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LIS 530 GLE: Legal Resources: Week 1: Bibliography of Law

Adapted from the LibGuide for LAW 627, the 1L course in legal research, this guide is intended for students enrolled in LIS 530 GLE, Legal Resources. It has been edited for course length as well as scope/audience.

Read/Watch:

Before class, you should:

  • watch the Checks and Balances video
  • watch the Legal Systems Basics video
  • take the quiz below the videos
  • read the "What is Legal Research" and other boxes on this LibGuide

What is Legal Research?

Legal Resources are best understood in the context of doing Legal Research, which can be defined as:

  • identifying and retrieving information,
  • to support legal decisionmaking;
  • including analysis of the facts of a problem,
  • analysis of the legal issues of a problems,
  • application and communication of the results of analysis

At this point in the course, you must develop some familiarity with the types of materials that constitute "the law," and of the relationships between these materials.

When researching a legal issue, it is necessary to explore statutes, cases, and/or regulatory materials, depending on the issue. All these types of materials are considered primary sources of the law.

Additionally, most research paths require examination of at at least one supplementary resource, called secondary sources of the law, to provide additional analysis or synthesis. There are as many different types of secondary sources are there are types of research problems, ranging from books written specifically for experts in tax law to general legal encyclopedias written for novices such as law students.

In future weeks, we will cover some of these materials in turn. But we begin this week by covering the major features of the legal system, such as the structure of courts and types of disputes that may be brought there. Next week, we'll move on to those primary sources of the law, beginning with statutes and other legislative materials.

Primary v. Secondary Sources: what is the difference?

When discussing legal resources it is important to know the difference between primary and secondary legal materials.

Primary sources are THE LAW. 

They include cases, statutes, regulations and constitutions. 

Secondary resources are materials that analyze, editorialize, summarize, or comment on the law. 

Mandatory v. Persuasive Sources

Mandatory and Persuasive describe the level of authority that a legal source has. Mandatory means that a court is bound to follow it. 

Only THE LAW may be a mandatory source. Commentary is never binding on a court, so this is only a job for Primary sources.

But in the world of primary sources, not all are mandatory in all situations. How do you know whether something is mandatory? Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and statutes from Congress are binding on everyone. But a state statute is not binding in another state, for example.

Free Sources of the Law

Crash Course!!

Objectives / Self-Test