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Secondary Sources for Legal Research

The Law Library has a wide variety of secondary sources that describe, critique, and analyze the law. Which one is right for you? Check the descriptions below, and contact a research librarian for help with a specific source.

American Law Reports (ALRs)

ALR Cover

Characteristics

  • Made up of individual articles called “annotations”
  • Attorney authors
  • Narrow legal topics with summaries of relevant cases by jurisdiction
  • ALR Index covers all but 1st series, which has its own index
  • Updated by pocket parts

Examples and access

  • ALR 6th (state)
    ALR Fed. 2d (federal)
    ALR International
  • Print KF132.Axx and KZ199.A44
  • Lexis and Westlaw
    ALR International is not available online in the UCI Law academic subscription.

Strengths and weaknesses

  • + Annotations have detailed summaries for many of the cases discussed & usually have in-depth analysis
  • + Good overview of how courts throughout the country deal with a particular issue
  • + Sometimes lists cases broken out by elements found vs. not found, for easy comparison
  • - On-point annotation may not exist
  • - On-point annotation may not provide much authority for your jurisdiction, or could be out of date

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports

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Characteristics

Examples and access

Strengths and weaknesses

  • + Reports provide in-depth analysis of a specific topic
  • + Good overview of legislation that may be involved
  • - On-point report may not exist
  • - Updates to a report may depend on individual author, may be out of date

Encyclopedias

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Characteristics

  • Alphabetical arrangement
  • Broad topics
  • Jurisdiction varies (can be national or state-specific)
  • Multiple authors
  • Multi-volume subject index

Examples and access

  • American Jurisprudence, 2d (Am. Jur.) (National)
    California Jurisprudence, 3d (Cal. Jur.) (California-specific)
  • Legal encyclopedias are available in print and online. Online coverage varies - not all publishers licence their titles to competitors. 

Strengths and weaknesses

  • + Good overview of law on a variety of topics
  • + National provides a sense of how different jurisdictions are treating a topic
  • + State focuses on single jurisdiction
  • - Not much in-depth discussion of cases
  • - National may not provide much (if any) authority for your jurisdiction
  • - State limited to one jurisdiction

Form Books

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Characteristics

  • Aimed at attorneys and judges
  • Provide sample forms with commentary
  • Usually large multi-volume sets
  • Transactional or litigation focus
  • Forms may be incorporated into other resources

Examples and access

  • Am. Jur. Pleading and Practice Forms
    California Wills & Trusts Forms
  • Form books are available in print and online. Online coverage varies - not all publishers licence their titles to competitors. 

Strengths and weaknesses

  • + Provides model language and guidance that can save drafting time
  • + Focus on specific jurisdiction may be available
  • - Model language cannot be used as-is, must be adapted to situation at-hand

Journals & Law Reviews

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Characteristics

  • In-depth scholarly articles by law faculty or law students
  • Tend to analyze current issues
  • Published by law schools
  • Use periodical index or full-text database to find articles

Examples and access

Strengths and weaknesses

  • + Provide critical legal analysis and policy arguments
  • + Discuss emerging trends in law
  • - Rarely provide a general explanation or overview of the law
  • - Law school journal editorial boards are students; few peer-reviewed law periodicals
  • - Articles are not updated

Looseleaf Services

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Characteristics

  • Single-subject focus, heavily-regulated areas
  • Updated frequently, as often as weekly
  • Practitioner audience
  • Compile primary materials and analysis
  • Newsletter or interfiled-page format

Examples and access

Strengths and weaknesses

  • + Exhaustive coverage of complicated areas of law
  • + Provides most current information available
  • + In-depth explanations often accompany primary materials
  • - Not as useful for how-to guidance
  • - May be overwhelming if unfamiliar with the area of law

Practice Guides / Practical Treatises

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Characteristics

  • Single-subject focus in a particular jurisdiction
  • Practitioner audience—written by and for practicing attorneys
  • Court rules included
  • May contain checklists, tips, sample forms

Examples and access

  • Online coverage varies by publisher. For example, Lexis will only have online versions of treatises it publishes or licenses.
  • CA Practice Guides (“Rutter Guides”)
    Print and Westlaw
  • CA Continuing Education of the Bar (“CEB”)
    Print and OnLaw
  • Matthew Bender
    Print and Lexis
  • Treatises at UCI Law - By Subject

Strengths and weaknesses

  • + Provides how-to guidance in plain language
  • + Includes many practice-oriented tools
  • - Updated less frequently; often only annually
  • - Primary law only highlighted if relevant for practice

Scholarly Treatises

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Characteristics

  • Detailed analysis on one subject
  • Scholar authors
  • Often updated by pocket parts and/or supplements
  • Available online and in print
  • Single or multi-volume with index

Examples and access

  • Online coverage varies by publisher. For example, Lexis will only have online versions of treatises it publishes or licenses.
  • Corbin on Contracts
    McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition
  • Treatises at UCI Law - By Subject

Strengths and weaknesses

  • + Exhaustive analysis
  • + Discusses many jurisdictions
  • + Fair amount of discussion of cases
  • + Can sometimes be cited in court documents as persuasive authority
  • - May not cover your jurisdiction 
  • - Not all treatises are authoritative, comprehensive, current, and well-organized