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Legal Studies Guide

Use this guide to help find legal resources available to you at Fant Memorial Library, including materials--cases, statues, legal reference, law reviews, etc.--help from research experts, and spaces for you to work and study.

Welcome

Legal research can seem daunting at first. But, like most things, it can be learned with study and practice. 

Knowing where to look is the first step. This guide is not designed to answer legal issues or be legal counsel; it is meant to be a general road map to the arrangement and publication of legal resources and information. It will help you find the legal information you need.

Another guide to researching a legal problem you may be interested provided by the American Association of Law Libraries is How to Research a Legal Problem, also available for free online.  

Legal Research Strategies

STEP 1: GET STARTED

  • READ what you’ve been given
  • ANALYZE the facts and frame your legal issues
  • ASSESS what you know and need to learn
  • NOTE any primary law you have been given
  • GENERATE potential search terms

 

STEP 2: IDENTIFY JURISDICTION

Map of U.S. Court of Appeals by District

STEP 3: GET AN OVERVIEW

  • Web Searches: Google or Wikipedia (yes really!)
  • Legal Dictionaries: Ballentine's Law Dictionary (online: Nexis Uni), Black's Law Dictionary (@Fant Library: KF156.B6276)

 

STEP 4: CONSULT SECONDARY SOURCES

  • WHAT the rule is - discussion of its application
  • WHERE to find it - citations to primary authority
  • Consult:

 

STEP 5: FIND PRIMARY AUTHORITIES

  • Case law (decisions from state and federal courts)
  • Legislation / Statutes (as passed by state legislatures and the U.S. Congress)
  • Regulations (from both state and federal agencies)
  • Constitutions (both state and federal)
  • Treatises

 

STEP 6: ANALYZE THE CONTROLLING LAW

  • READ the law
  • Determine which law is RELEVANT & BINDING
  • APPLY law to your facts

 

STEP 7: UPDATE THE LAW

Use citators (Shepherdizing in Nexis Uni) to make sure the law is still "good."