1. Evaluate the time you have to devote to your paper. If you are working, carrying a heavy credit load, have parental obligations, etc., you may not want to choose a topic that will require you to visit an outside library for materials. For example, if you want to write about the economic impact of a trade regulation on foreign investment, you may need access to a business library for financial analytical materials. If you do not have time to visit other libraries, you may prefer to write a paper about a recent decision or a circuit court split. The Brooklyn Law School Library will have access to most of your materials if you choose this sort of paper.
2. Try to focus your topic to a defined issue. Selecting an area – even a discreet area – of law to write about is unproductive. You must select and define an issue within a legal topic. For example, you might want to write about human trafficking; however, this topic is too vague. You will need to learn a little bit more about the legal topic before you define your legal issue. In this example, you might focus on effective tactics to counter trafficking in a specific region.
3. Pick a topic that will interest you. You should find something in which you have a natural interest, or is of such general interest that it is regularly reported on in the trade press. It is very rewarding to be writing about current legal issues.
4. The process: You should start by picking a topic that interests you. We recommend reviewing legal periodicals and web databases that organize legal news by topic. Then, we encourage you to set up tracking services to alert you should there be a new case, new development, new law, etc… To help you define your issue, you should review books and law review articles. These type of secondary sources will help you learn the language and teach you about the substantive law.
5. *Most important: If you are not sure how to research your topic, make an appointment with a librarian (firstname.lastname@example.org) or stop by the reference desk in the library.
Co-authored by Associate Professor of Legal Writing Emeritus Elizabeth Fajans, this is a great resource for anyone who is writing a seminar paper or a law review/journal note.
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