LGL411 - Legal Research and Writing

Outline info
Last revision date 2018-03-12 00:00:03.505
Last review date 2018-04-10 15:45:11.668

Subject Title
Legal Research and Writing

Subject Description
This subject provides students with an introduction to legal research and basic techniques of good legal writing. Students develop the skills necessary to analyze simple legal problems and to research basic legal questions. Students learn how to find and update primary sources of law using both paper and computerized sources. Students learn how to read, interpret and apply statutes, regulations and cases. Emphasis is placed on Ontario and federal law.

Credit Status
This is a credit course applicable towards the Law Clerk Diploma offered through the School of Legal and Public Administration and the Paralegal Certificate Program offered through the Faculty of Continuing Education and Training.

Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this subject the student will be able to:

1. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources of law.

2. Interpret statutes and regulations and, using appropriate research methods, find and update applicable Ontario and federal statutes and regulations using both paper and electronic sources.

3. Interpret case law, identify the main elements of a case and, using appropriate research methods, find and update applicable Canadian case law using both paper and electronic sources.

4. Assess a simple fact situation, identify its relevant legal issues and formulate an analysis of these issues by interpreting and applying the legal principles set out in relevant statutes, regulations and case law

5. Use appropriate secondary sources of law to research basic legal issues, including the print and electronic versions of the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest and the Canadian Abridgment, Quicklaw, CanLII and other internet-based research sources.

6. Apply Boolean search concepts and strategies and develop basic keyword searches.

7. Use correct print and electronic legal citations.

8. Applying the principles of good legal writing,draft simple legal memoranda.

9. Exhibit a professional attitude, as evidenced by an ability to meet deadlines, complete assignments and perform tests and in-class assignments as scheduled.

Essential Employability Skills
Communicate clearly, concisely and correctly in the written, spoken and visual form that fulfils the purpose and meets the needs of the audience.

Respond to written, spoken, or visual messages in a manner that ensures effective communication.

Apply a systematic approach to solve problems.

Use a variety of thinking skills to anticipate and solve problems.

Locate, select, organize, and document information using appropriate technology and information systems.

Analyze, evaluate, and apply relevant information from a variety of sources.

Interact with others in groups or teams in ways that contribute to effective working relationships and the achievement of goals.

Manage the use of time and other resources to complete projects.

Take responsibility for one's own actions, decisions, and consequences.

Cheating and Plagiarism
Each student should be aware of the College's policy regarding Cheating and Plagiarism. Seneca's Academic Policy will be strictly enforced.

To support academic honesty at Seneca College, all work submitted by students may be reviewed for authenticity and originality, utilizing software tools and third party services. Please visit the Academic Honesty site on http://library.senecacollege.ca for further information regarding cheating and plagiarism policies and procedures.

All students and employees have the right to study and work in an environment that is free from discrimination and/or harassment. Language or activities that defeat this objective violate the College Policy on Discrimination/Harassment and shall not be tolerated. Information and assistance are available from the Student Conduct Office at student.conduct@senecacollege.ca.

Accommodation for Students with Disabilities
The College will provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities in order to promote academic success. If you require accommodation, contact the Counselling and Disabilities Services Office at ext. 22900 to initiate the process for documenting, assessing and implementing your individual accommodation needs.

All Module One Courses

It is your responsibility to ensure that program requirements and course prerequisites as outlined are met. Prerequisites are included for your academic protection. Course content and your instructor's teaching assumes that students are academically prepared and instruction will proceed accordingly. Students lacking prerequisites not only jeopardize their own ability to succeed but present unnecessary interruption. If you lack appropriate prerequisites (or advanced standing for the prerequisite course) you may be asked to withdraw or transfer to a more appropriate course with the risk of academic/financial penalty.

Topic Outline
1. Introduction to Legal Research

  • Categories and sources of law 
  • Primary and secondary sources of law
  • Purpose and basic steps of legal research
  • Paper sources versus computerized sources
  • Requirements of a good legal researcher

2. Reading Statutes and Regulations
  • Why read statutes and regulations 
  • How to read statutes and regulations 

3. Case Law
  • Why read cases
  • How to read a case
  • Elements of a case

4. Analyzing a Fact Situation and Researching a Subject 
  • Identifying the legal issue to research 
  • Steps involved in researching a legal issue
  • Finding a general statement of law using the print version of the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest
  • Library visit and exercise - using the CED to research a legal problem 

5.  Reading Statutes and Regulations
  • Why read statutes and regulations 
  • How to read statutes and regulations
  • Interpreting and applying statutory/regulatory provisions

6. Case Law 
  • Why read cases
  • How to read cases
  • Elements of a case
  • Interpreting and applying case law

7.  Citing, Finding and Updating Statutes and Regulations Using Print Sources
  • Statutory and regulatory citations
  • Finding relevant statutes and regulations
  • Finding the text of a statute/regulation
  • Updating statutes
  • Library visit and exercise - finding and updating relevant statutes

8.  Basics of Computerized Searching
  • Overview of computerized sources
  • Boolean searching concepts

9.  WestlaweCARSWELL's LawSource
  • Using the computerized version of the CED to find a general statement of the law
  • Using the computerized version of the CED to find relevant statutes and regulations
  • Training on LawSource

10.  Finding and Updating Statutes and Regulations Using Computerized Sources
  • Finding the text of statutes and regulations using the government websites
  • Finding the text of statutes and regulations using other Internet sites (CanLII)
  • Finding pending legislation

11.  Finding and Updating Case Law Using Print Sources
  • Using the Canadian Abridgment
  • Finding all relevant case law about a subject
  • Finding a specific case about a subject
  • Finding cases that cite a statute or statutory provision
  • Finding a case when you only know all or part of its name
  • Case citations
  • Finding the text of a case
  • Updating cases

12.  Finding and Updating Cases Using Computerized Sources
  • Using WestlaweCarswell's LawSource to find and update cases
  • Using the online version of the Canadian Abridgment to find and update cases
  • Finding cases that cite a statute or statutory provision

13.  Legal Research Websites
  • Conducting research using the Internet

14.  QuickLaw
  • Finding and updating case law
  • Finding legislation

15.  Legal Writing
  • What is good legal writing?
  • Writing a case brief
  • Writing a memorandum of law

Mode of Instruction
Students learn through interactive classroom lectures, discussion and group problem solving.

It is the student's responsibility to save documents, articles and notes that the instructor has provided on Blackboard or in class. Students will not be able to access Blackboard as of the last day of the student's class. 

Prescribed Texts
Kerr, M., Kurtz, J., and Blatt, A., Legal Research:  Step by Step. 4th edition, 2015, Toronto: Emond Montgomery, ISBN# 9781552396483

Additional materials will be distributed as particular topics are addressed in class. 

Reference Material

Promotion Policy

Grading Policy
A+ 90%  to  100%
A 80%  to  89%
B+ 75%  to  79%
B 70%  to  74%
C+ 65%  to  69%
C 60%  to  64%
D+ 55%  to  59%
D 50%  to  54%
F 0%    to  49% (Not a Pass)
EXC Excellent
SAT Satisfactory
UNSAT Unsatisfactory

For further information, see a copy of the Academic Policy, available online (http://www.senecacollege.ca/academic-policy) or at Seneca's Registrar's Offices.

Modes of Evaluation
Grading is based on the following marking scheme:

Library Exercise 10%
Mid Term 30%
Research and Writing Assignment 25%
Final Exam 35%

Materials permitted into tests and exams are at the discretion of the instructor.
Students must attain a grade of at least 50% to pass the course.

Please Note
  • Exams are evaluated on subject knowledge as well as correct language usage, organization, and mastery of the subject.

Absenteeism and Tests
  • Students should be aware that absenteeism will impact on their ability to achieve satisfactory grades.
  • If you miss a test, you must provide the reason in writing to the instructor prior to the next scheduled class. If your reason is accepted, you will be permitted to write a make-up test. Otherwise, you will be given a zero for the test. You must submit an original doctor’s certificate identifying the date, length of time of expected absence and the specific reason for your absence, or other appropriate documentation.

Academic Honesty

Students at Seneca College are expected to be honest and forthright in their academic endeavours.  When students cheat on an examination, steal the words or ideas of another, or falsify their research results, it corrupts the learning process. A Seneca College degree, diploma or certificate signifies to society mastery of a set of defined learning outcomes in a designated field of study. If academic credit is obtained dishonestly, the value of every graduate's diploma in the field of study is diminished, as is the reputation of the college as a whole.

Penalties for Academic Dishonesty

The penalty for a first offence is a grade of '0' on the assignment or examination. The penalty for the second offence is expulsion for a time period determined by the Academic Honesty Committee, normally for a minimum of three terms. For further information refer to the policies section of the Seneca College student handbook, or to the following website: http://library.senecacollege.ca/Academic_Honesty/

Approved by: Sandra Noble