print at the law school and find that your paper has grown in
length. Turning in a paper late because of printer difficulties or length problems is not
acceptable. Please account for this possibility in your planning. This is also the way things work
in the real world.
Handing in a graded, major assignment late will result in the loss of 10% of the total possible
points for that assignment. Any assignment that is more that 24 hours late will lose an additional
30% of the total possible points for that assignment. You must, nonetheless, complete each
assignment in a satisfactory manner to receive credit for that assignment, and you must
receive credit for all assignments to pass this course.
E-MAIL: You must check your e-mail regularly for new assignments, changes in assignments,
and other announcements. You are responsible for any information conveyed via e-mail.
ELECTRONIC TURN-IN: All assignments must be turned into me in hard copy unless
otherwise instructed. The first and final draft of the closed office memorandum and the first and
final draft of the open office memorandum must also be submitted as an email attachment. The
electronic submission must be sent by 5:00 p.m. on the day the assignment is due. All work
submitted to me by email should be in WordPerfect (.wpd) or Word (.doc) format.
STYLE RULES: All writing assignments must comply with the Legal Writing Style Rules
attached to this syllabus.
TEACHING ASSISTANTS: Lindsay Beyer and Vaishali Shah will be my teaching assistants
during the fall semester. They did extraordinarily well in Legal Research and Writing last year
and will be available to answer questions about your assignments in this course. Their office
hours will be announced in class.
GRADING: This course is graded High Honors/Honors/Satisfactory/ Unsatisfactory. Students
in the top 10% of the class will earn High Honors. Students in the next 30% of the class will
earn Honors. Remaining students will receive either Satisfactory (pass) or Unsatisfactory (fail).
In addition, the top student will receive the Sonnenschein Award which involves a cash prize.
Students who receive High Honors or Honors in this course during the past two years have been
offered the opportunity to apply for judicial externships with the Cook County Circuit Court in
Chicago, Illinois. If the program continues, these externships will take place during the summer
after the first year. In addition, those who receive High Honors or Honors in this course will be
invited to apply for the position of Teaching Assistant in Legal Research & Writing for the
Assignments will have the following values for purpose of determining the final grade:
Closed memo, final draft: 25%
Open memo, final draft: 50%
All other assignments: 20% * (see below)
Class participation and attendance: 5%
To pass this course, you must attend class regularly, and complete all of the assigned work in a
satisfactory manner, including drafts. You must also attend the mandatory computer-assisted
legal research training sessions, individual conferences, and court-watching session to pass this
course. I may deduct points, withhold honors distinctions, or assess failing grades for failure to
attend or be prepared for class, for failure to submit work on time or for submission of inferior
work, for violations of the Honor Code, or for violations of the requirements of this syllabus or
*You will be evaluated on the smaller class assignments and drafts in the following fashion: If
you turn in each of these assignments on time, having put forth a satisfactory, good faith effort,
you will receive the entire twenty points possible for these assignments. If, however, an
assignment is late, you will lose two points, which is equal to two percent of your final grade. If
you have put forth an unsatisfactory effort but turned the assignment in on time, you will also
lose two points and must redo the assignment to my satisfaction. If your assignment is both late
and unsatisfactory, you will lose four points out of the twenty – four percent of your final grade.
While I will not, then, give the smaller assignments the numerical scores reserved for the final
closed and open memo drafts, please know that an Honors designation is highly unlikely if you
turn in these smaller assignments late or fail to put forth a good faith effort. Such actions will put
you in danger of failing the class.
COLLABORATION: Unless I tell you otherwise, you may not work together in any way on
assignments for this class. Your research and writing work product must be your own.
Copying any portion of another student's work and handing it in as your own is plagiarism
and is a violation of the Honor Code. Further, you may not allow anyone (other than your
professor, your section’s TA’s, librarians, and professionals at the Writer’s Workshop) to
assist you with your research or to read, comment on, edit, or assist you in any way in the
work you do for this class. If you witness an Honor Code violation and do not report it,
you are also violating the Honor Code.
PLAGIARISM: Students at the College of Law are subject to the Code of Policies and
Regulations Applying to All Students. Plagiarism is explicitly defined in that publication.
Students will receive a handout explaining academic plagiarism more fully.
COMPUTER-ASSISTED LEGAL RESEARCH: You will learn to use on-line computer
research databases (Lexis and Westlaw) this semester but you may not use these databases until I
tell you that you may and your initial use may be limited. You will be responsible for signing up
for the two mandatory training sessions as instructed. The dates of these training sessions will be
announced in class. Students who do not complete this requirement will not pass the course.
INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES: There will be at least two mandatory conferences with me
this semester. Sign up sheets for conferences will be posted on my office door in advance of the
conferences. I will announce in class or by email when sign up sheets will be posted. You will
sign up on a first-come, first-served basis. I may assign short editing or writing tasks related to
your memorandum that you must complete and bring to the conference.
COURT WATCHING: During this term, you must observe one hour of court proceedings at the
law school or at our local courthouse. This is mandatory. The Illinois Appellate Court will hear
cases at the law school on Thursday, October 14, and attendance at this session will satisfy the
requirement. The requirements for the written summary will be announced in class and the
written summary is due no later than Friday, November 21. Students who do not complete this
requirement will not pass the course.
COMPUTER USE DURING CLASS: Use of laptop computers for notetaking during class is
permitted. You may not, however, connect your computers to the network ports during
class. You may not send or receive email or use instant messaging or use the Web or any
other Internet or network functions. Please silence cell phones and pagers during class.
CLASS TOPICS, READING AND WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
Orientation Week: Wednesday, August 18
Topic: Orientation: How to Brief a Case
Reading: Murray, Appendix A
Writing assignment made: Case briefing exercise
Week 1: Monday, August 23
Topic: Intro to the Law and Legal Reasoning; the Life of a Case
Reading due: Murray: Preface and Chapters 1, 2, 3 (up to Section II)
Writing assignment due: Case briefing exercise
Thursday, August 26
Topic: Court Systems and Weight of Authority; Jurisdiction
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 3
Week 2: Monday, August 30
Topic: Analysis of a Single Case or Other Authority; Librarian Visit
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 4
Writing Assignment Made: Single case analysis
Note: General tours of the Law Library will take place this week.
You must sign up in the library to take a tour.
Thursday, September 2
Topic: Analysis of Multiple Authorities
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 5
Writing Assignment Due: Single case analysis (due in my office before 11:00 a.m. on Friday,
Week 3: Tuesday, September 7*
Topic: Statutory Research and Analysis, and Citations to Statutes
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 15, Chapter 5
Writing assignment made: Statutes Research Exercise
* Due to Labor Day, class has been rescheduled to Tuesday,
Statutes Workshops will take place this week.
Thursday, September 9
Topic: Introduction to Legal Research and Printed Sources of the Law
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 10
Writing assignment due: Statutes Research Exercise
Week 4: Monday, September 13
Topic: Case Reporters and Case Finders
Reading due: Murray: Chapters 11, 12 (up to page 317)
Writing assignment made: Reporters & Digests Research Exercise
Reporters & Digests Library Workshops will take place this week.
Thursday, September 16
Topic: Organization of Legal Writing - the TREAT method; Plagiarism
Reading Due: Murray: Chapter 6; handouts (plagiarism cases)
Writing assignment due: Reporters and Digests Research Exercise
Writing assignment made: Closed Office Memo Outline and Memo Assignment will be
distributed today. Please read the information and the cases in the
packet in preparation for class on Monday. You should also start
thinking about how you would outline a memorandum based on the
cases and information in the packet. The Outline will be due one
week from today.
Week 5: Monday, September 20
Topic: The Office Memo: Issues, Conclusions, Facts
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 7
Thursday, September 23
Topic: The Office Memo: Drafting the Discussion Section
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 7 (review Chapter 6, too)
Writing assignment due: Closed Office Memo Outline
Writing assignment made: Work on Closed Memo First Draft .
Week 6: Monday, September 27
Topic: Style Issues and Editing
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 8
Writing Assignment made: Work on Closed Memo First Draft
Secondary Sources Library Workshops will take place this week
Thursday, September 30
Topic: Secondary Sources Research
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 13
Writing assignment due: Closed Office Memo First Draft due in class at 9:00 a.m.
Week 7: Monday, October 4
Topic: Lexis and Westlaw Overview
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 18 (up to p. 423 - Internet research)
Thursday, October 7 - NO CLASS
Writing assgt returned: Closed Office Memo First Draft. Work on revising the closed
memo over the weekend in preparation for your conference with
Week 8: Monday, October 11 - NO CLASS
Note: Individual conferences to discuss the Closed Memo First Draft
will begin Tuesday, October 12.
Westlaw training will take place this week.
Thursday, October 14
Topic: Overview of Open Office Memo Assignment; Principles for Client
Interviewing/ Fact Investigation
Writing assignment due: Closed Office Memo Final Draft due in class at 9:00 a.m.
Note: Open Office Outline and Memo assignment will be distributed
today. Please read the information in preparation for your
mock client interview next week.
Illinois Appellate Court will hear cases at the law school on
Thursday, October 14 at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Week 9: Monday, October 18 - NO CLASS
Note: Mock client interviews will take place at the beginning of this
Writing assignment made: After client interview, begin legal research on the problem. Open
Office Memo Outline is due next Monday.
Lexis Training will take place this week.
Thursday, October 21
Topic: Shepard’s and Keycite; Legal Research on the Internet
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 12 (p. 317-end); Chapter 18 (p. 423-end)
Week 10: Monday, October 25
Topic: Citation Form
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 9
Bluebook: All rules cited in Murray, Chapter 9
Writing assignment due: Open Office Memo Outline
Thursday, October 28
Topic: Citation Form
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 9
Bluebook: All rules cited in Murray, Chapter 9
Writing assignment returned: Open Office Memo Outline
Week 11: Monday, November 1
Career Services Presentation: Cover Letters and Resumes
Writing assignment due: Open Office Memo First Draft due before 9:00 a.m. in my
Thursday, November 4
Topic: Research Plans and Determining When You are Finished
Reading due: Murray: Chapter 19
Week 12: Monday, November 8 - NO CLASS
Topic: Exam Taking Presentation by Law Students
Thursday, November 11
Topic: Common Comments on Open Office Memo First Draft; Presenting
Writing assignment returned: Open Office Memo First Draft
Note: Individual conferences to discuss Open Office Memo First
Draft will take place this week.
Week 13: Monday, November 15 - NO CLASS
Thursday, November 18 - NO CLASS
Writing assignment due: Open Office Memo Final Draft due before 11:00 a.m. in my
office on Wednesday Nov. 19
Week 14: Monday and Thursday, November 22, 25 - NO CLASS -
Week 15: Monday, November 29 - NO CLASS
Note: Presentations to Partners will take place this week.
LEGAL WRITING STYLE RULES
Papers must comply with the following requirements:
PAPER: 8 ½ by 11 inches, white
ELECTRONIC: Final paper must be submitted in hard copy and electronic copy, by
disk or email attachment. Please submit electronic copy in
WordPerfect (.wpd) or Word (.doc) format.
MARGINS: One inch margins on all four sides (left, right, top and bottom). If
you are following the rules here you should not be able to get more
than 25 lines of text on any page.
TYPEFACE: Courier New 12 point.
FORMATTING: Double-spaced, except that headings must be single-spaced, and
block quotations must be single-spaced and indented from the left
margin. The first word of each paragraph must be indented five
spaces. Papers must be justified on the left only; do not use full
justification. Authority and explanatory material should be
provided in the text; do not use footnotes or endnotes.
CITATION: The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (17th ed. 2000).
BINDING: Staple in the upper left hand corner. Do not use binder clips or
IDENTIFICATION: You must put your name in the upper right hand corner of the first
PAGE LIMITS: Page limits will vary with each assignment. There will be a
penalty for exceeding the page limit AND I will not read any
material that exceeds the page limit.
PAGE NUMBERING: Starting with the second page of the text, you must put page
numbers at the bottom center of each page.