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Legal Research Quick Reference Guide


Secondary Sources


  • Wide breadth of coverage but limited depth
  • National or state-specific
  • Multi-volume subject index
  • Alphabetical arrangement of broad topics (print version)
  • Examples:
    • American Jurisprudence, 2d (Am. Jur. 2d) (national) (Lexis, Westlaw, print)
    • Corpus Juris Secundum (C.J.S.) (national) (Westlaw, print)
    • California Jurisprudence, 3d (Cal. Jur. 3d) (Lexis, Westlaw, print)


  • Provide in-depth analysis for major areas of law
  • Scholarly in nature
  • Single or multi-volume, with index
  • Examples:
    • Nimmer on Copyright (Lexis, print)
    • Dobbs' Law of Torts (Westlaw, print)
    • Witkin treatises (California law) (Lexis, Westlaw, print)

American Law Reports (A.L.R.)

  • Compilation of individual articles (called annotations) on fairly narrow legal topics
  • Each annotation summarizes relevant cases and is kept up-to-date
  • National focus (annotations cover either state or federal law)
  • Available on Lexis, Westlaw, and in print
  • Example:
    • Validity of Arbitration Clause Precluding Class Actions, 13 A.L.R. 6th 145 (2006) 

Law Reviews/Journals

  • Scholarly articles by law faculty or law students
  • Provide critical analysis, discuss emerging issues, and present policy arguments
  • Published by law schools (generally)
  • Available on Lexis, Westlaw, and journal websites (very current)
  • HeinOnline offers greater historical coverage (and PDF images from print versions) 
  • Example:
    • Southern California Law Review (S. Cal. L. Rev.)

Practice Guides

  • "How-to" guides written for attorneys
  • Written in narrative or outline format
  • Include a variety of aids (e.g., strategy considerations, practice tips, and checklists)
  • Useful for both litigation & transactional work
  • Examples:
    • Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) series (California) (available in print and on CEB OnLAW Pro - email to obtain our law school code to register) 
    • The Rutter Group series (California mostly; some guides cover federal law) (Westlaw, print)

Current Awareness Services

  • Available for highly regulated areas of law
  • Report on new laws, cases, etc. 
  • Examples:
    • Newsletters on the Cheetah platform (also available in print as part of CCH looseleaf services)
    • Bloomberg BNA Law Reports (Bloomberg Law, print)

Sample Forms

  • Provide sample language for different types of legal documents (usually with explanatory text) 
  • Federal, national, or state-specific
  • Use as a guide only (DO NOT copy verbatim)
  • Useful for both litigation & transactional work
  • Examples:
    • California Forms of Pleading & Practice (litigation oriented) (Lexis, print)
    • California Legal Forms Transaction Guide (Lexis, print)

Pattern Jury Instructions

  • Sample instructions used to help judges and attorneys draft instructions for specific cases
  • Typically written for a specific state or federal circuit
  • Separate compilations for civil and criminal cases
  • Examples:
    • Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (Lexis, Westlaw, print)
    • Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) (Lexis, Westlaw, print)