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Advanced Research Skills: SKL-09272916: Introduction

Course Description

Legal research is one of the most important skills for an attorney. This course will help students feel more confident about legal research by introducing advanced methods not included in Lawyering I & II. On Tuesday, students will learn how to find journal articles, legislative history, the best databases they're not already using, and citation quick tips. The librarians will solicit current research questions from the students and introduce them to library services. On Thursday, the students will receive training on how to use Westlaw/Lexis/Bloomberg more efficiently, and then, using an actual research problem, the students will learn how to put those skills into practice and learn techniques to help them complete research assignments more efficiently. 

Library Services

Most of this information can be found from the main library website,


Civics Review

It sounds elementary, but it is important to keep these facts in mind. (And you may be surprised how many times firm librarians say new associates don't know the difference between regulations and statutes.)

Key Things You Must Absolutely Know for Legal Research

  1. There are three systems of government:
    1. Federal
    2. State
    3. Local (counties and municipalities)
  2. There are three branches of government (parallel in all systems):
    1. Legislative – makes the law
    2. Judicial – interprets the law
    3. Executive – enforces the law
  3. What sources come from what branches (parallel in all systems):
    1. Legislative Branch - Statutes
    2. Judicial Branch - Cases
    3. Executive Branch - Regulations
  4. There are four primary sources of law (parallel in all systems):
    1. Constitutions (or “Charters” for local government)
    2. Statutes
    3. Cases
    4. Regulations
  5. Mandatory Authority v. Persuasive Authority:
    1. Mandatory:  A binding law; it must be followed, it has to be followed, it’s mandatory that it be followed
    2. Persuasive:  A non-binding law; a court may be persuaded by it, it may (or may not) choose to follow the rule of law, but it does not have to follow it
    3. Related to jurisdiction – what laws are binding over you, according to where you are and what you’ve done (e.g., committed a crime in North Carolina)
  6. Primary Sources v. Secondary Sources
    1. Primary – The rules of law, the actual laws themselves (i.e.., a case, a statute, a regulation, a constitution section)
    2. Secondary - Everything else that talks about those laws, i.e., resources (legal encyclopedias, journal articles, books) that teach, explain, comment upon, analyze, discuss the law, etc. 

Courtesy of Stacy Etheredge,