Published on January 31, 2022 by Ed Craig, Reference Librarian
In the previous "Check It Out" post, Part I of this article discussed the advantages of using secondary sources to begin a legal research project, as well as the benefits of beginning your research by finding and reading a law periodical article on point. There was also a discussion of how to find such articles through online indices or full-text databases. This week’s article, Part II, discusses other secondary sources beneficial to starting a legal research project.
Legal encyclopedias are another secondary source approach to starting your research. AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE, 2ND can be accessed through Westlaw and Lexis (type “AMJUR” in the search box to access this title). CORPUS JURIS SECUNDUM can be only accessed from Westlaw.
The text of these encyclopedias provides a general overview of the law, nationally, on each topic. It is not intended to be a description of the individual laws of the fifty states; however, the footnotes of both sets are chock full of citations to state case law.
There are some legal encyclopedias published which discuss the law of specific states, all of which Cumberland students have access to via Lexis or Westlaw:
CALIFORNIA JURISPRUDENCE 3D (Westlaw & Lexis)
FLORIDA JURISPRUDENCE 2D (Westlaw & Lexis)
GEORGIA JURISPRUDENCE (Westlaw)
ILLINOIS JURISPRUDENCE (Lexis)
ILLINOIS LAW & PRACTICE (Westlaw)
INDIANA LAW ENCYCLOPEDIA (Westlaw)
MARYLAND LAW ENCYCLOPEDIA (Westlaw)
MICHIGAN CIVIL JURISPRUDENCE (Westlaw & Lexis)
MICHIGAN LAW & PRACTICE (Lexis)
DUNNELL MINNESOTA DIGEST (Lexis)
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MISSISSIPPI LAW (Westlaw)
NEW YORK JURISPRUDENCE 2D (Westlaw & Lexis)
STRONGS NORTH CAROLINA INDEX (Westlaw)
OHIO JURISPRUDENCE 3D (Westlaw & Lexis)
PENNSYLVANIA LAW ENCYCLOPEDIA (Lexis)
STANDARD PENNSYLVANIA PRACTICE 2D (Westlaw)
SUMMARY OF PENNSYLVANIA JURISPRUDENCE 2D (Westlaw)
SOUTH CAROLINA JURISPRUDENCE (Westlaw)
TENNESSEE JURISPRUDENCE (Lexis)
TEXAS JURISPRUDENCE 3D (Westlaw)
MICHIE’S JURISPRUDENCE OF VIRGINIA AND WEST VIRGINIA (Lexis)
American Law Reports (ALR)
In many instances, a discussion found in ALR can be a good starting point for the researcher. Bound volumes of this set that are no longer updated can be found on shelves 130-132 (First Floor). American Law Reports can also be found using Westlaw or Lexis (which excludes annotations involving West Key Numbers, naturally). You will find this collection of annotated law reports provides a court decision addressing a particular legal issue, finding aids and case citations for further research on the topic, as well as a fairly extensive discussion of the issues involved with that topic.
Another way to start a legal research project is to find a treatise on point. As mentioned in part I of this article, jurisdiction-specific works (if they exist for your jurisdiction ) on a particular legal topic can be of immense value to the researcher. They will commonly contain both the important code provisions and the court decisions critical to understanding that jurisdiction’s stance on a topic. There is a significant collection of current Alabama treatises in the Reference section of the Law Library (shelf 165) under call numbers beginning with “KFA.” Other Alabama legal works can be found in the general treatise collection (2nd Floor).
Typically, researchers who are just beginning their work should search the Law Library’s online catalog. Assuming that the researcher does not have a specific work in mind, a good keyword search can be a combination of words (no specific word order necessary) describing the jurisdiction along with the topic.
If other secondary legal materials are consulted first, treatises may show up in bibliographies and footnotes contained in law review articles and annotations.
An important warning to the researcher when using treatises–while it is important to update important cases and statutes found in any secondary sources using a citator (such as Shepard’s or KeyCite), it is particularly crucial to notice the copyright dates of any treatises relied upon. Some treatises can be updated with pocketparts or freestanding supplements; you should be sure to consult these when they are available. Other works will be organized in three-ring binders; pages in this type of publication will often display its inclusion date at the bottom corner of the leaf. Additionally, the researcher must be wary of relying upon previous editions of a work, even if some pocketparts or other supplementation can be found.
As mentioned earlier, the researcher should remember that treatise titles that are not available on the shelf may be available online through the the CALR database services of Lexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg Law. If you have any questions about finding dates of publication or the latest edition for a particular treatise, please contact a reference librarian.