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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: team-based research. You will work in teams to find the documents you will use for your memos. For each memo, you will have two class sessions with time to work in your team to decide which sources will best inform your memo. Between those two class sessions, each individual team member will upload to their team Canvas folder their recommended list of sources. At the end of the second class session, after discussing each team members' individual recommended list of sources, your team will upload to Canvas your agreed-upon final list of sources for that memo. When you each write your memo, you will be confined to the sources your team put on its final list of sources.

(2) Stage two: individually writing your legal research memos. Although you will develop your list of sources as a team, you will write each legal research memo individually. You will likely spend time outside of class doing so, but you will also have one class session during which you will work on writing your memo and ask any questions have in doing so (questions outside of class always welcome as well). In each memo, you will analyze the particular legal question we are addressing using the sources your research team decided upon.

       Each legal research memo is worth 20% percent of your class grade: 5% will be for the individual list of sources you recommended to your team, and 15% will be for the actual written memo.

         I will meet with everyone twice during the course--approximately 1/3 through and approximately 2/3 through the class--to discuss where you are at that point through the assignments in relation to the law school's required curve for the final class grade.

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 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 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.

Class Artificial Intelligence Policy

For this course, you are allowed to use generative artificial intelligence (GAI) applications as one of many research resources will we use, but you may only use GAI applications that are freely available to everyone in the class, such as Lexis+ AI or the free version of ChatGPT. When using GAI or any research resource, your final work product still must be your own. When using concepts or language from another source, you should cite that original source. Therefore, you may not use language or analysis created by GAI as if it is your own. Keep in mind that, currently, GAI applications such as Lexis+ AI do a poor job of attributing the sources of the language they present.