Skip Navigation Links

Secondary Sources


Resources About the Law

Secondary sources are materials that explain, interpret, and analyze the law. They are not the laws themselves. Secondary sources are an essential research tool, because they explain basic concepts of an issue, provide procedural information, and typically cite the primary law on the topic.  Secondary sources encompass a variety of types of resources, ranging from brief encyclopedia entries to detailed multi-volume treatises on a narrow topic. Most research projects will involve consulting a variety of secondary sources.

Table of Contents 

ENCYCLOPEDIAS

Legal encyclopedias are multi-volume works that contain discussions of many different topics of law. They cover state and federal law generally, with an emphasis on citations to case law rather than statutes. Legal encyclopedias are an excellent way to get a broad grasp of a particular topic, to narrow your focus of inquiry, and to locate additional sources on a topic. Like any encyclopedia, legal encyclopedias are arranged alphabetically by subject and have general indexes for the whole set and topical indexes for individual articles.

  • American Jurisprudence (Am Jur) 2d KF 154 .A42 (Ready Reference)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • California Jurisprudence (Cal Jur) 3d KFC 80 .C35 (Ready Reference)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS)
    Electronic Access Only:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • West's Encyclopedia of American Law KF 154 .W47 (Self Help)

PRACTICE-ORIENTED ENCYCLOPEDIAS

Like general legal encyclopedias, practice-oriented encyclopedias contain discussions of many different case types. For each entry, a practice-oriented encyclopedia will provide an overview of the law, but the focus is on the practical aspects of preparing and trying a case on the topic. For each topic, a practice-oriented encyclopedia provides tips such as the necessary elements of a cause of action; how to prove facts necessary to win a case; and legal strategies and techniques particularly useful for the case type. Popular practice-oriented encyclopedias include:

  • American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts 2d KF 8935 .A52 (Compact)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts 3d KF 8935 .A52 (Compact)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • American Jurisprudence Trials KF 8915 .A44 (Compact)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • Causes of Action KF 8863 .S53 (Compact)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • Causes of Action 2d KF 8863 .S53 (Compact)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

TREATISES

Written by experts, treatises are resources that provide highly organized, comprehensive coverage of a specific area of law. Treatises are a great source for finding detailed discussions of legal topics. Unlike practice guides, the focus of most treatises tends to be on explanation, interpretation and analysis of the law, rather than on practical tips and techniques. For a list of California practice guides in the Law Library's collection, see the "Practice Guides" guide, available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/practice-guides.aspx.   Popular treatises in the Law Library's collection include:

  • Collier on Bankruptcy KF 1524 .C6
  • Corbin on Contracts KF 801 .C672
  • Federal Procedure, Lawyers Edition KF 8835 .F4
  • Nimmer on Copyright KF 2991 .5 .N5
  • Williston on Contracts KF 801 .W53
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • Witkin's Summary of California Law KFC 80 .W57 (Ready Reference)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • Witkin's California Criminal Law KFC 1100 .W4 C34 (Ready Reference)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • Witkin's California Evidence KFC 1030 .W57  (Ready Reference)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • Witkin's California Procedure KFC 995 .W58 (Ready Reference)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

To find other treatises in the Law Library's collection, search our online catalog for free from your home or office at http://scllhip.saclaw.org.  Once in the Online Catalog, enter keywords in the General or Title Keyword fields. If you know the Subject Heading for the topics or titles you're interested in, click the "Advanced" link at the top of the page, and in the advanced search screen, type those terms in the "Subject Keyword" field.

You may also simultaneously search our collection and those of many other libraries worldwide for free from your home or office using WorldCat QuickStart at http://scpll.worldcat.org/.

LAW REVIEWS AND LEGAL PERIODICALS

Legal  periodicals are periodicals specifically on legal topics. Many are published by professional organizations, like the American Bar Association. Law reviews are published by law schools. Other than one or two lead articles, most articles are written by law students. The lead article in an issue is typically written by a law professor or other expert in the legal field. Law review articles are very well-researched, and contain detailed footnotes to cases and codes. Law reviews and legal periodicals are a great starting point for many research projects, because these articles are on very narrow topics, and include citations to a variety of primary and secondary sources.  The Law Library collects very few law reviews or legal periodicals in print, but offers access to a wide variety of these titles electronically.

  • Hein Online
    Hein Online includes current and historical law review articles from nearly all law reviews published nationwide. All documents are scanned from the original print source, so layout and formatting appear as originally intended. Documents can be downloaded as PDFs.
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using Hein Online.
  • WestlawNext
    WestlawNext provides access to a variety of state and national law reviews and periodicals. Coverage varies by publication, but most include articles back to the mid-1980s.
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • Google Scholar
    Google Scholar allows users to search "scholarly works" such as peer-reviewed papers, theses, professional journals, abstracts, and technical reports.   When articles are available for free online, Google Scholar links users to the article.
    Electronic Access: Free online at http://www.scholar.google.com.

AMERICAN LAW REPORTS (ALRs)

ALRs contains in-depth articles, called annotations, on narrow topics of the law. These annotations discuss a narrow legal topic in detail, provide background on and analysis of the issue, and include extensive citations to relevant cases, statutes, law review articles, and other relevant sources.

ALRs are organized into two parts: ALR Federal (1st and 2nd series), and ALR (1st-6th series). ALR Federal covers only federal laws, while ALR includes topics that are affected by state law, or a combination of state and federal law. Annotations are national in scope, citing sources from across jurisdictions. A Table of Jurisdictions in each annotation helps researchers find relevant citations for their jurisdiction.

  • American Law Reports: Annotated KF 132 .A544 (Compact)
  • American Law Reports 2d: Cases and Annotations KF 132 .A545 (Compact)
  • American Law Reports 3d: Cases and Annotations KF 132 .A546 (Compact)
  • American Law Reports 4th: Cases and Annotations KF 132 .A547 (Compact)
  • American Law Reports 5th: Cases and Annotations KF 132 .A548 (Compact)
  • American Law Reports 6th: Cases and Annotations KF 132 .A56 (Compact)
  • American Law Reports Federal: Cases and Annotations KF 132 .A47 (Compact)
  • American Law Reports Federal 2d: Cases and Annotations KF 132 .A471 (Compact)

Electronic Access (all series):  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

RESTATEMENTS

Restatements of the law are produced by the American Law Institute (ALI), an organization comprised of prominent American judges, lawyers, and law professors. Each restatement distills the case law on a particular topic into a series of concise principles or rules. Although the restatements do not have binding legal authority, they are considered persuasive authority and are frequently cited by the courts. For more information and a list of available titles, see the "Restatements of the Law" guide on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/restatements.aspx.

FORM BOOKS

Form books are resources that contain a variety of forms and sample legal documents for a variety of legal topics. Form books are an excellent aid for those drafting legal documents. The forms and samples will provide standard language that can be tailored specifically to the court or situation in which it will be used. General form books are typically arranged as encyclopedias, with an alphabetically arrangement of topics and/or forms. Form books typically offer brief explanations and procedural information about the proceedings associated with the form.  Detailed procedural information, and less-common forms are more likely found in a practice guide on the topic. For a list of California practice guides in the Law Library's collection, see the "Practice Guides" guide, available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/practice-guides.aspx.   Among the most popular forms books in the Law Library's collection are:

  • American Jurisprudence Pleading and Practice Forms Annotated
    KF 8836 .A45 (Ready Reference)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • California Forms of Pleading and Practice Annotated
    KFC 1010 .A65 C3 (Ready Reference)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.
  • California Judicial Council Forms Manual KFC 995 .A65 C25
  • California Legal Forms Transaction Guide KFC 68 .C32 (Ready Reference)
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.
  • West's California Code Forms KFC 30 .W482
    Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.
  • West's California Judicial Council Forms KFC 995 .W45 C3 (Reference)
  • West's Legal Forms
    Electronic Access Only:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

LOOSELEAF SERVICES

Looseleaf services are topical reporters that provide comprehensive up-to-date coverage of a particular area of law. They compile and consolidate into one source all relevant primary authority on a specific topic, including statutes, regulations, case law, and administrative decisions, as well as proposed legislation and pending agency decisions. Looseleafs also contain commentary and analysis which help the user understand the primary materials. In addition, the indexing used in looseleaf services is much more specific than that found in digests and encyclopedias, making them especially valuable to practitioners and scholars. Looseleaf services are timely. Materials are typically updated on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and are then filed into a notebook or binder. Because the looseleaf format allows the publisher to continuously update the materials, looseleaf services are generally more current than other sources.

Looseleafs are widely considered the best place to begin research in subjects governed by administrative regulations and decisions. Questions in areas such as labor law, environmental law, securities, banking, and taxation, for example, are likely to be answered more promptly, accurately and conveniently in a looseleaf service than elsewhere.

Looseleaf services vary widely in format and organization. Each looseleaf service usually has a set of instructions at the beginning of the first volume, entitled "Overview" or "How to Use this Reporter." These instructions explain how the particular looseleaf service is organized. Some of the most popular looseleaf services in the Law Library's collection include:

created 11/12 mpj