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Ben Doherty's Advanced Legal Research: Assessments & Grading

The heart of the class: 4 short legal research memos

80% of your class grade (20% each memo)

       Legal research is most often expressed in writing, and we will spend the bulk of our time working on the 4 legal research memos, each one on a specific legal problem or issue that you will address through research. The memos will be short: generally no more than 4 to 6 paragraphs. While you will spend some time outside of class working on the research and writing of your memo, you will also have in-class time to work directly on each memo.

       Your preparation of each memo will take place in two stages, a research stage and a writing stage:

(1) Stage one: initial source list. You will spend a week finding the documents you will use for your memo. Everyone will have a research partner with whom you can talk about what you've found and how those documents might best support your memo. We will also spend time in class talking about what you've found and about different approaches to finding good sources for our different research topics. At the end of the week, you will turn in on Canvas your initial list of "top ten" sources for that memo, though you are welcome to use different or additional sources when you write the memo.

(2) Stage two: writing your legal research memo. In the second week for each topic, you will use the sources you've collected to write your memo addressing our specific legal problem. Although you will each write your own memos individually, you are welcome to continue talking with your research partner about how you are using your sources in the memo. We will also spend time in Zoom breakout rooms and as a full class talking about your sources and how you might use them most effectively in your memo.

       Each legal research memo is worth 20% percent of your class grade: 5% will be for the initial source list and 15% will be for the actual written memo.


The other parts of your class grade: 5 intro surveys, and class attendance and engagement.

(1) 5 intro surveys.  10% of your class grade (2% each), graded as either check (completed) or no check; with completed meaning that I can tell that you put some thought into the intro survey as a preparation for the class discussion we'll have on the topic. To be a sophisticated legal researcher, there are some basic concepts you should understand or sources of which you should be aware. You will complete the intro surveys outside of class to prompt you to think about relevant research concepts or sources so that we can get right into using them or discussing them in class. To complete the worksheets, you can use any of the sources on the Class Resources page, or any other resource you might like (completely open book).

(2) Class attendance and engagement. 10% of your class grade, graded as "check, check-plus, check-minus." Legal research, like riding a bike, is a skill you learn by doing. We will spend most of class time doing research and talking about how to do research, and attendance and engagement in our class sessions is essential. Class attendance is required (in person or on Zoom) in each of our 18 class sessions, unless you let me know in advance that you have a legitimate reason not to be there (job interview, illness, important family function, etc.) Class engagement can occur in many ways, including in-class participation or talking with me outside of class about any of your questions.