United States Law/Introduction/Student Guide

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Syllabus[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Welcome to Wikiversity Law School Boot Camp. This module aims to give its students the basic tools they will need to tackle law school or informal legal training, with a focus on the Wikiversity American JD Program. After completing this module, it is hoped that you will have a basic understanding of the basic building blocks of American Law and how it is structured and organized. This module will try to blend practical tips with basic legal theories and concepts that will be used over and over again in practically all of your legal education.

This module will occasionally make reference to law review articles and sometimes cases and statutes. Unless otherwise indicated, law review articles will be checked for availability online by Google Scholar.[1]

How We Figure Out What the Law Is[edit | edit source]

There are three major sources of American law:

  • Statutes (created by the Legislative Branch)
  • Cases (created by the Judicial Branch)
  • Regulations (created by the Administrative Branch)

For further information on how to write a legal opinion, you should read Prof. Orin Kerr's wonderful article "How to Read a Legal Opinion: A Guide for New Law Students" (The GREEN BAG, An Entertaining Journal of Law, Vol 11, No. 1, p. 51, Autumn 2007).

Highlighting Tips (for those using paper references)[edit | edit source]

It is common for law students to use highlighters in many different colors to represent the different parts of a legal opinion. The following scheme is highly suggested for those using highlighters in order to keep the context of the highlighted text clear to the reader.

  1. Facts: Green
  2. Rationale: Yellow
  3. Holding: Red
  4. Blue: important precedents
  5. Orange: dissenting opinions