PA 2218: Computerized Legal Research and the Internet

Course Title: Computerized Legal Research and the Internet
Course Number: PA 2218
Credits: 2 semester credits
Prerequisites: Grade “C” or better in PA 1102: Introduction to Law and Contracts or permission of the director or instructor
Recommendations: This course requires the knowledge of legal analysis, the ability to do light legal research based on directions provided by the instructor, and the aptitude to learn how to draft pleadings or legal documents. Students may benefit from taking Legal Research prior to this class but it is not required.
Catalog Description: Provides the paralegal student with hands-on basic training in the uses of computerized legal research engine(s) and the Internet. This course will include training in web search engines, browsers, searching and indexing tools, and the location of legal materials on the Internet. Also, this class will cover computer query formulation, search and retrieval techniques, citation services, and data base selections.
Course Objectives/ Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of this course, the students will be able to:

  • Browse the internet and effectively search for legal and nonlegal information.
  • Identify, use and evaluate problem identification/solving skills as applied to web site analysis.
  • Describe and analyze the purpose and function of the basic rules of legal professional responsibility, ethical considerations and confidentiality as it relates to computerized legal research and the Internet.
  • Conduct computerized legal research on the Internet as well as on computerized legal research engines utilizing investigation, research, citation, and in-depth legal analysis methods.
  • Use and develop the thinking, analytic and problem-solving skills necessary to conduct computerized legal research through available search engine(s).
Topics Covered:
  1. Introduction to the Internet: background, history, underlying technology and methods of accessing
    (1 hour)
  2. Learn to browse the internet and use various search engines
    (1 hour)
  3. Introduction to one or two important legal intenet engines in some depth (1 hour)
  4. Focus on state legal resources, specifically Minnesota (6 hours)
  5. Review federal legal sources in some depth (8 hours)
  6. Locate and discuss Internet bulletins
    (.5 hour)
  7. Locate and discuss specialized databases to find experts, forms, dictionaries, & other legal information (.5 hour)
  8. Focus on effective search techniques and analysis of web site verification and validity (.5 hour)
  9. Review legal ethical issues as they pertain to legal research (1 hour)
  10. Introduction to Westlaw or other computerized legal research engine(s) (1 hour)
  11. Introduction to source of law, authority, holdings, and the organization of legal research materials (1 hour)
  12. Review databases, searching and browsing tools (1 hour)
  13. Center on Query formulation as it relates to legal research engine(s)
    (2.5 hour)
  14. Search case law, legislative, and regulatory materials databases
    (2 hours)
  15. Conduct citation research, and focus on validity and application (1 hour)
  16. Examinations (4 hours)

Total Semester Hours: 32.0

Outcomes Measures: The students may take exam(s), and/or complete computerized legal research assignments and/or projects, and a final exam. Students may research topics in law related to various assigned legal hypotheticals using the internet and available legal research engines.

Grading assignments, projects, and exams may be on a numerical basis. The final grade will be a full letter grade (A-F).