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Introduction to Legal Research Why is research important? Why is research important?

Jan 04, 2016



  • Introduction to Legal ResearchWhy is research important?

  • Sources of LawPrimary Sources of LawSecondary Sources

  • Remember to: Take advantage of ALL of the information provided!Learn parts of research tools:What type of information does it contain?How do you locate relevant information within the source (finding tools)?How do you update it? (How up-to-date is it?)

  • Secondary SourcesLegal Dictionary Legal EncyclopediaTreatisesAmerican Law ReportsLegal PeriodicalsRestatements of the LawJury Instructions

  • Legal DictionaryLegal definitions of words and phrases in alphabetical orderOften has citations to other resources, like cases or statutes

  • Dictionary entryReference to other definitionLegal DefinitionsReference to treatise

  • Legal EncyclopediaProvide a general description of the lawInclude lots of citations to cases and other sources of informationFind relevant information through the index or the topic outlinesUpdate with the pocket part

  • Examples of Legal EncyclopediaAmerican Jurisprudence, Second Edition (Am.Jur. 2d)Corpus Juris Secundum (C.J.S.)Jurisdictional Encyclopedia-Florida Jur, 2d (Fla Jur, 2d)

  • FLJurDigest: to find more casesBroad overview of issueRelevant FL casesRelevant FL statuteAlso may include illustrations and practice tips

  • Treatises Book or set of books written by an authority on the subjectCan vary widely in their coverage from very scholarly analysis to practical applicationLocate appropriate sources by using the Librarys online catalog, BaronList of leading treatises in librarys research guides

  • Treatise p. 1Corbin on ContractsTreatise mentioned in dictionaryReference to digest (for cases) and legal encyclopediaReferences to cases from a sampling of jurisdictions and other secondary sources

  • Treatise p. 2Discussion is scholarly treatment of all issuesthat arise in contractsEven historical development

  • American Law ReportsProvide in-depth discussion of a specific issueUse the ALR Index to find annotationsUpdate with pocket part and Annotation History Table

  • Legal PeriodicalsDescribe and analyze the law or a specific area of lawAlso provide tons of other information in the footnotesFind articles through various indexes:Recent: LegalTrac and Index to Legal Periodicals - BaronOlder: Index to Legal Periodicals, Hein Online

  • Law JournalIn-depth discussion of legal issueRelevant primary & other secondary sources

  • Restatements of the LawClarify rules of common lawEach restatement is divided into sections, followed by comments and illustrationsFinding tools - no comprehensive indexRestatements are updated with newer editions, but the appendices cite to more recent cases (federal and state)Also other model law sets.

  • RestatementRestatement itselfComments explaining RestatementNot shown: IllustrationsFollowing CommentsReference to Appendix for cases

  • Jury InstructionsPlain-language description of the elements of a cause of actionUsually divided between civil and criminal causes of actionFinding aids include index and table of statutesSometimes provide citations to other resources, such as cases and statutes

    NameThere are really 2 reasons why we do legal research:1. to orient ourselves to a new subject or 2. to find authority to support your side of a legal argument, in briefs or memos, etc.

    Secondary sources comment on or summarize primary authoritySecondary sources provide leads to primary authorityGenerally use at the beginning of legal research or for greater depth after consulting primary sources

    One thing to keep in mind while doing research: make sure you take note of all information provided. Not just the main text, but also footnotes, citations, other references or cross-references provided.

    Legal encyclopedias are an excellent starting point for legal research when you are unfamiliar with the area of law. Not only do they supply a general explanation of an area of law, but they also include lots of citations to cases and other relevant information

    The coverage of each topic can by quite extensive.

    It is probably a better idea to start with the index although you may also want to look at the outline at the beginning of each topic.

    AmJur and CJS are national encyclopedias that include references to both state and federal cases. They may also include citations to restatements or ALR articles, and other things.

    The jurisdictional encyclopedias only focus on the law of one jurisdiction. In addition to citations to cases and other sources, the jurisdictional encyclopedias are more likely to refer to statutes and rules.The difficulty in using treatise is finding one written by an authority when you are not familiar with the area of law.

    There are a couple of ways to tell if expert is to look at the publisher, see what other sources the author has written, see if author is mentioned in other secondary sources.

    Not only does the content vary, but also the way each treatise is updated varies. Some are never updated, some quarterly, some every monthEach annotation used to begin with the full text of a featured case then references to other sources such as AmJur, law reviews or digests then the discussion follows.The discussions usually focus on an issue in controversy - one on which courts have differed in their interpretation of the law. ALR began in 1919 and now is on the 6th edition, several previous editions are still being updated. The annotations tend to be written by staff attorneys. Beginning in 1969, they added a separate Federal series. (There is also a Federal 2nd series.) Update: additional information can be found in the pocket part, but always check the Annotation History Table (last volume of index) to see if your annotation has been superseded or supplemented by a later annotation

    Most prevalent/persuasive are law reviews and journals published by law schools. They tend to be scholarly discussions of what the law is, what the law should be and/or what the law was. Good when dealing with developing issues and controversiesBeside law reviews there are also bar journals, and commercial publications usually both written for practitioners and not as persuasiveYou would usually not use periodicals until you have some general understanding of the area of law

    The electronic systems allow searching by subject, author, title, keyword, etc.

    Published by the American Law Institute, they are very important commentary on American law.

    Restatements only cover about 11 subjects (torts, contracts, agency, etc.)

    Rules are in bold followed by comments and illustrations

    They are used to explain the law and as a finding tool

    Parts of the Restatement may be adopted by a court then adopted part becomes primary authority in that jurisdiction.

    There are several other groups drafting model or uniform laws, such as the Model Penal Code. They are usually drafted by a group of experts who write what a perfect law would be for individual jurisdictions to adopt (or not) as they see fit.