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Legal Research 101: The Tools of the Trade

This lesson is intended as an introduction to the basic resources for researching the law and does not cover research methods using either print or online sources. References to print or computer-based resources are added for illustration and not comprehensiveness. Using a lawyer-under-construction theme, we take the student on as an apprentice and introduce him or her to the basic tools of legal research. Legal Research 101: The Tools of the Trade is primarily intended for first year law students. It is most appropriate for law students during their first semester and would also be useful in paralegal studies. The lesson presumes no prior knowledge of how to do legal research. It is, therefore, not intended for the advanced legal researcher, except perhaps as a refresher.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the lesson, the student will be able to:
1. List the sources of primary authority.
2. Distinguish between mandatory and persuasive authority.
3. Explain the use of secondary source material.
4. Create an example of a search strategy using primary and secondary resources.
5. Discuss the importance of updating legal research.
6. Explain how legal authority is created.
7. List the basic elements of legal citation format.


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