Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law


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What is legal research?

Try searching the name of the state along with "self help" to find similar resources from other states. Practice aids and form books are intended for lawyers, but they can be useful for anyone. Some examples of practice aids are Causes of Action , American Jurisprudence Trials , and American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts, which give guidance in what evidence a court must be given and how to proceed. Form books aid in drafting legal documents or documents that need to be filed in court. State form books are available for many states, but Wyoming is not among them.

Try your local court and nearest law library first. Legal encyclopedias are a good starting point to get an overview of a topic. There are two general legal encyclopedias: Corpus Juris Secundum C. Many states also have encyclopedias of state law, though, again, Wyoming does not. Begin with the index and look for different synonyms of your term.

The text will contain many footnotes leading to further sources. Texts and treatises can also yield useful general information. West's Hornbooks or comparable publications provide more depth. Multivolume encyclopedic treatises present comprehensive information for many subjects and may include forms.

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Articles printed in journals or law reviews published commercially by law schools or bar associations may also be useful. Look up your search terms in printed or computer databases such as Hein Online. Some articles may be found online for free at sites such as Google Scholar. These can be accessed for free. Codes are laws that are passed by a law-making assembly or agency.


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They contain legal rules known as statutes, regulations or ordinances. Topics within sets of codes are accessed through their index that refers you to a numbered section. Print versions are updated by supplements or pocket parts or are in binder or "looseleaf" form. Most public libraries and all law libraries will include a copy of the local state code, which holds the laws passed by a state's legislature.

They may also have city or county ordinance codes and codes of state administrative agency regulations. Most state and some local law can be found on the internet by going to a state's official site and looking for links to law and local government or cities and counties. One of the following federal code versions will be used if the jurisdiction is federal: The United States Code U. The U. Regulations of federal agencies are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations C. Court rules state the procedure by which a dispute must make its way to court and how the resolution of the dispute is to be conducted.

Court rules address such topics as time limitations and formal requirements for pleadings and other court documents or processes. Although procedural law can also be found in statutory and administrative codes, court rules are generally more detailed and can vary from court to court.

Reports or reporters contain opinions sometimes called decisions or cases written by courts to explain how and why certain legal rules were used to resolve the dispute in a particular lawsuit.

These rules constitute the "common law" and are followed by courts deciding later cases with similar facts and issues so that consistency may be maintained. Decisions of a higher court are mandatory, or binding. This means those decisions must be followed if coming from a higher court in the same jurisdiction or from the U.

Supreme Court. If a decision is not binding, a court may still find it persuasive and follow it. With few exceptions, these cases are from courts of appeals rather than trial courts.

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The most common exception is decisions from federal district courts reported in the Federal Supplement, abbreviated F. Opinions are not written for every case. Further, not every decision is selected by the court for publication.


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These "unpublished" decisions, such as those found in the Federal Appendix F. However, it is important to consult a court's rules on citation of unpublished opinions before using them to support an argument in a legal proceeding. Cases decided in the U. Newer U. Cases from the intermediate U. Courts of Appeals, also called U. Circuit Courts, are printed in the Federal Reporter, first, second, or third series F.

The Federal Supplement, first and second series F. District Courts. Circuit court and district court cases can also be found at Google Scholar , though availability of cases will vary from court to court. State supreme court opinions are printed in state reports in many states. They are also reprinted in West's regional reporters, which each contain several states, including the Atlantic A. Because California and New York generate a large amount of case law, these states have their own West reporters: the California Reporter Cal.

Many states, like Wyoming, no longer print their own reports, so their newer decisions are found only in West's reporters. Wyoming decisions are found in the Pacific Reporter. They are also available at Google Scholar. Sometimes a decision is printed in more than one publication. Then you may find more than one citation to it. These are called parallel citations. If you want to learn about how to do legal research, the State Library has a number of books in its collection.

If the title of the journal is abbreviated, you will need to find the full title before searching the Library Catalogue. Use this abbreviation list to locate your abbreviation:. If you want more help with using these case citators, use our Research Guide Case Law - case citators. View our most recent social media posts View a list of all our accounts. This guide will help you learn about doing legal research, finding cases, legislation and commentary about the law on a subject or topic.

You will also find a useful introduction to the Australian legal system. Search this Guide Search. Tags: australian legal system , cases , common law , constitution , courts , find legal answers , international law , law journals , legal definitions , legal encyclopaedias , legal research , legislation , parliament , procedural fairness and natural justice , rule of law. Legal research Legal research - a strategy It is important that you take some time to think about what you are looking for. Find Legal Answers website The following website provides an excellent starting point for legal research if you don't know anything about the laws relating to your legal problem or topic.

Find links to legal information, including pamphlets and fact sheets, full text books and legislation. The information is arranged under 12 subject areas, including family, neighbours, wills, police and crime, money, debt and fines, and courts and the legal system.

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Find information on all areas of the law relevant to NSW, including the legal system, Aboriginal people and the law, criminal law, dispute resolution, domestic violence, and drug offences. The Law handbook is also available in NSW public libraries. Legal dictionaries Use legal dictionaries for definitions of legal terms.

Legal texts Text books provide you with an overview and broader understanding of the law on a particular topic or subject or on a legal issue. We also have resources in other areas of the Library including stack storage. Search the Library's catalogue to request material from stack storage. Legal encyclopaedias Legal encyclopaedias give overviews of legal topics. This link opens in a new window. Find articles on every aspect of public international law. The articles are arranged under 24 subject areas, including international law, human rights, International courts and tribunals, treaties, and war.

Legal dictionaries and encyclopaedias are a great place to start, as they define legal terms and give overviews of legal subjects. This 30 volume legal encyclopaedia provides a comprehensive overview of Australian law. It gives overviews of 89 subject areas, covering all aspects of Australian law, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, animals, consumer protection, criminal law, employment, and family law.

Legislation and case law is discussed for each subject area. This 36 volume legal encyclopaedia provides a comprehensive overview of Australian law. It covers topics in 36 broad subjects, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, criminal law, dispute resolution, family law, and human rights.

How to Research a Legal Problem | Law Library | University of Wyoming

Journal articles Journal articles are helpful if you want to find discussion or commentary about your topic when there have been recent changes to the law. Some articles are in fulltext. Eresources The State Library subscribes to a number of legal databases which are useful fo rexperienced legal researchers.

LAW SCHOOL - How to do Legal Research

FirstPoint is a case law research tool that integrates content from the Australian Digest and the Australian Case Citator. Use it to find cases and commentary dealing with a legal issue. Includes commentary, legislation and full text of cases. CCH Electronic Newsletters also available. Document supply NOT available. Find full-text articles, newspapers, images and more The Library subscribes to eresources clients can access information not otherwise freely available online.

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Some eresources, such as Ancestry, are only available in the Library.

Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law
Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law
Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law
Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law
Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law

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