Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law / Edition 15

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Overview

And suddenly, legal reseach was made simple!

Excellent for anyone searching for information in a real or virtual law library (including paralegals, law students, legal assistants and journalists), Legal Research outlines a systematic method to find answers and get results.

In plain, readable English, Attorneys Elias and Levinkind explain, with plenty of examples and instructions, how to:
  • read and understand statues, regulations and cases
  • evaluate cases for their value as precedent
  • use all the basic tools of legal research
  • practice what you've learned with "hands-on, feet-in" library exercises, as well as hypothetical research problems and solutions

    This easy-to-use and understand book, now in its 14th edition, has been adopted as a text in many law schools and paralegal programs.
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Editorial Reviews

Midwest Book Review
"A no-nonsense guide for lay readers and legal professionals alike."
Legal Research Quarterly
"This book has a valid and honored place on the shelves of both novice and practiced legal researchers."
Library Journal
Getting around the law library can be easy—if you just know where to look—and Legal Research is the place to begin.
Legal Research Quarterly
This book has a valid and honored place on the shelves of both novice and practiced legal researchers.
Robert C. Berring
This book remains the best single introduction...to the mysterious world of legal research.
Law Librarian, University of California, Berkeley
Legal Research Quarterly
This book has a valid and honored place on the shelves of both novice and practiced legal researchers.
Bookwatch
From understanding how to locate legal information in a law library to locating Internet answers, writing a legal memorandum, and homing research skill, Legal Research is a find basic guide any library should be pleased to have.
South Florida Sun-Sentinal
[A] really handy legal resource is Legal Research.... It's another Nolo book and gives a good overview for someone who wants to investigate the law in general.
From the Publisher
"Getting around the law library can be easy—if you just know where to look-and Legal Research the place to begin". Library Journal

"The 16th updated edition of Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law tells how to locate key laws and cases either online or in a law library, how to draft legal memoranda, and how to make the most of the Web and a legal library to locate statutes, cases, background information and answers to specific legal issues. Chapters offer keys to organization, "shepardizing', prioritizing, using indexes, and analyzing the effect of a case on your particular issue: in short, it outlines the basics of an attorney's research and judgment process and will help users save hundreds of dollars in attorney fees just by doing some of the legal legwork that anyone can do. Very highly recommended!"  The Midwest Book Review
 

Bookwatch
From understanding how to locate legal information in a law library to locating Internet answers, writing a legal memorandum, and homing research skill, Legal Research is a find basic guide any library should be pleased to have.
Legal Research Quarterly
This book has a valid and honored place on the shelves of both novice and practiced legal researchers.
Midwest Book Review
A no-nonsense guide for lay readers and legal professionals alike.
South Florida Sun-Sentinal
[A] really handy legal resource is Legal Research.... It's another Nolo book and gives a good overview for someone who wants to investigate the law in general.
UCLA School of Law
The simplest, most concise and articulate description of the legal research process available. Legal Research does a great job of cutting to the chase.
— Tom Holm
University of California at Berkeley
This book remains the best single introduction... to the mysterious world of legal research.
— Robert C. Berring
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781413310528
  • Publisher: NOLO
  • Publication date: 9/26/2009
  • Edition description: Fifteenth Edition
  • Edition number: 15
  • Pages: 386
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen R. Elias is an attorney and former associate publisher at Nolo, as well as current President of National Bankruptcy Law Project. He is the author of many Nolo books, most recently The New Bankruptcy: Will It Work for You? Other titles include Special Needs Trusts: Protect Your Child's Financial Future, How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Legal Research: How to Find and Understand the Law. He is also one of the original authors/designers of Nolo's bestselling WillMaker software. Steve holds a law degree from Hastings College of Law and was a practicing attorney in California, New York and Vermont before joining Nolo in 1980. He has been featured in such major media as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Good Morning America, 20/20, Money magazine, and more.

Susan Levinkind graduated first in her class from Western New England College of Law in 1979. She practiced general law in Northhampton, Massachusetts until 1989 when she moved to California. Since then, she has worked as a law librarian at California Rural Legal Assistance and the Santa Clara County Superior Court, as well as instructing paralegal students in legal research. Co-author of Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, Levinkind lives in Oakland, California.
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Read an Excerpt

Quick Legal Research Tips
This book provides the information you need to systematically research the vast written and
electronic resources that together make up "the law." But instead of learning legal research techniques, you may just want to find specific items such as statutes, cases, regulations or plain-English overviews of legal topics.

Here are some quick tips on using the Internet to find and read these and other law-related materials. Each quick tip section contains a cross-reference to the part of this book that handles the particular task in more detail.

I want to use Google and other online search engines to perform keyword searches.

See Chapter 4 for more information on using Google as a legal search engine. For more information on using free Westlaw or LexisNexis services in your law library to find legal references, see Chapter 9.

If you want a solid answer to a legal question, you will need to undertake a more systematic search of available legal resources. See Chapter 2 for an overview of the legal research process online and in the law library.

I want to find a federal statute (law enacted by Congress and signed by the president).

The most direct route is to use the FindLaw website (findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/), which permits you to search federal laws (organized in the U.S. Codes) by title, section, or keyword. You can also use the Google search engine. When using Google, provide the literal name or number of the law in quotation marks. If the new law has a lot of words, it usually works to just use the distinctive elements of the phrase. For example, when looking for the
Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Reform Act of 2005, the phrase "bankruptcy abuse" would be sufficient for the statute's name. Similarly, if the law has a nickname, you can use that phrase. If you can think of key words that identify the law, provide those as well. For instance, if a new law creates an additional procedure for collecting child support, you could likely find it by typing in the terms: "child support" and "collection." If you know the year that the law was passed, add that as well (so that you don't get an
out-of-date law by the same name). See Chapter 6 for more detail on searching for federal statutes online and in the law library.

I want to find a state statute (law passed by state legislature).

Our first choice is to use the Cornell Law School site (law.cornell.edu/states/listing.html) where you will see a state-by-state index for state laws. If you search instead with Google, type your state's name (so that the search engine won't give you an Illinois law while you are in Texas) and then provide the literal name or number of the law, in quotation marks. If the new law has a lot of words, it usually works to just use the distinctive elements of the phrase. Similarly, if the law has a nickname, you can use that phrase. For example, you can locate California's sex offender registration law (AB 488) by typing: "Megan's Law" California. If you can think of key words that identify the law, provide those as well. For instance, if a new law creates an additional procedure for granting pregnancy leave to employees, you could likely find it by typing in the terms: "pregnancy leave" and "employee." If you know the year that the law was passed, add that as well (so that you don't get an out-of-date law by the same name). See
Chapter 6 for more detail on searching for state statutes online and in the law library.

I want to find a state statute (law passed by state legislature) organized by topics.

Again, we recommend the Cornell Law School website (law.cornell.edu/topics/state_statutes.html), which has organized state statutes by topic. See Chapter 6 for more detail on searching for state statutes online and in the law library.

I want to find a U.S. Supreme Court case (a published Supreme Court opinion).

Try the Cornell Law School website, which provides a thorough index of Supreme Court decisions (law.cornell.edu/supct/index.html). If you are searching for a Supreme Court case using Google, type "Supreme Court" in quotation marks and then add any combination of the following elements:

  • Type one or both names of the parties to the case. You can also search with the "v." abbreviation, as well -- for example we typed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and retrieved a copy of the 1992 Supreme Court Case.
  • Include one or more terms that describe the subject matter of the case. For example, we typed 'Betamax' and 'Supreme Court' and retrieved the 1984 Supreme Court case, Sony v. Universal.
  • Type the year of the case.

See Chapter 9 for more detail on finding U.S. Supreme Court cases online and in the law library.

I want to find a federal court case (a published judicial opinion).

Start at the Cornell Law School website, which provides a thorough index of federal court decisions (law.cornell.edu/federal/opinions.html). If you are searching for a federal case law using Google, type any combination of the following elements:

  • Type one or both names of the parties to the case. You can also search with the "v." abbreviation, as well -- for example Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
  • Include one or more terms that describe the subject matter of the case.
  • Type the year of the case.
  • Type the name of the court that heard and decided the case.

Note that cases decided previous to 1995 -- that is, before the Internet was used to catalog court cases -- usually are only available in private databases that require a subscription for a fee. See Chapter 9 for more detail on finding a federal court case online and in the law library.

I want to find a state court case (published opinions by state courts).

Begin with the Cornell Law School website, which provides a thorough index of state court decisions (law.cornell.edu/opinions.html#state). If you are searching for a state case using Google, type the name of the state and any combination of the following elements:

  • Type one or both names of the parties to the case. You can also search with the "v." abbreviation, as well -- for example Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
  • Include one or more terms that describe the subject matter of the case.
  • Type the year of the case.
  • Type the name of the court that heard and decided the case.

Note that cases decided previous to 1995 -- that is, before the Internet was used to catalog court cases -- usually are only available in private databases that require a subscription for a fee. See Chapter 9 for more detail on finding state courts cases online and in the law library.
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Table of Contents

1. Quick Legal Research Tips
2. An Overview of Legal Research

Patience and Perspective
How to Find (and Feel at Home in) a Law Library
Legal Research on the Internet
A Basic Approach to Legal Research
Six Time-Saving Research Tips
Understand the Legal Uncertainty Principle
Know When You're Done

3. An Overview of the Law

What Is the Law?
Foundations of American Law
The Increasing Importance of Statutes and Regulations
The Development of American Common Law
Where Modern American Law Comes From
About Going to Court

4. Putting Your Questions Into Legal Categories
The Land of the Law
Find the Broad Legal Category for Your Problem
Identify Specific Terms for Your Problem
Searching by Subject Matter Categories on the Internet
Key Word Searching on the Internet
Searching With Google

5. Getting Some Background Information
How Background Resources Can Help
Self-Help Law Resources
Law Textbooks
Legal Encyclopedias
Form Books
Practice Manuals
Law Reviews and Other Legal Periodicals
Specialized Loose-Leaf Materials
Treatises and Monographs
Restatements of the Law
Background Resources on the Internet

6. Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Ordinances
Constitutional Research
Introduction to Federal Statutes
How to Find Statutes in the United States Code
How to Find a Recent or Pending Federal Statute
Finding Out-of-Date Federal Statutes in the Law Library
Finding State Statutes in the Law Library and on the Internet
Finding Recently Enacted or Pending State Statutes
How to Read Statutes
The Importance of Cases That InterpretStatutes
Using Words and Phrases to Interpret Statutes
Using Attorney General Opinions to Interpret Statutes
Using Legislative History to Interpret Statutes
Using Uniform Law Histories to Interpret Statutes
Regulations
Procedural Statutes and Rules
Local Law-Ordinances

7. Understanding Case Law
What Is a Case?
How Cases Affect Later Disputes

8. How Cases Are Published
Federal Cases
State Court Cases
Keeping Case Reporters Up-to-Date
The Newest Cases
Publishing Cases on the Internet

9. Finding Cases
Interpreting Case Citations
How to Find Cases in the Law Library
Finding State Case Law on the Internet
Finding Federal Case Law on the Internet
Using VersusLaw to Research Federal and State Case Law
The Next Step

10. Shepard's, Digests and the Internet: Expand and Update Your Research
Shepard's Citations for Cases
Shepardize! Online
The West Digest System

11. How to Write a Legal Memorandum
Why Prepare a Legal Memorandum?
How to Prepare a Legal Memorandum
Sample Legal Memorandum

12. The Legal Research Method: Examples
The Facts
Classify the Problem
Select a Background Resource
Use the Legal Index
Get an Overview of Your Research Topic
Use Shepard's Citations for Cases
Check the Pocket Parts
Use Shepard's and Digests to Find On-Point Cases
Summary

Appendixes

Glossary of Legal Terms

Index

Library Exercises
Paperchase
Using Citations to Find Cases
Using Am. Jur
Finding Law Reviews: Exercise One
Finding Law Reviews: Exercise Two
Using a Loose-Leaf Service
Using Treatises
Finding a Statute From Its Citation: Exercise One
Finding a Statute From Its Citation: Exercise Two
Finding Statutes by Their Popular Names
Finding Federal Statutes by Using the Index to the U.S. Codes
Using Annotated Code Index to Find a Federal Statutory Scheme
Finding Statutes by Pub. L. No.
Using Words and Phrases
Finding the Legislative History of Federal Statutes
Using U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News
Finding Federal Regulations
The Nuts and Bolts of a Case
Anatomy of a U.S. Supreme Court Case
How to Use Shepard's Citations: Statutes
Finding Cases by Popular Name
Using Shepard's Citations: Cases
Using A.L.R., Case Headnotes and Shepard's
Using Digests
Using the American Digest System

Internet Exercises
Finding a Federal Statute on the Internet
Finding a State Statute on the Internet
Finding Pending State Legislation
Finding an Attorney General Opinion
Finding a Federal Regulation
Finding a State Regulation
Finding a State Case on the Internet
Finding a Federal Case on the Internet

Summaries
How to Use the Law Library to Find a State Statute or Amendment Passed Within the Past Year
How to Find Federal Regulations
How to Find State Regulations in the Law Library
How to Shepardize Federal Statutes
How to Shepardize State Statutes
How to Find Federal Cases When the Citation Is Unknown
How to Find U.S. Supreme Court Cases When the Citation Is Unknown
How to Find State Cases When No Citation Is Known
How to Find the Text of a U.S. Supreme Court Case Decided Over One Year Ago
How to Find a State Supreme Court Case Decided More Than One Year Ago
How to Find the Text of a U.S. Supreme Court Case Decided Within the Past Year
How To Find a State Supreme Court Case Decided Within the Past Year
How to Shepardize State Court Cases
How to Shepardize U.S. Supreme Court Cases
How to Find Similar Cases in Different States
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