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legal research and problem solving

How to do legal research in 3 steps

Knowing where to start a difficult legal research project can be a challenge. But if you already understand the basics of legal research, the process can be significantly easier — not to mention quicker.

Solid research skills are crucial to crafting a winning argument. So, whether you are a law school student or a seasoned attorney with years of experience, knowing how to perform legal research is important — including where to start and the steps to follow.

What is legal research, and where do I start? 

Black's Law Dictionary defines legal research as “[t]he finding and assembling of authorities that bear on a question of law." But what does that actually mean? It means that legal research is the process you use to identify and find the laws — including statutes, regulations, and court opinions — that apply to the facts of your case.

In most instances, the purpose of legal research is to find support for a specific legal issue or decision. For example, attorneys must conduct legal research if they need court opinions — that is, case law — to back up a legal argument they are making in a motion or brief filed with the court.

Alternatively, lawyers may need legal research to provide clients with accurate legal guidance . In the case of law students, they often use legal research to complete memos and briefs for class. But these are just a few situations in which legal research is necessary.

Why is legal research hard?

Each step — from defining research questions to synthesizing findings — demands critical thinking and rigorous analysis.

1. Identifying the legal issue is not so straightforward. Legal research involves interpreting many legal precedents and theories to justify your questions. Finding the right issue takes time and patience.

2. There's too much to research. Attorneys now face a great deal of case law and statutory material. The sheer volume forces the researcher to be efficient by following a methodology based on a solid foundation of legal knowledge and principles.

3. The law is a fluid doctrine. It changes with time, and staying updated with the latest legal codes, precedents, and statutes means the most resourceful lawyer needs to assess the relevance and importance of new decisions.

Legal research can pose quite a challenge, but professionals can improve it at every stage of the process . 

Step 1: Key questions to ask yourself when starting legal research

Before you begin looking for laws and court opinions, you first need to define the scope of your legal research project. There are several key questions you can use to help do this.

What are the facts?

Always gather the essential facts so you know the “who, what, why, when, where, and how” of your case. Take the time to write everything down, especially since you will likely need to include a statement of facts in an eventual filing or brief anyway. Even if you don't think a fact may be relevant now, write it down because it may be relevant later. These facts will also be helpful when identifying your legal issue.

What is the actual legal issue?

You will never know what to research if you don't know what your legal issue is. Does your client need help collecting money from an insurance company following a car accident involving a negligent driver? How about a criminal case involving excluding evidence found during an alleged illegal stop?

No matter the legal research project, you must identify the relevant legal problem and the outcome or relief sought. This information will guide your research so you can stay focused and on topic.

What is the relevant jurisdiction?

Don't cast your net too wide regarding legal research; you should focus on the relevant jurisdiction. For example, does your case deal with federal or state law? If it is state law, which state? You may find a case in California state court that is precisely on point, but it won't be beneficial if your legal project involves New York law.

Where to start legal research: The library, online, or even AI?

In years past, future attorneys were trained in law school to perform research in the library. But now, you can find almost everything from the library — and more — online. While you can certainly still use the library if you want, you will probably be costing yourself valuable time if you do.

When it comes to online research, some people start with free legal research options , including search engines like Google or Bing. But to ensure your legal research is comprehensive, you will want to use an online research service designed specifically for the law, such as Westlaw . Not only do online solutions like Westlaw have all the legal sources you need, but they also include artificial intelligence research features that help make quick work of your research

Step 2: How to find relevant case law and other primary sources of law

Now that you have gathered the facts and know your legal issue, the next step is knowing what to look for. After all, you will need the law to support your legal argument, whether providing guidance to a client or writing an internal memo, brief, or some other legal document.

But what type of law do you need? The answer: primary sources of law. Some of the more important types of primary law include:

  • Case law, which are court opinions or decisions issued by federal or state courts
  • Statutes, including legislation passed by both the U.S. Congress and state lawmakers
  • Regulations, including those issued by either federal or state agencies
  • Constitutions, both federal and state

Searching for primary sources of law

So, if it's primary law you want, it makes sense to begin searching there first, right? Not so fast. While you will need primary sources of law to support your case, in many instances, it is much easier — and a more efficient use of your time — to begin your search with secondary sources such as practice guides, treatises, and legal articles.

Why? Because secondary sources provide a thorough overview of legal topics, meaning you don't have to start your research from scratch. After secondary sources, you can move on to primary sources of law.

For example, while no two legal research projects are the same, the order in which you will want to search different types of sources may look something like this:

  • Secondary sources . If you are researching a new legal principle or an unfamiliar area of the law, the best place to start is secondary sources, including law journals, practice guides , legal encyclopedias, and treatises. They are a good jumping-off point for legal research since they've already done the work for you. As an added bonus, they can save you additional time since they often identify and cite important statutes and seminal cases.
  • Case law . If you have already found some case law in secondary sources, great, you have something to work with. But if not, don't fret. You can still search for relevant case law in a variety of ways, including running a search in a case law research tool.

Once you find a helpful case, you can use it to find others. For example, in Westlaw, most cases contain headnotes that summarize each of the case's important legal issues. These headnotes are also assigned a Key Number based on the topic associated with that legal issue. So, once you find a good case, you can use the headnotes and Key Numbers within it to quickly find more relevant case law.

  • Statutes and regulations . In many instances, secondary sources and case law list the statutes and regulations relevant to your legal issue. But if you haven't found anything yet, you can still search for statutes and regs online like you do with cases.

Once you know which statute or reg is pertinent to your case, pull up the annotated version on Westlaw. Why the annotated version? Because the annotations will include vital information, such as a list of important cases that cite your statute or reg. Sometimes, these cases are even organized by topic — just one more way to find the case law you need to support your legal argument.

Keep in mind, though, that legal research isn't always a linear process. You may start out going from source to source as outlined above and then find yourself needing to go back to secondary sources once you have a better grasp of the legal issue. In other instances, you may even find the answer you are looking for in a source not listed above, like a sample brief filed with the court by another attorney. Ultimately, you need to go where the information takes you.

Step 3: Make sure you are using ‘good’ law

One of the most important steps with every legal research project is to verify that you are using “good" law — meaning a court hasn't invalidated it or struck it down in some way. After all, it probably won't look good to a judge if you cite a case that has been overruled or use a statute deemed unconstitutional. It doesn't necessarily mean you can never cite these sources; you just need to take a closer look before you do.

The simplest way to find out if something is still good law is to use a legal tool known as a citator, which will show you subsequent cases that have cited your source as well as any negative history, including if it has been overruled, reversed, questioned, or merely differentiated.

For instance, if a case, statute, or regulation has any negative history — and therefore may no longer be good law — KeyCite, the citator on Westlaw, will warn you. Specifically, KeyCite will show a flag or icon at the top of the document, along with a little blurb about the negative history. This alert system allows you to quickly know if there may be anything you need to worry about.

Some examples of these flags and icons include:

  • A red flag on a case warns you it is no longer good for at least one point of law, meaning it may have been overruled or reversed on appeal.
  • A yellow flag on a case warns that it has some negative history but is not expressly overruled or reversed, meaning another court may have criticized it or pointed out the holding was limited to a specific fact pattern.
  • A blue-striped flag on a case warns you that it has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals.
  • The KeyCite Overruling Risk icon on a case warns you that the case may be implicitly undermined because it relies on another case that has been overruled.

Another bonus of using a citator like KeyCite is that it also provides a list of other cases that merely cite your source — it can lead to additional sources you previously didn't know about.

Perseverance is vital when it comes to legal research

Given that legal research is a complex process, it will likely come as no surprise that this guide cannot provide everything you need to know.

There is a reason why there are entire law school courses and countless books focused solely on legal research methodology. In fact, many attorneys will spend their entire careers honing their research skills — and even then, they may not have perfected the process.

So, if you are just beginning, don't get discouraged if you find legal research difficult — almost everyone does at first. With enough time, patience, and dedication, you can master the art of legal research.

Thomson Reuters originally published this article on November 10, 2020.

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Request a trial and experience the fastest way to find what you need

Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing Program

Berkeley Law’s Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing Program relies upon contextual problem solving to teach students how to understand, research and analyze legal issues, and how to present their analysis through effective legal writing and oral argument. In a small class setting, students learn what legal writing is, how it differs from other forms of writing, and how to write to serve clients’ varying needs.

Students are taught by full-time faculty who bring significant teaching and practical experience to the classroom. Faculty come from senior levels of private practice, public interest organizations, government, and the court system. Faculty work with their students for both semesters of the students’ first year. This continuity of instruction allows faculty to provide highly individualized feedback to students. The small class size gives students the opportunity to develop strong mentoring relationships with faculty.

Berkeley Law’s Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing Program relies upon case simulations to teach lawyering skills. Students work on legal problems that are realistic fact scenarios. For each problem, students represent a client with specific issues and goals. Students learn to analyze and extract relevant evidence from a case file, in the same way they would in the workplace. Students then research and learn the substantive law that relates to each problem, testing their substantive understanding through group presentations and simulation exercises. Students work both collaboratively and independently. 

During the Fall Semester (LRW, or Legal Research and Writing), students learn legal reasoning, research skills, and predictive legal writing. For each project, students research the law relevant to a hypothetical dispute and predict how a court would apply the law to specific facts. Students engage in increasingly complex written analyses, using more sophisticated techniques as the semester progresses. Meanwhile, students improve their legal research skills as they explore new research techniques and sources with each writing assignment and through separate research exercises. Students receive detailed written feedback on their work and further review those comments during individual conferences. Second and third-year law students who serve as teaching assistants are available to provide students additional support. 

During the Spring Semester (WOA, or Written and Oral Advocacy), students learn persuasive writing and oral advocacy. WOA builds on the research, analysis, and writing skills introduced in the first semester. Students research a complex legal issue and write a persuasive trial court brief on behalf of the client they are assigned to represent. As in the Fall, students find, analyze and analogize to case law, and receive individualized feedback. Classroom exercises and practice hearings prepare students ultimately to argue the matter against a student representing the opposing side. The skills students learn in LRW and WOA transfer to other contexts that demand efficient and comprehensive legal research, clear legal analysis, excellent writing, and effective advocacy.

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  • The VLS Course
  • The Process
  • The Resources
  • The Podcast

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Legal Problem Solving acts on this recommendation. Starting from a historical context for the current state of legal services delivery, this course introduces human-centered design thinking and other proven creative problem-solving constructs to provide a client-centered focus for creating innovative and effective methods of delivering legal services to a wide range of consumers in the 21st century.

To borrow from Professor JB Ruhl's syllabus for Law 2050 , this is an unusual law school course — by design. The forces shaping legal services delivery — the very forces that will shape professional opportunities for today's law students — are not adequately addressed by the traditional law school curriculum. This course seeks to fill in the gaps, to give soon-to-be lawyers the tools, methods, and processes required to meet client needs while designing sustainable, healthy ways of practicing law.

Human-Centered Design

The primary lens for work in this course is Human-Centered Design ("HCD"), a fluid framework for discovering problems, ideating solutions, and iterating to continuously improve solutions. HCD provides a methodology for considering both legal service delivery challenges, as well as clients' legal problems. The HCD method also serves as a tool individual law students can use to craft a rewarding, successful legal career.

Ultimately, this course is about doing, creating, and making — from the client's perspective. The reading is front-end loaded, as the required texts help explain tools, methods, and concepts we will use to "do" collaborative legal problem solving as the semester progresses.

In addition to the course texts (see LPS : : THE RESOURCES for a reading list), course content includes class-wide and small group discussions, guest speakers, presentations, creative problem-solving exercises, and a capstone design challenge. The collaborative capstone design challenge requires students to use HCD and other methods to create relevant solutions to real challenges faced across the legal services spectrum.

The course uses technologies leveraged by creative teams across disciplines, including Slack for all class communication, Trello to manage collaborative projects, and Google Drive (Docs and Sheets) for all written assignments.

This course also has this website/blog, where we will share student blog posts and other writing projects over the course of the semester. We also will introduce additional technology tools relevant to work in this course AND the practice of law, including mind-mapping apps, presentation apps, and workflow management tools.

Learning Outcomes

Students learn to creatively solve legal problems as well as complex legal services delivery problems . They develop and exercise their empathy and curiosity muscles — critical skills for a successful career in the 21st century. They learn and hone collaboration and communication skills , including the skills of delivering and receiving feedback . Students become comfortable in experimenting with and using a wide range of technology serving the 21st-century law practice.

Ultimately, students will understand and be able to apply human-centered design (mindsets and processes) and related tools to THINK LIKE A CLIENT and BE CURIOUS , and to creatively solve clients' legal and service delivery challenges while simultaneously crafting a personally rewarding and sustainable legal career.

LPS :: The Process

Design doing..

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with design thinking and other problem-solving tools, to learn how they work in the real world

In each class session, we'll undertake hands-on design and creative problem-solving activities and challenges, to learn how design thinking and other methods really work in the wild.

Students will get comfortable using the core elements of design thinking (empathy inspiration through discovery, ideation, prototyping, and iteration) to solve problems.

In-class experiments focus on tools used throughout the design process, including journey maps, the five whys, expectation maps, personas, storyboards, service blueprints, the business model canvas, and more.

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A Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking / Stanford's

Bootleg Bootcamp / Stanford's

Collective Action Toolkit / Frog

Design Sprint Kit / Google

Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit / IDEO

Human Centered Design Field Guide / IDEO

Teachers Design for Education / The Business Innovation Factory

This Is Service Design Doing: Methods Library


Open Law Lab / Stanford

Legal Design Lab / Stanford Law School +

Law by Design, The Book / Margaret Hagan (Stanford Open Law Lab)

Listen > Learn > Lead: A Guide to Improving Court Services Through User-Centered Design / published by IAALS

MAP x GAP Strategies for User-Informed Legal Design / Michigan Advocacy Program

The state of the legal profession.

A primary point of this course? To design solutions to some of the most wicked challenges facing the legal profession today. Want a taste of what those challenges might be? Dig into this list of curated readings.

The state of the legal profession/market (reports):

Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States (2016) / American Bar Association

Profile of the Legal Profession (2020) / American Bar Association

Profile of the Legal Profession (2021) / American Bar Association

2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer: Moving Beyond the Pandemic / Wolters Kluwer

Law Department Benchmarking Report (2021) (Executive Summary) / Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)

Law Firms in Transition (2020) / Altman Weil

Business of Law and Legal Technology Survey (2020) / Aderant

Report on the State of the Legal Market (2021) / Georgetown Law's Center for the Study of the Legal Profession

Report on the State of the Legal Market (2022) / Georgetown Law's Center for the Study of the Legal Profession

State of Corporate Law Departments (2021) / ACC

State of the Industry Report (2021) / Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC)

EY Law Survey (2021) / EY

2021 Legal Department Operations (LDO) Index / Thompson Reuters

Amplifying the Voice of the Client in Law FIrms (2017) / Lexis Nexis

The state of access to justice and the law (reports and journals): Justice Needs and Satisfaction in the US 2021 / IAALS & HiiL

Daedalus: Access to Justice (2019) / American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Prognostications on what the future holds (or should hold) for lawyers and the legal profession (articles and videos):

Robot doctors and lawyers? It’s a change we should embrace. (2015) / Daniel Susskind

Upgrading Justice (video) (2016) / Richard Susskind at Harvard Law School

Legal Demand 3.0 (2017) / Jordan Furlong

The Future of the Practice of Law: Can Alternative Business Structures for the Legal Profession Improve Access to L egal Services? (2016) / James M. McCauley

The Future Is Now: Legal Services 2017 (videos of conference talks) (2017) / IL Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism - 2Civility

Should Tech Training For Lawyers Be Mandatory? (2017) / Bob Ambrogi

Are Lawyers Really Luddites? (2017) / John Alber

Well-being of law students and lawyers (research):

Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns (2016) / Organ, Jaffe, Bender

The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys (2016) / Krill, Johnson, Albert

The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change (2017) / National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being

The Lawyer Personality: Why Lawyers Are Skeptical (2013) / Dr. Larry Richard

And some more food for thought on innovation in the legal profession:

Innovation in Organizations, Part I (015) (2017) / Bill Henderson

Innovation in Organizations, Part II (016) (2017) / Bill Henderson

Innovation in Organizations, Part III (017) (2017) / Bill Henderson

Design Thinking: User-Driven Legal Process Design Could Radically Change Delivery of Services (2016) / 3 Geeks and a Law Blog

A Successful Legal Change Management Story (027) (2017) / Bill Henderson

And more general food for thought:

In the AI Age, "Being Smart" Will Mean Something Completely Different (2017) / Harvard Business Review

LPS Course Tools

Embedded in LPS is a requirement that students experiment with technology as part of the problem-solving and collaboration process. To this end, we'll be using the following tech tools in our course workflow:

Slack - for all course communication

T rello - for all team projects

Google Drive (Docs / Sheets) - for all assigned writings and team projects

Coggle.It - for mindmapping exercises

Students also will be introduced to numerous other technologies that support collaborative and creative work, including video, presentation, and workflow applications.

Design Tools

Online platforms to create custom design tools, including journey maps, personas, service blueprints, practice model canvases, and more:

Canvanizer - create specific types of canvases / blueprints (e.g. service design, project management), or start tabula rasa

Smaply - create personas, journey maps, stakeholder maps

Practice Model Canvas - create a new legal service (or improve upon an existing one) with this canvas

LPS :: The Blog

Thoughts, musings, and ruminations from #legaldesign students and a #legaldesign prof., the podcast: a curious lawyer, join us for conversations with and about curious lawyers..

Director of Innovation Design

Director, PoLI Institute

Lecturer in Law

Vanderbilt Law School

[email protected]


Legal Problem Solving © Caitlin "Cat" Moon

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Legal problem solving: Find out more

  • Application
  • Example 1 (Contract)
  • Example 2 (Negligence)
  • Back to Law research and writing guide

Cover Art

  • Meet MIRAT: Legal Reasoning Fragmented into Learnable Chunks. (M- material facts, I - Issues, R - rules and resources, A - arguments, T - tentative conclusion) John Wade. (1990) 2(2) Legal Education Review 283.

Online guides

  • IRAC Guide (University of Western Australia)
  • Organizing a Legal Discussion (IRAC, CRAC, ETC.) (Columbia Law School. Writing Center) (PDF)
  • << Previous: Example 2 (Negligence)
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Getting Started with Legal Research

When undertaking legal research it is best to begin by consulting  Secondary Materials such as books, journals, legal dictionaries and encyclopedias. These will provide the broader legal context of an issue, alert you to areas of uncertainty and debate,  as well as referring to key legislation and cases. Use the side menu of this guide to locate these secondary sources. You may then wish to search Primary Materials, including legislation and case law.

Legal Problem Solving

Legal problem solving becomes much easier when following a structured method.  Two methods used at UC are F.I.L.A and IRAC

  • Determine the legally relevant or "material" F acts
  • Identify the particular legal I ssue (s) raised by the relevant facts
  • Find the applicable L aw (s)        
  • A pply the law   
  • Come to a conclusion and advise your client. 

For further details see the UC Law School's Guide.

  • Materials_On_Problem-Solving_Techniques

2. IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion)  This method is both a specific method of case analysis, or legal reasoning, and a useful framework for organising or writing out an analysis. It involves laying out the issue to be discussed, identifying the relevant legal rule, the application or analysis of material facts based on that rule, and the overall conclusion. Further details are avaialble courtesy of t this Guide  from the University of Western Australia.

Legal Writing

  • Effective legal writing : a practical approach by Corbett-Jarvis, Nichola,; Grigg, Brendan, Call Number: UC Library General KL34.2.C67 2017 ISBN: 9780409343205 Publication Date: 2017

Law exam techniques

This exam preparation guide prepared by Monash University Library provides a guide on how to prepare for exams, including tips and tricks and how to answer the problem questions. 

Cover Art

  • << Previous: Key International Databases
  • Next: Primary Materials >>

Legal Research: Self Help Tools

Download the PowerPoint slide deck to access a past Legal Research Skills presentation by UC Library Staff. 

The Learning outcomes were as follows: 

  • know how to seek in-person & virtual help from UC Library
  • be able to locate and utilize the Law Subject Guide to source scholarly legal resources
  • know how to construct targeted searches, including the use of  Boolean operators and evaluate their outputs
  • have strategies to keep up to date with current legal trends & research
  • understand the basic functionality of EndNote X9
  • be able to navigate to the AGLC4 referencing guide

Legal Research Guides

legal research and problem solving

  • UPDATE: A Guide to Online Research Resources for the Australian Federal Legal System with some Reference to the State Level by Petal Kinder Publication Date: 2018
  • Last Updated: Aug 10, 2023 3:00 PM
  • URL:

UW School of Law

  • School of Law
  • News & Events

Marjorie D. Rombauer: Legal writing and research pioneer, much-loved colleague

legal research and problem solving

Professor Emerita Marjorie D. Rombauer ‘60, widely considered the founding mother of the field of legal writing, passed away this Friday. A pioneer in legal research and writing education, Rombauer’s career spanned over three decades as a beloved professor, respected scholar and leader in legal education and the justice system.

“Marjorie was a giant in her field,” said Penny Hazelton, UW School of Law emerita professor and former associate dean for Library and Information Systems. “Her intellect and strong desire to help her students learn to be outstanding lawyers, combined with her kindness and humanity, made her a wonderful role model for her students and colleagues.”

Rombauer’s influence extended well beyond the classroom. After joining the UW faculty in 1960, she embarked on a long campaign to transform the teaching of legal writing into a professional discipline. At a time when most law schools’ writing instruction was taught by upper level students, she established a rigorous program taught by full-time faculty that integrated legal analysis, research and writing. The program gained national recognition and provided credibility for the teaching of legal research and writing.

Her textbook, “Legal Problem Solving: Analysis, Research and Writing,” became the one of the leading casebooks in the subject and was the standard text for many years. “Her textbook remains a bold statement integrating legal thinking, research and reasoning into a coherent whole… [building on that textbook] she designed an innovative program,”  wrote Robert Berring, a leading expert in the field. “The world was not ready. Legal education was not prepared to escape from its old paradigm. Now the time has come.”

At UW School of Law, Rombauer led the way for women in the law student body and in the faculty. She was the first non-librarian, tenured female faculty member at the law school, and later as interim dean became the first woman to hold the post at UW Law. An expert in debtor-creditor law, Rombauer was a frequent panelist for Washington CLE programs and the author of “Creditors' Remedies-Debtors' Relief.”

She also taught in the Uniform Commercial Code field and Japanese law. Relatively late in life, Rombauer decided to learn Japanese due to her interest in commercial law issues related to trade with Japan, and devoted many years to that study.

“Professor Rombauer’s teaching and scholarship informed generations of law students and faculty members,” said Dean Kellye Testy. “As hard as we try, it is impossible to capture all that she was and all that she did for our students, our school and our profession.”

Rombauer’s influence reached far across the law community. She was a key force in founding the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research, the first organization of its kind, and spoke at many workshops and conferences. She was also a member of the Washington Law Revision Commission, serving as its chair from 1990-1995, and helped author important legislation in the state of Washington.

She received numerous honors over the years, including the Washington State Bar Association’s Award of Honor and Merit for her work in drafting and securing enactment of the 1987 Enforcement of Judgments Act and an award for Distinguished Service to the Profession from the Association of American Law Schools in 1993. In 2000, alumni voted her one of ten outstanding teachers in the law school's first 100 years.

The lasting impact Rombauer made on those around her is clear. “My debt to her is immeasurable. She gave great advice, when asked, with a sparkle in her eyes and abiding good humor,” said Lynn Bahrych ’85. “There were only two women on the law faculty while I was there, so I was especially grateful every day for the example she set for how women could succeed in the then male-dominated world of law. She succeeded by being, very simply, the best at whatever she did.”

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Law: Legal problem solving (IRAC)

Legal problem solving is a common format of assessments in law. It involves reading a fact scenario (‘the problem’) and explaining the possible legal outcomes of the issues in the fact scenario. Legal problem solving is an essential skill for the study and practice of law. To do this, you’ll need to:

  • identify the legal issues in the fact scenario i.e. what laws may have been breached, who is potentially liable and for what offence
  • identify and explain the law/rules that apply to those legal issues you’ve identified, including case law and/or legislation
  • apply the law to the facts in the scenario
  • provide a conclusion on each legal issue.

You will do legal problem solving in a range of assessments including problem questions for in-semester assessments, legal memos and often in final assessments. The format and audience will differ slightly between assessments, so check the instructions carefully.

What is IRAC?

There are a number of legal problem solving models, with the most popular being:

  • IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) and
  • MIRAT (Material facts, Issue, Rule/Resources, Arguments, Tentative conclusion).

Read more about MIRAT in this article Meet MIRAT: Legal Reasoning Fragmented into Learnable chunks

We will focus on the IRAC model in this resource, but note that there can be flexibility in the use of the models.

The IRAC methodology is useful to help you organise your legal analysis so that the reader can follow your argument. It is particularly helpful in writing answers to legal problem questions and legal memos.

The first step, before you begin the IRAC process, is to determine the material facts. This is in fact the first step of the MIRAT model.

  • Before you state the legal issues, it is important to identify the facts you have been provided with, determining which ones are relevant, which are clearly not relevant, and which ones may become relevant once the rules are identified.
  • It is from the facts that the issues can be identified.
  • The facts and issues lead to the identification of the most appropriate rules, and the rules then determine the most useful way of construing the facts.

Do not write a long summary of the facts. Mention important facts when applying the law, but simply rephrasing the fact scenario at the start of your answer will not demonstrate your understanding.

Let's take the example of Matthew, a 50-year old independent contractor from Victoria who has been engaged for some work by X Pty Ltd (a company). Matthew attends a number of staff meetings as well as a training course provided by the company. Do the terms of the contract referring to an 'employee' apply to him even as a contractor?

Identify the facts

Relevant facts here are:

  • Matthew is an independent contractor.
  • He has an employment contract with company X Pty Ltd.
  • He has attended some company staff meetings and a training course.
  • The jurisdiction of Victoria may also be relevant.
  • It is unlikely that Matthew's age would be a relevant fact.

Navigating this resource

You can navigate the pages in this resource by either clicking on the page links here or by clicking the navigation buttons below.

Issue: Identify and state the issues

Rule: identify and state the rules, apply: apply the rules to the problem.


Legal Research Methods in Legal Problem Solving ADCO Law

yuridis adalah

Juridical review is a step that generally aims to find and break down the components of a problem to be studied more deeply and then relate it to the law, legal rules and applicable legal norms as a solution to the problem. Along with legal problems that are growing day by day, in conducting a juridical review, it is necessary to have a legal research method as an instrument to explain and examine legal issues that are increasingly developing day by day. Legal research itself is a research with legal objects, both law as science or dogmatic rules and laws relating to people’s lives based on certain method, systematics and thoughts to study legal phenomena that occur by analyzing and then solving possible problems that arise. There are various types of legal research methodologies that can be used in conducting legal research, in order to unravel a contemporary legal problem including Normative Legal Research Methodology (normative juridical), Empirical Legal Research Methodology (Empirical Juridical) and Socio Legal Research Methodology.

yuridis adalah

A. Normative Legal Research Methodology

The Normative Legal Research method uses a normative juridical approach. The normative juridical approach is an approach that refers to the applicable laws and regulations. Furthermore, Normative Legal research is one type of legal research methodology that bases its analysis on applicable laws and regulations and is relevant to the legal issues that are the focus of research. Topics of Legal Issues that are relevant to be researched using Normative Legal Research, among others;

  •  The positive law inventory
  •  The principles of law
  •  The theme of the discovery of the law in-concreto,
  • The systematics of law or the systematics of statutory regulations, research on the level of synchronization (level of consistency) of laws and regulations, both vertically and horizontally.

Data collection in normative legal research is carried out by means of library research in the form of secondary data as a basic material to be researched by conducting a search on regulations and other literature related to the problems studied or often referred to as library law research.

B. Empirical Legal Research Methodology

The empirical legal research method or empirical juridical research method is a legal research method that examines applicable legal provisions and what happens in society or research that is carried out on the actual conditions that occur in society, with the aim of finding facts that are used as research data. Then the data is analyzed to identify problems which ultimately lead to problem solving. Relevant topics or themes to be researched using empirical legal research methods are research on legal identification, and research on legal effectiveness. 

Legal research is focused on testing community compliance with a legal norm with the aim of measuring the effectiveness or not of an applicable legal arrangement/material. The primary data used in this research method is data obtained directly from the researched place  based on respondents and sources. Data collection in the researched place is carried out by researchers by means of interviews.

Legal data collection in empirical legal research is carried out by means of a survey. Survey is a tool to collect data from interviewees or informants to conduct observations and interviews with an empirical approach (non-doctrinal legal research). 

yuridis adalah

C. Socio Legal Research Methodology

In principle, the Socio-Legal research methodology is a legal research methodology, which uses a social science methodological approach in a broad sense. Socio-Legal research basically looking at law in a complex way, does not stop at norms that use a number of interdisciplinary disciplines. 

This legal methodology uses social science in general and sociology in particular in contracting and explaining the legal issues under study. Even though it uses social science, Socio Legal’s research methodology is not intended for the benefit of social science but for the benefit of legal science. 

The topics of legal issues that are relevant to be researched using the Socio Legal research methodology are; (1) research on legal identification, and (2) research on effectiveness which is focused on testing community compliance with a legal norm with the aim of measuring the effectiveness of an applicable legal arrangement/material. Socio Legal research relies on main data from the field, namely through informants obtained through in-depth interviews. If normative legal research departs from das solen or law in book to das sein or law in action, then Socio Legal research departs from das sein to das solen, which means Socio Legal research is based on existing laws in society, not laws made by central government (Law).

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Title: large language model for science: a study on p vs. np.

Abstract: In this work, we use large language models (LLMs) to augment and accelerate research on the P versus NP problem, one of the most important open problems in theoretical computer science and mathematics. Specifically, we propose Socratic reasoning, a general framework that promotes in-depth thinking with LLMs for complex problem-solving. Socratic reasoning encourages LLMs to recursively discover, solve, and integrate problems while facilitating self-evaluation and refinement. Our pilot study on the P vs. NP problem shows that GPT-4 successfully produces a proof schema and engages in rigorous reasoning throughout 97 dialogue turns, concluding "P $\neq$ NP", which is in alignment with (Xu and Zhou, 2023). The investigation uncovers novel insights within the extensive solution space of LLMs, shedding light on LLM for Science.

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Pigeons as Model Problem Solvers in AI Research

Posted: November 12, 2023 | Last updated: November 12, 2023

In groundbreaking research from Ohio State University, pigeons have been showcased as unexpected paragons of problem-solving, demonstrating capabilities that align closely with artificial intelligence (AI) principles. This revelation challenges preconceived notions about the avian species and opens new avenues for AI development.

Pigeons and AI: A convergence of learning methods

The research conducted by Professor Brandon Turner and his colleague from the University of Iowa , Professor Edward Wasserman, illustrates that pigeons employ a learning method similar to the algorithms that drive modern AI when faced with complex tasks. Unlike humans, who may give up on unsolvable problems, pigeons engage in associative learning and error correction to gradually improve their performance. This strategy has shown efficiency in their experimental task completion.

In their study, Turner and Wasserman put pigeons through a series of visual categorization tasks that ranged in difficulty. These tasks required the birds to identify and categorize images, rewarding them with food pellets for correct answers. The resulting data showed that pigeons could improve their accuracy significantly, demonstrating their ability to learn and adapt without human-like generalization skills.

Redefining “Birdbrain” in the light of new research

The results of this study prompt a reevaluation of the intelligence of pigeons, traditionally underestimated in the popular vernacular. The term “birdbrain” may no longer be applicable as a pejorative, given the evidence of pigeons’ proficiency in tasks that require a learning curve similar to sophisticated AI systems. The study’s findings underline an ironic twist: the learning principles considered exclusive to human-designed AI are effectively employed by pigeons in their natural behavior.

The researchers’ work also highlights the effectiveness of brute force methods — repeated trial and error — which can be advantageous in specific scenarios, contrary to the traditional view of such approaches as primitive or inflexible. This suggests that the way pigeons learn can provide valuable insights into creating more robust AI capable of operating without the bias and rule-seeking behavior that characterizes human problem-solving.

Implications for future AI development

The Ohio State University’s study has significant implications for cognitive science and AI. By analyzing the problem-solving methods of pigeons, researchers have uncovered a surprising parallel to the functioning of machine learning models. This parallelism has potential applications in enhancing the way AI systems learn, offering a more streamlined and direct approach to problem-solving without the need for explicit programming of rules or instructions.

The research indicates that natural learning mechanisms like those seen in pigeons can be mirrored in AI to create systems that learn from their environment more organically. This helps in designing better machine learning models and contributes to a deeper understanding of cognition across species.

In essence, the study serves as a bridge between the study of natural intelligence and artificial systems, suggesting that the two may not be as different as previously thought. As AI research seeks inspiration from the natural world, the humble pigeon stands as a testament to the vast and varied landscape of cognitive ability, challenging researchers to look beyond human benchmarks in the pursuit of technological advancement.

The research from Professors Turner and Wasserman has not just transformed the view of pigeon intelligence. Still, it has also provided a model that could revolutionize AI learning algorithms, making “birdbrain” a compliment rather than an insult.

Pigeons as Model Problem Solvers in AI Research

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  1. Steps in Legal Research

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  1. IRAC

    What is IRAC? Legal problem solving is an essential skill for the study and practice of law. There are a number of legal problem solving models, with the most popular being IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) and MIRAT (Material facts, Issue, Rule/Resources, Arguments, Tentative conclusion).

  2. Legal research: 3-step how-to guide

    1. Identifying the legal issue is not so straightforward. Legal research involves interpreting many legal precedents and theories to justify your questions. Finding the right issue takes time and patience. 2. There's too much to research. Attorneys now face a great deal of case law and statutory material.

  3. Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing Program

    Berkeley Law's Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing Program relies upon contextual problem solving to teach students how to understand, research and analyze legal issues, and how to present their analysis through effective legal writing and oral argument.

  4. Legal Problem Solving

    Originally developed as a textbook for the Legal Research and Writing course taught in first year at law schools across the country, this resource provides a step-by-step framework for identifying, researching and analyzing legal problems, as well as determining and communicating the relevant solution.

  5. The Role of Problem Solving in Legal Education

    Legal Education Stephen Nathanson In law schools and professional legal training courses, the teaching of legal skills has become increasingly important. Apart from their obvious relevance to the practice of law, such skills as advocacy, negotiation, drafting, writing, and interviewing are emphasized because they are generic.

  6. Law research and writing skills: Research skills

    The type of legal research conducted by law students facing legal problem-solving exercises is often referred to as doctrinal research. This involves identifying the relevant law and applying it to the facts of a problem before you.

  7. Legal Problem Solving

    Legal Problem Solving (LPS) is a Vanderbilt Law School course in which students use. modern methods to design creative solutions to 21st-century legal services delivery problems. LPS is part of Vanderbilt's Program on Law and Innovation. ... Well-being of law students and lawyers (research):

  8. A Study on the Effectiveness of Problem-based Learning in Legal

    If the problem-solving ability is developed during the learning process, it would have a positive result in terms of providing better solutions when the learners start practising law. 21 Designing of problems would require investment of additional time and resources, like the use of research assistants or faculty associates.

  9. Developing Essential Research Skills for Law Practice: The Legal

    Footnote 2 Likewise, Standard 302(b) of the ABA Standards for accrediting law schools includes legal research competency in its required learning outcomes for law schools, as well as legal analysis and reasoning, problem solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context.

  10. Legal problem solving: Find out more

    Back to Law research and writing guide; Books. Legal problem solving : ... Legal problem solving and syllogistic analysis : a guide for foundation law students by Kenneth Yin and Anibeth Desierto. ISBN: 9780409343229. Publication Date: 2016. Articles. Meet MIRAT: Legal Reasoning Fragmented into Learnable Chunks. (M- material facts, I - Issues ...

  11. Legal Research Skills

    Legal Problem Solving Legal problem solving becomes much easier when following a structured method. Two methods used at UC are F.I.L.A and IRAC 1. FILA Determine the legally relevant or "material" Facts Identify the particular legal Issue(s) raised by the relevant facts Find the applicable Law(s) Apply the law

  12. The Problem Method in Legal Education

    M. Crom bag, J. L. De Wijkerslooth 8c E. H. van Tuyl van Serooskerken, On Solving Legal Problems, 27 J. Legal Educ. 168 (1975); Kenneth C. Davis, The Text-Problem Form of the ... direction of research are so guided that the problem and not the research process is the focus of attention. 3. In subsequent classes, discussion centers on the ...

  13. PDF Problem Solving for First-year Law Students J W S & T D. Rakoff

    The Problem Solving Workshop is a rela- tively new course at Harvard Law School, and it is now required of all first-year students. It is taught in our three-week Winter Term in seven sections of about eighty students each.

  14. PDF Research Questions and Legal Problems

    Formulating a Legal Problem from a Situation (1) • Country A has been going through economic hardships caused by drought and a largely subsistence-based ... Potential Topics for Legal Research (2) •Right to work •Right to social assistance and security •Refugee rights •Right to life •State responsibility

  15. Marjorie D. Rombauer: Legal writing and research pioneer, much-loved

    Her textbook, "Legal Problem Solving: Analysis, Research and Writing," became the one of the leading casebooks in the subject and was the standard text for many years. "Her textbook remains a bold statement integrating legal thinking, research and reasoning into a coherent whole… [building on that textbook] she designed an innovative ...

  16. Legal Problem Solving: Analysis, Research and Writing by Marjorie D

    Legal research and writing is a subject that has, for a long time, been begging for a comprehensive textbook. The present dearth of adequate teaching materials, concomitant with the unsatisfactory. course structure, 1 . has hindered legal research and writing programs. The coverage and use of legal research tools, the writing of memo-

  17. What Is Legal Research?

    You don't need law school to do legal research. If you have a legal problem and want to know more about it, online legal research tools have made research easier for the layperson. Useful services like Westlaw, LexisNexis, and even Google can be good online research sources. Before you jump into legal research, you should ask for some help.

  18. Legal problem solving : analysis, research, and writing

    Legal problem solving : analysis, research, and writing by Rombauer, Marjorie Dick Publication date 1991 Topics Legal research -- United States Publisher St. Paul, Minn. : West Pub. Co. Collection inlibrary; printdisabled; internetarchivebooks Contributor Internet Archive Language English xli, 524 p. : 26 cm

  19. 37 questions with answers in LEGAL RESEARCH

    May 9, 2023. Answer. A hypothesis can be valuable in legal research, depending on the research methodology and objectives. It can help guide the research process and provide focus. Some types of ...

  20. Legal research : law-finding and problem-solving

    Note: Citations are based on reference standards. However, formatting rules can vary widely between applications and fields of interest or study. The specific requirements or preferences of your reviewing publisher, classroom teacher, institution or organization should be applied.

  21. Law: Legal problem solving (IRAC)

    Legal problem solving is an essential skill for the study and practice of law. To do this, you'll need to: identify the legal issues in the fact scenario i.e. what laws may have been breached, who is potentially liable and for what offence. identify and explain the law/rules that apply to those legal issues you've identified, including case ...

  22. Legal Research Methods in Legal Problem Solving

    Legal research itself is a research with legal objects, both law as science or dogmatic rules and laws relating to people's lives based on certain method, systematics and thoughts to study legal phenomena that occur by analyzing and then solving possible problems that arise.

  23. 2-1 assignment CJ 485

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