Legal Research (LEGL 156)
Winter Qtr 2015 (5 credits) Mon. & Wed. 
8:00 - 10:15pm Bldg 34., Room 106

Fundamentals of legal research; introduction to law library; location of statutes and case law; Bluebook citation techniques.

Prerequisites: LEGL 151# and 152# or instructor’s permission.

Instructor’s information: Shawn Timothy Newman, J.D. 

Email:  Please use Canvas messaging option to send me emails pertaining to our course.

Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:00 - 4:00 pm.  See Virtual Office Hours page for information

Assigned class materials:
1. The Legal Research and Writing Handbook: A Basic Approach for Paralegals, Sixth Edition By Andrea B. Yelin, Hope Viner Samborn ISBN: 9780735567382

2. The Legal Research and Writing Workbook, Fifth Edition
By Andrea B. Yelin, Hope Viner Samborn ISBN: 9780735567412

3. RECOMMENDED BUT NOT MANDATORY: The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. The current edition is the 19th edition, but the 18th edition will do.

Purpose of the course and my instruction:

I am a sole practitioner with a wide breadth and depth of experience. I teach a variety of law related courses at Saint Martin’s University. I want to share with you practical advice on “lawyering” and how you can succeed as a paralegal or, perhaps if you feel the calling, as an attorney like many of your predecessors.

The practice of law boils down to three things: reasoning, research, and writing. To reason within the law and to conduct legal research, some basic understanding of legal concepts and principles must first be developed. You should already have a foundation for legal reasoning given the prerequisites to this class includes Introduction to Legal Systems & Procedures and Civil Procedure. We will build upon that foundation.

The law is ever-changing – through new legislation, recent court cases, and developing legal trends. The law is not clear: its language may be ambiguous or how it will apply to a specific set of facts may be uncertain. A fundamental component of a legal education is not learning what the law is at this moment, but how to discover what the law is at some time in the future. And that is what you will (hopefully) learn here.

Because legal research is largely a hands-on-learning experience, I do not believe one or two cumulative exams are the best test of your skill development. Hence, I use in-class exercises and weekly quizzes found in your workbook.

Student learning outcomes: 
 Upon completion of the course, the student will;
  • Understand the necessary terms and legal background – including court structure, jurisdiction, and legal sources – to effectively conduct legal research
  • Have proficiency in using the major resources for legal research# – covering Westlaw, Lexis, Casemaker,# court and government websites, print, and other sources
  • Be able to develop and implement research strategies to address particular legal issues, with an eye towards efficient, complete, and up-to-date work
  • Be able to quickly and effectively address research assignments that are commonly assigned to paralegals in a law firm
  • Develop a basic understanding of the nature, form, and standards for a research product to maximum its use to an assigning attorney

College-wide abilities:

South Puget Sound Community College believes that all students need to develop a broad range of abilities that will not only make them more effective in their professional pursuits but will enhance their capacity to relate well to others in their daily lives. Therefore, students who complete an AAS in Paralegal will demonstrate the following skill standards:
  • Engage in legal and factual investigation and research using traditional and technology-based tools.
  • Brief and analyze legal issues in writing.
  • Understand the court system and the process of civil litigation from the inception of a case through trial and post-trial matters.
  • Use a variety of current computer applications to efficiently produce, manage, and analyze legal documents. 
  • Interview clients or witnesses.
  • Communicate effectively.
  • Think logically and critically.
  • Evaluate and process quantitative data.
  • Understand themselves and others in an intercultural environment.
  • Understand ethical responsibilities and consequences.

Structure of the class:
  • Come to class prepared to engage! Each class lasts 2 hours and 15 minutes. 
  • Mondays will typically be spent reviewing the workbook exercises for the prior week’s chapters. 
  • Wednesdays will typically focus on that week’s materials utilizing lecture, Power Points and in-class group demonstrations/assignments. 
  • It is important that you complete the readings and assignments so you are prepared for class and to complete the exercises. Keep up and stay ahead of the game. This is critical since the material builds on what we cover in each chapter. Study groups and class buddies help. 

The ultimate purpose of this course is to give you a solid, working understanding of the materials. I have designed the following tentative class schedule to do just that. I say tentative schedule because, depending upon our class’ individual progress and needs, I may alter the schedule as the course progresses.

Purpose of the course and my instruction:

Because legal research is largely a hands-on-learning experience, I do not believe one or two cumulative exams are the best test of your skill development. Hence, I use in-class exercises and weekly quizzes found in your workbook.

Reminder:  Check each Canvas modules(s) for updates as our schedule may change depending on class progress and weather.

Revised: 03/08/2016