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Legal Research Paper Draft

Length and Format: 8-10 pp, double-spaced, 11 or 12-pt font in Arial or Times New Roman. The 8 page minimum does not include a title page, charts (etc.) or the works cited list or similar. The pages are to be numbered!


Rationale: This paper gives you the opportunity to delve more deeply into a legal issue of your choice and to convincingly communicate about that topic. Once you have selected a general topic (e.g. contract law), do some basic research and find a narrow legal question or issue within that topic that interests you (e.g. when will an employer be able to enforce a covenant not to compete against an employee?). Feel free to look ahead in the syllabus and consider not only topics from early in the course, but also those we will be covering later. I’m also open to topics that interest you but that we will not have time to cover in this survey course.

Real-Life Audience: The law does not exist in a world of legal abstraction. Rather, I want you to appreciate that the law is a tool for actual ethical application to our lives. For this reason, I want you to create a scenario where your research and recommendations serve to advise your firm on your chosen issue, (e.g. you might be the General Counsel writing a memo to the V.P of Human Resources on what factors to consider in drafting a fair employment contract to use for the firm).

Your memorandum should describe the relevant law that would apply to the situation and consider the context of the audience to whom this memo is written. (e.g. how would my explaining the law be helpful strategically to the person drafting the contract?). To write your paper, you should include at least 5 sources, which could be statutes, cases, law review articles, or general periodicals (Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal or similar). No more than two of your five sources can be from these general, or popular press, periodicals.

Purpose: Your purpose is to provide practical legal advice to solve a business problem in a way that also furthers the business objectives of the firm. For example, your memo should explain the law and help the decision makers to balance both risks and business objectives. (e.g.,If you draft a covenant not to compete that is too broad, it might dissuade employees from leaving and competing with the firm. But if it is ruled to be overly broad, it may be struck down and the firm will be unprotected from outside competition.)

Your memorandum should not be a Wikipedia-like treatment of the topic, full of history and dry description, but should instead reflect your individualized research crafted around the audience whose legal problem you are solving. You should explain the topic, discuss the pros and cons of an approach to it, and then make a well-supported argument that favors a particular approach or action. Your copying and pasting or incorrectly paraphrasing of others’ work will be viewed as an intellectual integrity violation and will be closely scrutinized.

Additional Tips and Guidance

  • If you have difficulty choosing a topic, please feel free to discuss your ideas with me. I’m happy to discuss several alternatives for you to research.
  • In terms of format, your paper is a Memorandum that addresses a narrow legal issue or question and must be written in a proper memo format, including a heading like this:
  • You’ll write a one-paragraph executive summary explaining the business problem, the legal issue in question, and your recommendation for a remedy or policy.
  • In addition to at least five cited sources in the memo, you should provide a list of works consulted at the end of the paper. This will provide me with an understanding of your research journey. The works in this list do not have to be directly cited in the memo, but may have been used to provide you with a background understanding of the topic

From: John Smith, General Counsel

To: Mary Mason, V.P. of Human Resources

Re: Covenant Not To Compete in Employment Contract

4.You’ll have specific recommendations concerning the action or approach that the business should take concerning the legal issue or question.


Last Updated on March 17, 2019

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