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This course preview outlines the details of this online course. For more information on taking this course, please send an e-mail message to our support staff at UW offices are closed on these holidays.

This course introduces the principles of good legal writing, the formats of legal memoranda and court opinions, legal research, and legal citation using Bluebook rules. It emphasizes that writing is not only a tool for communicating, but also a tool for developing analytical skills.

Course Goals and Objectives


In this course, you learn how to independently identify and frame a simple legal issue, conduct research about it, and prepare a well-organized, grammatically correct legal memorandum using correct legal citation. This memorandum should apply the relevant rules of law to the facts of case, present the significant legal cases dealing with that issue, frame legitimate legal arguments that may be articulated by both sides, and offer your conclusions as to the court's possible resolution of the case.


When you have successfully finished this course, you will be able to

Course Preview
  • 10 lessons
  • 5 citation exercises
  • 4 projects
  • practice exercises
  • three audio conferences
  • locate commonly used legal reference materials in a law library;
  • explain how the sources of law research materials are used, their hierarchy, and the difference between primary, secondary, and finding tool resources;
  • identify and frame a simple legal issue, and identify the facts that relate to it;
  • conduct research relating to a legal issue using legal resources found in a law library;
  • conduct legal research using a computer-assisted legal research tool, such as Westlaw;
  • articulate the parts of a well-written legal opinion and formal legal memorandum and the purpose each serves;
  • prepare a formal legal memorandum dealing with a simple legal issue;
  • properly form citations to legal resources using The Bluebook rules of citation;
  • know when and where citations must be used in written legal material;
  • brief a case; and
  • articulate the significant differences between an objective memorandum and persuasive writing.

Taking This Online Course

For some learners, online courses can be challenging because of the lack of in-person communication. But they also have advantages—they allow you to work at your own pace and you can use online technologies that work to create community. In addition you can take advantage of a wide variety of UW Library Services to help you succeed.

It is important that you stay current with the lessons and assignments because if you get behind, it can be very difficult to "catch up." It is not a good idea though to try to work ahead because in the law, things do change. There may be a new case or a change to a statute that can affect the assignment. If this occurs, your instructor will provide you with assistance in dealing with it. If you work ahead and this occurs, you may have to re-write or re-research material.

Course Organization

As you read each of the ten lesson commentaries, where appropriate, the commentary includes terminology important to the concepts you learn in the lesson. These key terms serve as guides to your study. These terms are shown in a distinctive type face where they appear in the text and are also shown in a sidebar box. The terms are defined in the lesson commentary, the assigned readings, or both.

To help you learn the material, in addition to the lesson commentary, a lesson may contain other activities. These activities include the following:

Reading Assignments

(Not submitted for grading )

Each lesson requires that you complete a reading assignment in the Legal Writing Handbook, The Bluebook, or The User's Guide to the Bluebook. Plan time to complete the reading assignment before you begin the lesson commentary because the material presented in the commentary is based on the reading.

Practice Exercises

(Not submitted for grading)

These practice exercises provide opportunities for you to review, practice, and apply your learning. While these exercises are not submitted to the instructor and evaluated, you need to complete them to master the subject, and in some cases, to complete other parts of the lesson. You can contact the instructor for help if you have questions about these exercises.

Audio conferences

This course requires participation in three audio conferences. They occur during weeks 2, 5, and 9 of the course. Your instructor will contact you by e-mail to provide details.

In your practice as a paralegal, you will have to demonstrate your analytic skills verbally in discussions and presentations. Your verbal skills and ability to "think on your feet" are vital to your role as a paralegal.

A common way to practice these verbal skills in legal arenas is the Socratic method, named after the questioning method preferred by the Greek philosopher and teacher, Socrates. This method uses a series of questions posed by the teacher in a guided dialogue with learners that helps them analyze, problem-solve, and determine truth for themselves.

In this course, you will participate in Socratic dialogues with your instructor and peers through three audio conferences in which small groups will analyze some of the cases and statutes you find in your legal research. The three required audio conferences will take place during the second, fifth, and ninth weeks of the class. Although you will not be graded on the audio conferences, it is important to your learning in this course that you prepare well for them and actively participate in them

Legal Citation Assignments

(Submitted for grading)

To learn the rules of legal citation, you will complete five, graded citation assignments in which you are given the references to cite and are expected to prepare the correct legal citation for each. These assignments focus on citing statutes, cases, and other sources including books, periodicals, and constitutions.

You will learn the common system of citation expressed in the Bluebook rules. To aid in your learning, you read material from The User's Guide to the Bluebook.

While the Bluebook rules provide the basis for all legal citation, many states have altered the forms used. It is important that you understand how to apply the state alterations. In this course, you will apply the Washington state exceptions by using the Washington Style Sheet.


(Submitted for grading)

The required course work includes preparing legal memoranda for two client problems. Project work is developed and submitted in steps, including online commentary and assignments spread across separate lessons.

The projects require you to write two legal memoranda based on typical, legal issues presented by clients. The first is based on a statutory issue, while the second is based on a common law issue. To prepare the memoranda, you are required to

  • identify the legal issue;
  • identify the elements of the statute or doctrine;
  • conduct legal research on the issue;
  • identify the leading cases on the issue;
  • outline and write well-constructed memoranda that explain the facts, relevant legal rules, application of the rules to the facts of the client's case, legitimate arguments for both sides of the issues, and provide conclusions on the issues.

The projects are as follows:

Julia Richmond Service of Process Case

  • Project 1: Identifying Elements of the Washington Substitute Service of Process Statute
    Project 2 : Writing Objective Legal Memorandum – Substitute Service of Process Statute

Beausoleil Cruising Club Implied Easement Case:

  • Project 3: Identifying Elements of the Washington Implied Easement Common Law Doctrine
  • Project 4: Writing General Rules, Transition Paragraph, and Specific Rules
  • Project 5: Writing the Presentation of the Analogous Cases
  • Project 6: Writing Objective Legal Memorandum – Implied Easement

Activities Schedule

As you have read so far, this course has a number of assignments, projects, and practice exercises. To help you keep abreast of what is due and when, a course schedule is available on your My Course page.


Evaluation Components

Your grade for this course will be recorded as Successful Completion or Unsuccessful Completion. (SC/USC). If you receive a Successful Completion for this course, you will earn the appropriate number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

Note: In order to successfully complete the course, you must complete each assignment and, overall, you must attain a grade of "B" or better.

Your grade is based on the following components:

Activities Content Percentage of Final Grade
Project 1 Identifying Elements of a Statute 10%
Project 2 First Memorandum 20%
Project 3 Identifying Elements of Common Law Doctrine 10%
Project 4 Draft General Rules, Roadmap Paragraph, Specific Rules 5%
Project 5 Draft Analogous Cases (8 Cases) 5%
Project 6 Second Memorandum 25%
Citation Exercise 1 Citing to Statutes 5 %
Citation Exercise 2 Citing to Cases 5 %
Citation Exercise 3 Citing to Cases—Introductory Signals, Case Names, Short Forms, Parentheticals, and Quotations 5 %
Citation Exercise 4 Citing to Other Materials 5 %
Citation Exercise 5 Citation Review 5 %

Grading Rubric

Assignments will be evaluated using the guidelines in this grading rubric.

Letter Grade Points Standards
A 4 The work is outstanding.

On a single reading an attorney would clearly understand the legal rules and their application to the particular set of facts presented by the case.

The writer used correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and citation.

The material is clear, concise, and precise. It is a joy to read.

B 3 The work is good.

An attorney may have to read the material more than once to understand the legal rules and their application to the particular set of facts.

The writing is marred by several grammar, spelling, punctuation, or citation errors.

The material is somewhat clear; the writer had opportunities to be more concise or more precise.

While it is not a joy to read, it is easy to follow.

C 2 The work is only marginally acceptable.

An attorney would have to reread it several times to understand the legal rules and their application or would need to question the writer or do research on his or her own.

The writing is marred by many grammar, spelling, punctuation, or citation errors.

The writer placed the burden on the reader to work through more material than is necessary or the material is not written in a precise and clear fashion.

The reader must work very hard to understand the material.

D 1 The work is not likely to be well-received.

It is difficult to understand, poorly organized, misstates the law, or has left out a significant point.

The writing is marred by numerous grammar, spelling, punctuation, or citation errors.

The reader may give up trying to understand the material.

F 0 The work is unacceptable.

It has numerous misstatements of the law, very poor organization, or failure to cover significant points.

The writing contains numerous grammar, spelling, punctuation, or citation errors.

The reader is not likely to understand any of the material presented.

Your grade may be enhanced due to your active participation in the three audio conferences. You are required to attend all three audio conferences as part of your successful completion of this course.

Late Policy

The courts are very exacting about deadlines. Failure to timely file a document can result in the client losing his or her case. This is a very high penalty! Accordingly, in this course, you need to practice good habits. To receive full credit for an assignment, you must either submit the written assignment by the deadline, or obtain an extension from the instructor in advance of the deadline. Assignments submitted late for which no extension has been obtained are penalized by lowering the letter grade by one letter for each day the assignment is late. For example, an assignment meriting an A will receive a B if submitted one day late.

To obtain an extension, you must contact the instructor by e-mail and explain the need for the extension and the date you propose to submit the assignment. The instructor will respond by e-mail. Generally, instructors are liberal in granting extensions because they understand that work and family demands may make extensions necessary; however, too many extensions may make it difficult for you to complete the course. Accordingly, it is a good idea to stay current with assignments.

How to Submit Assignments

You will submit your completed assignments to the instructor by uploading them via the Submissions tool on your My Course page. The instructor will provide individual feedback on the written assignments via return e-mail.

  • Use the following convention for saving/naming your file:
    yourlastname-assignmentnumber. For example, if your last name is SMITH and this is assignment number 7, your file name in your word processor should appear as follows: SMITH-7.
  • Save a copy of each assignment as a precaution.

Important Notes

You should compose your assignment offline in a word processor; then upload the document using the conventions described above.

Please make arrangements with the instructor in advance if you must turn in any assignment late. You may lose credit if you fail to do so.

About the Course Developer

After nearly 25 years as a computer software engineer Judith Maier began law school while working in senior management for a local hospital and health care organization, where she managed the computer services division and risk management.

When she completed her law school studies in 1993, she took a part-time position as a law clerk to the commissioners of Washington's Intermediate Appellate court, a job that lasted four years. While at the court she served a two-year term as clerk to one of the appellate court judges and worked with all the judges preparing cases and opinions.

At the request of her former law school legal research and writing professor, she then returned to teach at the law school, teaching both first and second year law school students legal research and writing, persuasive writing, and appellate advocacy.

After retiring from that position, she learned the University of Washington Paralegal Program was searching for an attorney to teach legal research and writing. She developed this online course after teaching these same subjects in the classroom-based Paralegal certificate program for several years.

In the past she counseled clients on both business and legal matters. Her years in management coupled with her M.B.A. and law degree provide a rather unique set of experience to businesses and individuals. She continues to practice law and act as a business consultant to a selective client base whose business activities range from importing Asian products and distributing them worldwide to yacht building and refit.

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