Sources of American Law: An Introduction to Legal Research

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Beau Steenken, University of Kentucky
Tina Brooks, University of Northern Iowa

Pub Date: 2016

ISBN 13:

Publisher: CALI's eLangdell® Press

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Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • The United States Legal System

1.1 Learning Objectives for Chapter 1
1.2 Introduction to Researching the Law
1.3 Federalism
1.4 Separation of Powers and Sources of Law
1.5 Hierarchy of Authority
1.6 Concluding Exercises for Chapter 1

  • Constitutions & Statutes

2.1 Learning Objectives for Chapter 2
2.2 Constitutions & Statutes
2.3 Life Cycle of a Statute
2.4 Using Codes
2.5 Local Legislation
2.6 Interpreting Constitutions and Statutes
2.7 Concluding Exercises for Chapter 2

  • Judicial Opinions & Common Law.

3.1 Learning Objectives for Chapter 3
3.2 Judicial Opinions and the Common Law
3.3 Case Reporters
3.4 Digests
3.5 Subsequent Treatment of Judicial Opinions
3.6 Concluding Exercises for Chapter 3
3.7 Recommended CALI Lessons for Further Practice

  • Administrative Regulations

4.1 Learning Objectives for Chapter 4
4.2 Delegated Rule-Making Authority
4.3 Researching Federal Regulations
4.4 State Regulations
4.5 Concluding Exercises for Chapter 4
4.6 Recommended CALI Lessons for Further Practice
Electronic Research
5.1 Learning Objectives for Chapter 5
5.2 Introduction to Electronic Research
5.3 Basic Processes of Electronic Research
5.4 Combining the Basic Processes for Efficient Research
5.5 Using Finding Aids in an Online Environment
5.6 Electronic Citators
5.7 Concluding Exercises for Chapter 5
5.8 Recommended CALI Lessons for Further Practice

  • Secondary Sources

6.1 Learning Objectives for This Chapter
6.2 Overview of Legal Secondary Sources
6.3 Researching Secondary Sources
6.4 Concluding Exercises for Chapter 6
6.5 Recommended CALI Lessons for Further Practice

  • The Research Process

7.1 Learning Objectives
7.2 Essential Steps of the Research Process
7.3 Common Research Concerns
7.4 Concluding Remarks
7.5 Recommended CALI Lessons for Further Practice

About the Book

At its most basic definition the practice of law comprises conducting research to find relevant rules of law and then applying those rules to the specific set of circumstances faced by a client. However, in American law, the legal rules to be applied derive from myriad sources, complicating the process and making legal research different from other sorts of research. This text introduces first-year law students to the new kind of research required to study and to practice law. It seeks to demystify the art of legal research by following a “Source and Process” approach. First, the text introduces students to the major sources of American law and describes the forms the various authorities traditionally took in print. After establishing this base, the text proceeds to instruct students on the methods they will most likely use in practice, namely electronic research techniques and the consultation of secondary sources. Sources of Law incorporates screencasts currently hosted on YouTube that actively demonstrate the processes described in the static text. Finally, the text illustrates how the different pieces come together in the legal research process.

Sources of Law focuses on realistic goals for 1Ls to learn in a relatively small amount of instruction time, and so focuses mainly on the basics. It does introduce some advanced material so that 1Ls can recognize pieces of information they may encounter in research, but it does not fully cover researching materials outside the scope of the traditional 1L course. As such, it is best-suited for introductory legal research courses for 1Ls. 

About the Contributors

Author(s)

Beau Steenken joined the Law Library Faculty at the University of Kentucky in September 2010. As Instructional Services Librarian, he engaged in a revamp of the Legal Research curriculum as the UK College of Law shifted from an adjunct-model to a full-time faculty model of LRW instruction. He teaches two to four sections of 1L Legal Research a year and also coordinates informal research instruction of various sorts. Before coming to the University of Kentucky, he managed to collect a B.A., a J.D., and an M.S.I.S. from the University of Texas, as well as an M.A. in history from Texas State University and an LL.M. in Public International law from the University of Nottingham, where he also took up archery.

Tina M. Brooks received a B.A. in History and Spanish from the University of Northern Iowa in 2005, a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2009, and an M.S. in Information Studies from the University of Texas School of Information in 2011. She joined the University of Kentucky Law Library Faculty in July 2011 as the Electronic Services Librarian. In addition to her library duties, which include managing the law library website and the library’s electronic resources, she teaches two sections of 1L Legal Research.