How to Research & Write a Legal Research Paper

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There is an art to writing legal research papers. Although somewhat intimidating to the novice, once you learn the basics, writing legal research papers is no more difficult than writing a term paper.

First of all, you need to know how to conduct legal research. There are a number of websites which can assist you. Fee-based web research companies include Lexis and Westlaw. These companies allow you access to court opinions (state and federal), statutes, rules of court, Shepardizing of cases (discussed further later in this article), and other valuable sources for inclusion in legal research papers. There is also a large number of websites which can provide this information for free, such as Findlaw. United States Supreme Court cases and opinions are available through Findlaw.

Second, determine what kind of research paper or essay you are writing. The different kinds of legal papers can include: briefs for class assignments, analytical papers (term paper type), bar exam format papers, appellate briefs, and actual legal document filings. The first three types mentioned will be discussed here.

Class Assignments and Bar Exam Essays

If your assignment includes reading and briefing one or more court cases, the method of briefing is easy to remember with the acronym "IRAC". The acronym "IRAC" stands for (1) Issue; (2) Rule; (3) Argument; and (4) Conclusion.

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