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Administrative Law Research: Immigration Concentration Class Site

What Have We Covered So Far?

We only have two more weeks of class after this week, so let’s look at where we are in our immigration law research journey!

What have we covered so far in the class? Because finding regulations and agency decisions on a specific topic is a big part of immigration law research, we have explored both types of law in depth. 

Code of Federal Regulations:

You have explored its purpose, contents, relationship to the United States Code, organization, legal effect, different CFR databases available, and different ways to search the databases (index, table of contents, etc.).

Federal Agency Decisions:

You have explored their general purpose and learned how to investigate a specific type of agency decision by looking in the issuing agency’s manual. The manual generally provides information about the judge or appellate body and its jurisdiction, the effect of the decisions on the parties, whether decisions are published, whether decisions serve as precedent, the process for appealing decisions, and agency requirements and procedures.

Federal Statutes and Cases:

Also, since federal statutes and cases are a large part of immigration law research, you reviewed different cases and statutory finding methods.

Database Organization and Search Strategies:

Since an important part of being an efficient legal researcher is understanding databases and search features, you have reviewed database organization and the different finding methods to locate information within them such as using the index, navigating through the table of contents, running a natural language search, or running an advanced (terms and connector search) search.

What is Next?

You have spent a lot of time on your exercises exploring and searching primary law databases. Though it is important to be adept at going directly into primary law databases to search for law on a topic, it is not generally the place you want to start.

Like in other areas of law, it is usually most helpful to start with a secondary source, since someone other than yourself (the author) has spent many hours figuring out the law so she/he can summarize it for you and give you citations to some of the most relevant primary sources. You can tell that secondary source information is useful and valuable to researchers since…it is expensive!

Legal Research Process Revisited

It is a good idea to follow a legal research process so you won't forget anything!

In general, the immigration law legal research process is:

  1. Start researching your issue by searching a secondary source to find an explanation of your topic and some of the most relevant primary sources (federal statutes, federal regulations, important cases, important agency decisions, etc.).
  2. Use the primary sources you found to find other primary sources for your jurisdiction. (This includes reading what you find to see what primary sources they cite.)
  3. Search primary law databases to locate additional law on your topic/additional law on your topic in your jurisdiction/make sure that you haven’t missed anything relevant.
  4. Update all your primary law using KeyCite or Shepard’s.

Below are some other examples of the legal research process.

Legal Research Process Example

When researching any legal issue, it is a good idea to follow a legal research process so you will not miss any legal research steps such as looking at secondary sources, using secondary sources to locate primary law, etc. 

It is not necessary to follow any specific legal research process. You just want to make sure that, whatever process you use, it includes all the steps.

Click to see a useful flowchart of the process of legal research from the Loyola University law library website.

Administrative Law Legal Research Process

Here is an example of an administrative law specific legal research process to follow so you will not miss anything when you are researching an administrative law topic. 

Click here to watch a video.

Click here for a larger image.