September 27, 2015

First Law School Legal Research Assignment

The Assignment

This was part one of an assignment for my legal research and writing class. Our assignment was that we were given a client who had called off an engagement after her fiancé wasn't loyal, and she wanted to know if she could keep her ring. We had questions that we had to turn in such as identifying the legally relevant facts, identifying what it is that our client wants us to do, and where we could look. The first part of the assignment was strictly books only—no WestLaw or Lexis. This was a real pain because I started to do this assignment one night after I got done reading, but I realized I would have to go to the library to do this so it got postponed another day.

The Research

Even more problematic, was that my entire class all needed the exact same books so once I got to the library I sat around waiting in line for books which wasted a lot of time. The research part was frustrating since we had to do it old school. First I had to find the Descriptive Word Index of the Texas Digest. This is basically just an index for all of the cases for Texas; it's so big that it's separated alphabetically into books like an encyclopedia. So first you have to find your book, then your word, then look for any cases. It's very time consuming. 

Texas Digest

I looked up conversion, broken contract, broken engagement, engagement ring, reclamation of a gift, and finally while I was in gift I found conditional gifts and in that section I found engagement rings. Then I found a Texas case about engagement rings and had to go find that case summary in the Southwest Reporter. This is a similar system of multiple books alphabetically but you get the exact book and page number from the DCI so it's much simpler.


But since this is an assignment over research, I then had to go online to Lexis and Shepardize it. This is basically where you check to make sure that this ruling hasn't been overturned by a more recent case. So then I had to use the Green Book, which is a book over how to cite Texas-specific cases, to cite the case I found and then the Blue Book, which is a general citation book, to cite two cases that had mentioned this case when they went against the ruling because these cases weren't from Texas. Originally I had thought I could get by without these books to save money, but there really was no way I could not buy them.  


Lastly I had to look up annotations in the American Law Review. This was the same research process all over again, just with a different species of books. Instead of dealing with real cases, ALRs deal with scholarly writing over cases. This was time consuming because the pages on just engagement rings went on and on with different rules and their cases and exceptions to those rules and their cases. Again I had to cite this using my Blue Book, but I'm not quite sure I did this correctly so I guess I'll see when I get my paper back to do the corrections. 

Final Thoughts

This seemed the closest to what I've been used to doing in undergrad and high school. It can feel like busywork but I understand that it's practice because this is what I'll be doing in the real world as a lawyer. Just faster because I'll have WestLaw or Lexis. My next assignment is to write up a memo using the information I've found. I'm pretty confident about this because in undergrad I ended up taking two writing classes, Professional Report Writing and Technical Writing, that were basically just how-to-write-a-memo classes. These were required as part of my legal studies minor, and I'd definitely take them if you can because they're super helpful for almost any career. 

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