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Excellence in Legal Research Program: Curriculum

Information on the Law Library's Excellence in Legal Research Program

The Excellence in Legal Research Program

The goal of the Excellence in Legal Research Program is to prepare students for the rigorous, analytical research that they will be performing as practicing attorneys. The program is comprised of two types of classes: 1) classes that review foundational topics introduced during the first-year Legal Practice Research Workshops and help students retain the research basics while introducing advanced skills in those areas; and 2) classes that introduce advanced research skills that students have not encountered before.

With new attorneys spending approximately 35% of their time in the first five years performing legal research, it is critical for students to have a strong grasp of research skills and analysis.

Students must complete six required classes that focus on advanced, but critical skills, such as legal analysis, legal ethics, and practical sources not covered in the 1L research program.  Students then have a choice of taking any eight hours of electives; elective courses cover either refreshers, advanced classes in skills they first learned in the 1L year, or specialized sources that students may not have encountered before.

The full list of ELR required and elective courses are below.

Required Courses

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RE 1:  Legal Research Ethics 

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the professional conduct rules associated with legal research, such as competence and diligence
  • Explain the importance for lawyers to conduct ethical research
  • Apply ethical standards when conducting legal research
    • Analyze information found during legal research to ensure accuracy                                                                      

RE 2:  Legal Research Analysis

Students will be able to:

  • Conduct preliminary analysis of complex legal research problems and formulate a research plan based on their preliminary analysis
  • Describe factors that help them determine the usefulness of secondary and primary sources for their legal issues
  • Analyze which secondary sources might be most helpful for research problems
  • Analyze the usefulness of primary source materials for their research issues
  • Evaluate their research plan during the course of their research and judge when they have reached their research objectives

RE 3:  Legal Analytics

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the types of information suited to legal analytics
  • Recognize underlying data used to formulate information
  • Use various legal analytics tools, such as judicial and case data, to effectively locate relevant information
  • Extract actionable knowledge from data
     

RE 4:  Boolean Searching

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the advantages and disadvantages of Boolean searching and natural language searching and select the appropriate type of search for their needs
  • Design search phrases using terms and connectors syntax to effectively locate relevant resources
  • Conduct proximity searches to refine their search results
  • Analyze results and revise search phrases as needed
     

RE 5:  Court Practice

Students will be able to:

  • Identify where to file court documents in their needed jurisdiction
  • Demonstrate an ability to locate court rules for their needed jurisdiction
  • Demonstrate an ability to locate forms for a particular court and ethically use forms to tailor to clients' needs
  • Identify tools to assist with court practice
     

RE 6:  Dockets

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the usefulness of dockets research
  • Read a docket and locate important documents within
  • Demonstrate an ability to locate dockets using PACER, Bloomberg Law, and TAMES
  • Set alerts to receive updates of dockets

Elective Courses (8 hours total)

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EL 1:  Advanced Case Law Research

Students will be able to:

  • Use a statute annotation, party name, or digest to locate relevant federal and state case law
  • Select appropriate cases to cite for their legal issues
  • Demonstrate an ability to ethically conduct predictive searching
  • Demonstrate an ability to use paid and free resources to locate and update relevant federal and state case law
     

EL 2: Advanced Statutory Research

Students will be able to:

  • Devise and execute a plan for researching a statutory interpretation issue
  • Use an index, table of contents, and popular names table to locate relevant sections of federal and state codes
  • Analyze relevant annotations to a federal and state codes, including the history, notes of decisions, and other citing references
  • Demonstrate an ability to use paid and free resources to locate and update relevant federal and state statutory law
  • Demonstrate an ability to locate superseded versions of federal and state codes
     

EL 3: Advanced Regulatory Research

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the relationship between statutes and regulations
  • Use an index, table of contents, and annotations from a statute to find relevant sections of the Code of Federal Regulations
  • Analyze relevant annotations to a regulation, including the statutory authority and the source note
  • Demonstrate an ability to use paid and free resources to locate and update relevant federal regulations and administrative decisions
     

EL 4: Legislative History Refresher

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the stages of the legislative process and identify documents that are produced in each stage
  • Explain how legislative history documents are used in legal analysis and statutory interpretation
  • Use bill numbers to locate relevant legislative history documents for federal and state statutes
  • Demonstrate an ability to use paid and free resources to locate relevant federal and state legislative history documents,
     

EL 5: Law Practice Technology

Students will be able to:

  • Identify various types of cloud technologies and explain their use in law practice
  • Search and evaluate state legal ethics opinions on cloud technology
  • Describe law practice management software characteristics and use in a law practice
  • Create a law practice information technology plan
  • Explain the duty of tech competence as it relates to law practice technology
     

EL 6: Texas Resources

Students will be able to:

  • Identify and describe the use of important Texas resources, including but not limited to the Texas Legislature online, the Texas Legislative Reference Library and the Texas Secretary of State's website
  • Demonstrate an ability to use free resources to locate relevant Texas primary law resources
  • Select appropriate resources to solve a Texas research issue
     

EL 7: Interdisciplinary & Statistical Research

Students will be able to:

  • Explain how interdisciplinary and statistical research can be utilized in legal arguments
  • Design and execute a research plan using interdisciplinary materials
  • Demonstrate an ability to locate major social sciences, economic, and statistical research resources to support their legal arguments
     

EL 8: Factual Research

Students will be able to:

  • Explain how different types of factual research can be utilized in law practice
  • Explain the ethical issues related to searching for records
  • Demonstrate an ability to locate company financials
  • Demonstrate an ability to do people searching (judges, experts, other lawyers)
  • Demonstrate an ability to find vital records
  • Demonstrate an ability to find medical and scientific information
     

EL 9: Current Awareness

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the importance of lawyers being knowledgable about legal news and current events
  • Identify reputable resources that help lawyers stay current, including news, bill tracking resources, and other tools
  • Demonstrate an ability to use current awareness tools to track cases, legislation, and rule-making
  • Evaluate current awareness resources and create a strategy for staying current, including setting alerts
     

EL 10: Intro to Fastcase & Casemaker

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the benefits and ethical considerations of using free or low-cost legal resources
  • Demonstrate an ability to navigate the four-step research process using Fastcase and Casemaker
     

EL 11:  Free Web Resources

Students will be able to:

  • Evaluate free legal resources and the authority of their host platforms
  • Describe the challenges, benefits, and ethical considerations of using free web resources
  • Demonstrate an ability to apply those criteria to electronic and print resources in order to determine the reliability of those sources
     

EL 12: Evaluating Resources

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the biases inherent to the creation and dissemination of information
  • Summarize the criteria by which one evaluates print and electronic resources
  • Demonstrate an ability to apply those criteria to electronic and print resources in order to determine the reliability of those sources
     

EL 13: Constitutions

Students will be able to:

  • Explain where constitutions fall within the hierarchy of authority
  • Use an index and table of contents to find relevant sections of the federal and state constitutions
  • Analyze relevant annotations to the federal and state constitutions, including the history, notes of decisions, and other citing references
  • Demonstrate an ability to use paid and free resources to locate relevant provisions of federal and state constitutions

 

 

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