This law school text teaches the fundamentals of legal writing, analysis, and the American legal method. It fosters critical lawyering skills, such as how to identify a legal rule from a variety of sources, analyze and explain its components, apply the rule to answer a problem, and communicate the results in an effective manner. In the second edition, coverage of authority and rule formation have been streamlined and tightened. The authors have increased the visual appeal and content of callout boxes, charts, and tables; and they have replaced and shortened the length of examples so as to provide two to three times as many samples of practitioner writing in each chapter. With this new edition, the authors endeavor to train future lawyers to be ethical and professional issue-spotters, analysts, counselors, problem-solvers, and communicators working to advance their clients’ interests.

For more information and additional teaching materials, visit the companion site.

Imprint: Foundation Press
Series: Coursebook
Publication Date: 07/10/2015

Michael D. Murray, University of Kentucky College of Law

Christy H. DeSanctis, George Washington University Law School


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Overall, the goal of the second edition was to clarify and illustrate the fundamental lessons of legal method that we teach in this text. As with the earlier edition, the book is designed to be the course text in the first course in legal skills and legal method. The book continues to cover the following major topics: legal issues and their formation; the process of legal reasoning and its five principal forms; the formation, meaning, and application of legal rules; the process of rule synthesis and explanatory synthesis using multiple authorities; statutory and rule interpretation; the T-R-E-A-T format as a refinement of and improvement on IRAC and other structural alternatives; the process of editing and refining objective legal writing; a strong introduction to legal citation form for ALWD and Bluebook; and three appendices to offer assistance in case briefing, exam taking, and common grammar and ESL problems.

  • Each chapter of the book has received new graphics (charts, diagrams, and pictures) to add a visual dimension to the instruction. We have followed current research in visual rhetoric and cognitive studies to intentionally increase the visual presentation of material to take advantage of the strengths of visual communication.
  • We have continued to concentrate on the format and layout of the text with sidebars (callout boxes) and variations in text even as we simplify the “color” scheme to a grayscale scheme with regular and bolded black and gray text.
  • Chapter 1 has additional graphics and exercises to orient and attract the attention of students to the introductory topics of the book—what is law, what is a rule, what are primary and secondary sources of the law.
  • Chapter 2 received the most new visual content in the form of charts, diagrams, and pictures. The chapter continues to discuss legal rules, how to break them down, and how to use them as outlines for the structure of writing. It continues to explain the five kinds of legal reasoning. The material on narrative reasoning is completely revised and expanded to introduce students to the modern developments in the study of narrativity and applied legal storytelling.
  • Chapter 3 continues to provide basic information on the life of a case in the United States court system, the hierarchy of authority, and the three uses of the term jurisdiction in legal parlance. The chapter has received extensive updating with visual elements.
  • Chapter 4 is revised and streamlined to provide a clear, effective discussion of finding the rules in a single authority, with special emphasis on case interpretation and statutory interpretation.
  • Chapter 5 has been substantially upgraded to be a comprehensive chapter that brings together the lessons of the previous chapters that culminate in the steps of actual legal analysis of multiple authorities addressing an issue. It focuses particularly on the ranking of authorities and the process of rule synthesis to assemble and create the rule section on the issue.
  • Chapter 6 continues to explain the theory and methodology of the T-R-E-A-T format, which is the authors’ contribution to the refinement of I-R-A-C for contemporary legal practice. The chapter reflects the author’s continuing research in the widespread use of explanatory synthesis and case-to-case analogical reasoning in contemporary legal writing.
  • Chapter 7 is a guide to the design and drafting of office memoranda and client letters. The chapter has been updated with many new samples of letters and memoranda that are annotated with our comments and critiques of the writing and decisions made by the authors.
  • Chapter 8 continues to focus on the editing and refinement of objective legal writing.
  • Chapter 9 on legal citation has been updated to reflect the intentional move of the ALWD Citation Manual 5th edition to match the forms and style of the Bluebook in every relevant detail, which required a great deal of editing to remove the previous edition’s comparison and commentary on the differences between these two leading citation manuals.
  • The three appendices—on case briefing, common grammar and ESL issues, and exam taking—received similar updating to make sure the resources cited are fresh and current.

Learn more about this series.