PRATT SILS Legal Research Methods (LIS 617)

1999 Spring Term

Instructor: Visiting Assistant Prof. Steven C. Perkins, MLL, JD.

Wednesdays, 6:30-8:20 P.M.

PUCK Building

Course Information and Class Schedule:


Click EXAM for on-line examination form.

1. Course Description, Goals, and Objectives

Course Description

This course will introduce students to the specialized nature of legal bibliography and research. This will be accomplished through the study of the unique tools of legal research, as well as the range of techniques and strategies necessary to accomplish effective research. The class will also discuss current developments in the fields of legal literature and research, including the developments in electronic resources and technologies and the legal publishing business.

The Pratt Institute Graduate Bulletin, 1997-98 describes this course as follows:

" ... offers an analysis of the systematic approach used in the legal profession and law libraries to find the law through the use of printed materials and electronic information sources; introduction to the legal process and the basic principles of American law are included."

This course, though, must be seen as a basis only, upon which the student must continue to build. Both the practice of law and law librarianship are undergoing massive changes because of the explosion oftechnological developments, so much so that legal research, and even the law library profession itself, are completely different endeavors than they were just ten years ago. Consequently, this course will focus on the basic nature and characteristics of this unique area of research and bibliography that will, it is anticipated, continue to constitute its main structure.


The goal of the course is to provide future librarians with a foundation in this unique area of research. This basis will help them to assist their patrons in the variety of legal research questions that arise in all types of libraries - individuals seeking general legal information, scholars and students performing scholarly research, pro se litigants handling their own legal problems, and lawyers needing professional guidance in the course of their professional activities.


Among the objectives for this course, which will be developed through class lectures and iscussions, research exercises, source evaluations, and a final examination, are:

2. Prerequisite Courses

The only prerequisite for this course is the basic "Information Sources" (LIS 602). It is also helpful, but not required, for students to have had both "Online Searching and Services" (LIS 605) and "Government Information Sources" (LIS 613). Those students who have already taken "Database Retrieval in Law" (LIS 626) will find a strong overlap between that course and this one, but the focus and direction are quite different.

3. Course Requirements

The requirements for students include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

Attendance and participation

Attendance at all class sessions is required. Each student is expected to participate in the activities scheduled for each session.

If a student is absent from class, it is the student's responsibility to obtain any notes, handouts, exercises, etc. from either another classmate or the professor. It is also the student's responsibility to arrange for delivery of any materials due for submission to the instructor at that class meeting.


Each student is expected to be adequately prepared for class. Preparation includes the completion of all assigned readings and any assigned exercises. This will allow for both informed discussion in class and alternative voices and perspectives of the issues at hand. In addition to the required readings, the course schedule may indicate or the instructor may announce supplemental readings which are recommended, but not required. Throughout the semester, additional required readings may also be assigned.

Each student is requested to bring to each class his/her copy of the assigned text, The Process of Legal Research.

Exercises and Source Evaluations

Throughout the semester, students will be assigned various exercises that will give them the opportunity to use and evaluate the vaAous legal research tools and resources. The course schedule indicates when each exercise will be distAbuted and when it is DUE. Students are expected to submit their exercises at the beginning of the class session at which they are due. EXERCISES SUBMITTED LATE (either by date or time) WILL RECEIVE LESSER CREDIT than they would otherwise have done.

The anticipated exercises and schedule are as follows:

Exercise No. Exercise Focus		Date Distributed	Date Due	

	1	Identify Issues			2/17		2/24
	2 	Case Law Research 		2/24 		3/03
	3	Statutory Law Research		3/10		3/17
	4	Legislative Process Research	3/17		3/31
	5	Administrative Law Research	3/31		4/07
	6	Secondary Sources Research	4/14 		4/21
	7	Online Research 		4/21

Source Evaluations

In addition to each exercise, each student will complete and submit a "Source Evaluation Form", which will be distributed by the instructor. The student should attach the evaluation to his/her exercise when it is submitted. A vital part of the legal research process is the ability to evaluate the various resources used so that one can make considered judgments as to which should be used, when, how and why. For each assignment, select only ONE ofthe sources used to complete the exercise. The "Source Evaluation Form" asks the student to note and to think about the following elements of the research tools used:

Generally speaking, these exercises are to be the work of each individual student. It may be a cliche, but this is a course where students learn skills; if each student doesn't make the effort to work with the various tools and publications, he/she will fail to achieve the basic objectives ofthis course. It is understood by the instructor, though, that students often form study groups and collaborate on assignments. In fact, such interchanges among students can be beneficial for increased understanding of the subjects and processes at hand. Given this, any students who do collaborate on exercises must clearly note this fact on their individually submitted exercises, noting the means and extent of collaboration, and the other students in the group. Each student must do the "Source Evaluation Form" on his/her own. without collaboration since this calls for individual personal judgmentent of the publication.

Final Examination

Students will have one, final, examination for this class, which will be a take home exam distributed on May 5, 1999 and which is to be submitted to the instructor at the next class May 12, 1999. The last class will be May 19, 1999.

The final examination MUST BE SOLELY THE WORK OF THE INDIVIDUAL STUDENT. No collaboration is acceptable for the final exam.

4. Evaluation/Assessment

Final grades will take into account the various course requirements described above, in the following proportions*:

Attendance and participation  	10%
Exercises 			50%
Final Examination		40%
			TOTAL	100%

* This weighting is tentative, subject to change at the discretion of the instructor.

5. Instructor Availability

The instructor is the User Services Coordinator at The Justice Henry E. Ackerson Law Library of Rutgers School of Law-Newark. He may be reached at the following telephone numbers: voice=973-353-5965; fax=973-353-1356. He can be reached by email at SPerkins@Andromeda.Rutgers.EDU. Use PRATT in the subject line of email messages.

6. Texts

Required textbook:

Kunz, Christina L. et al. The Process of Legal Research. 4th ed. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1996. [referred to in the Class Schedule as "Kunz"]

This book is available now in the Pratt Bookstore (718-636-3620). The Bookstore's hours are: Mon.-Thurs., 8:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., Fri., 8:30 a.m. 5:00 p.m., and Sat 12 noon- 5:00 p.m.

Additional readings may be assigned at various times througbout tbe semester. These will generally be articles or other legal research texts, copies of which will be placed on Reserve in the Brooklyn Law School Library.

Recommended texts:

Cohen, Morris L., Robert C. Berring, and Kent C. Olson. How to Find the Law. 10th ed. St. Paul, MN: West, 1989 [referred to in the Class Schedule as "Cohen"]

Berring, Robert C. Finding the Law. 10th ed. St. Paul, MN: West, 1995. [referred to in the Class Schedule as "Berring"]

The Bluebook: a Uniform System of Citation. 16th ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Law Review Association, 1996.

7. Class Schedule

Week	Date		Topic				Assigmnent

1       Feb. 3	     Introduction, American		  	None
		     Legal System, Research
		     Process, Citation Format;

2	Feb. 10	     Publishing Business Issues;    Kunz, chaps.1-3, pp.1-42
		     Media Issues (intro);	    Berring, chap.1, pp. 1-12
		     Language of the Law	    Cohen, chap.1,pp. 1-10

3	Feb. 17	     Case Law			    Kunz, chap.6, pp.127-141
						    Berring, chap.2, pp.13-55
						    Cohen, chap.2, pp.12-52
		     	Exercise 1 assigned

4	Feb. 24	     Case Law Research;		    Kunz, chap.6, pp. 142-174
		     Shepard's Citations	    Berring, chaps.3-4, pp.56-127
						    Cohen, chaps.3-4, pp.54-142
		     	Exercise 1 due;
		     	Exercise 2 assigned

5	Mar. 3	     Statutory Law		  Kunz, chap.7, pp. 175-212
						  Cohen, chap.5, pp.143-164,177-182
		     	Exercise 2 due

6	Mar. 10	     Statutory Research;	Berring, chap.5, pp.l50-158,162-163
		     Shepard's Citations	  Cohen, cbap.5, pp.164-175,183-189
		     				  Kunz, rest of chap. 7

		     	Exercise 3 distributed

7	Mar.17       Legislative Process	    Kunz, chap.8, pp. 231-272
		     Material			    Berring, chap.6, pp.168-199
						    Cohen, chap.7, pp. 217-259
		     	Exercise 3 due;
		     	Exercise 4 assigned


9	Mar. 31	     Administrative Process	    Kunz, chap.9, pp. 273-325
		     Material			    Berring, chap.8, pp.219-256
						    Cohen, chap.8, pp. 261-303
		     	Exercise 4 due;
		     	Exercise 5 assigned	

10	Apr. 7	     Secondary Sources		    Kunz, chap.4, pp. 46-118
						    Berring, chap.10, pp.283-298
						    Cohen, chaps.11-13, pp.358-429
			Exercise 5 due

11	Apr. 14	     Secondary Sources (cont'd)
			Exercise 6 assigned

12	Apr. 21	     Online Research		    Kunz, chap.3, pp. 27-40
		     LEXIS-NEXIS, WESTLAW materials 
		     ( will be distributed in class)
			Exercise 6 due;
			Exercise 7 assigned

13	Apr. 28	     Online Research (cont'd)	
		     Materials will be done in class

14	May 5	     Research Strategies	    Kunz, chap.12, pp. 387-406
		     INTERNET			    Berring, chap.11, pp.299-307
						    Cohen, chap.18, pp. 590-607


15	May 12	     Review	

16	May 17		LAST CLASS