Legal Practice and Legal Research

The law school divides research and writing into two separate programs. The required writing component is called Legal Practice and the required research part is Legal Research Methodologies. Students take both courses each semester in their first year of law school. Although these courses are separate, they are coordinated so that writing projects utilize legal research skills. Upper-level law students can also elect to take separate advanced research and writing classes. Although such upper-level courses are purely elective, they are highly encouraged as a way to hone legal research and writing skills needed for the successful practice of law.

First‑Year Courses

Legal Practice I: Objective Analysis and Reasoning and Legal Practice II: Advocacy is a  two-semester, four-credit graded course taught in the Fall and Spring, respectively, by full-time Professors of Practice, who often serve as informal course advisors.

  • Students meet twice a week in small groups to discuss writing projects with their professors, allowing students to build on their previous week's work and further developing their analytical skills.
  • Students receive significant individual written feedback on their major writing projects which can include office memoranda, client letters, settlement letters, and agreements. 
  • Trial court and appellate briefs are usually used in oral argument during the advocacy section while typically oral presentations on a writing project occur each semester.

Legal Research Methodologies I and Legal Research Methodologies II is a required one-credit, two-semester course that is also graded. Classes are taught by Lecturers in Law who are attorneys as well as law librarians.  

  • Students are introduced to primary sources of law such as cases, statutes and regulations as well as secondary sources, including form books, law periodicals and treatises.
  • Students learn how to use finding aids such as digests and online indexes.
  • Students are instructed on how to devise an efficient research plan.
  • Emphasis is put on using material in electronic format.

Upper-Level Courses

Seminars are offered during the fall and spring semesters. Upper-level students are required to take at least one Seminar, but many take more than one before graduating. Most Seminars are three-credit courses offered by faculty in their areas of specialty which also give students the opportunity to delve deeply into advanced research and writing in a small class size setting.  

Advanced Legal Research is a graded two-credit course that is typically offered in the Spring. This course provides intensive hands-on training in statutory interpretation and using free online legal sources as well as subscription databases containing foreign and international law. Students also are instructed in using hard-copy legal resources, both primary and secondary materials.

For More Information Contact:

Jo Ellen Lewis, Director of Legal Practice and Professor of Practice, Room 470 Anheuser-Busch Hall, at 314-935-4684 or e-mail at lewisj@wulaw.wustl.edu 

Philip C. Berwick, Associate Dean for Information Resources and Senior Lecturer in Law, Room 455A Anheuser-Busch Hall, at 314-935-4042 or berwick@wulaw.wustl.edu