LS395-Legal Research

Note:  this page represents an overview LS 395.  Your actual syllabus and class schedule will be maintained and updated in Moodle.  Please log in to the course Moodle page for weekly updates and changes based on class progress.

Legal Research (LS 395)
Spring 2014 (3 credits) Tues. and Thur.
1:00pm - 2:20pm SMU Library

Course Description:

The Legal Studies concentration is an interdisciplinary field of study composed of law courses from the departments of Criminal Justice, Political Science, History, Sociology, Philosophy, and the schools of Business, Education, and Engineering. Legal Studies is administered under the direction of the pre-law advisor and the Department of Criminal Justice. Students interested in acquainting themselves with the genesis, development, impact and contemporary status of American law may minor in Legal Studies in support of their major field of study. Students interested in pursuing law school and a career in law are especially encouraged to fulfill a minor concentration in Legal Studies.

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

Instructor’s information: 
Shawn Timothy Newman, J.D.
PH: 866-2322 (Law Office) /

Office hours by appointment

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: 9780735507890

2. The Legal Research and Writing Workbook, Sixth Edition
By Andrea B. Yelin, Hope Viner Samborn ISBN: 9780735507920

3. Recommended but not critical for class: The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. The current edition is the 19th edition, but the 18th edition will do and some information is available on line at 

Assessment / Grading:

4 - West;aw Certificates @ 100 points each = 400 points
7 - Exercised (from workbook, including mid-term and final) @ 100 points each = 700 points.
Must be turned in electronically- only in MS Word

Attendances: 100 points.

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.

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

Students who complete an this course will be able to 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 20 minutes. Mondays will typically be spent reviewing the workbook exercises for the prior week’s chapters. These exercises are denoted as weekly quizzes on Moodle modules and submitted via Moodle and, for confirmation, via email to me at

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.

Course outline, required reading, and assignment due dates:

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

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

Revised: 01/14/2014