Legal Research Guides For Student Attorneys

You’ve done your research, found the case you need to cite, and now it’s time to make a persuasive argument. But you can’t do that if you don’t know where to find legal authority. 

Legal research guides are designed to help lawyers and law students conduct effective legal research. They include detailed information about how to locate primary sources of law like statutes, regulations, cases, and other materials for researching specific areas of law. 

The material in this list covers a broad range of topics from constitutional law to torts. We’ve broken down each guide into sections based on topic so you can quickly find what interests you most:

How to do legal research in 2020? | | Tools and Techniques
1. Master the art of writing legal memoranda.
2. Start with Legal Writing 101 for foundational skills.
3. Craft impactful legal briefs to enhance advocacy.
4. Learn to spot and understand legalese in contracts.
5. Dive into the ultimate guide for comprehensive legal writing.

Introduction To Law Library Research

What is a Law Library?

A law library is a place where you can find almost any legal resource that you need. All federal, state and local laws are stored here as well as other important documents like case books and codes. 

They also have books written by scholars on different topics related to the law including what’s been decided in similar cases. The librarians at law libraries are trained professionals who know how to help people find the information they need for their research projects.

When delving into legal research, it’s crucial to master the art of writing a persuasive and effective legal memorandum. This guide provides insights into crafting well-structured legal memos that convey your arguments clearly.

What You Need To Know Before Entering A Law Library

The first thing you should do before going into a law library makes sure that you have an account with them so that they’ll let you check out resources from them without making copies of your ID or paying fines (you can usually get these accounts when filling out forms at their front desk). 

If possible, do some research ahead of time so that when it comes time for using their computers for actual research purposes instead of just browsing through old cases.

Looking up statutes specifically relevant ones – we’ll discuss this later – there’s less chance that someone else will be able to beat them out of something valuable because they’ve already reserved their spot!

How To Find Legal Authority

The next step to finding the law is using a legal research guide. A legal research guide is a book that contains all of the relevant laws and rules for a specific area of law. 

Finding cases, statutes, regulations or court rules through an online search engine can be difficult because there are so many results returned from your search query. Using a legal research guide will help you narrow down exactly what type of information you need to look for to find what you’re looking for.

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Primary Sources Of Law

Primary sources of law are the most authoritative, formal, and official types of legal material. They include the Constitution, statutes, regulations, and treaties.

Statutes: When Congress passes a new law or an amendment to existing law (such as when it passed the Americans with Disabilities Act), that action is recorded in a statute. 

The statute contains the full text of what Congress says must be done by people and organizations in their roles as citizens or employees. If a statute conflicts with another statute or if there’s no relevant statute at all on a particular subject matter, then judges rely on common law principles to guide them through their decisions.

Regulations: Regulations are issued by executive agencies under specific authority given by Congress in legislation such as an act or joint resolution,” explains Nolo’s Legal Dictionary for Law Students.

A regulation is binding on both private individuals and businesses and also may be enforced against federal agencies themselves,” says LegalMatch Legal Dictionary For Lawyers And Attorneys.” 

Regulations can cover almost any topic from how much time off must be given when an employee files for leave under FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) to how many hours truck drivers must have before they can drive again after completing mandatory rest periods required by DOT regulations.”

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Secondary Sources Of Law

Secondary sources of law are generally not as authoritative as primary sources, but they can be useful when researching legal issues. Secondary sources are used to find information about primary sources, like court cases or statutes. 

For example, if you need to learn about a specific law that was recently passed by Congress and passed into the Federal Register, you might first look up the text of that act in the Federal Register and then read articles about it in newspapers or journals.

This is true for courts as well; if there’s a case from a court that you’re interested in learning more about (perhaps because it seems relevant to something else), you can use secondary sources such as books or articles written by experts on that particular court to learn more about its background, history, and decisions.

Secondary sources may also be easier or at least faster to locate than their corresponding primary sources. This is especially true if your library has access to online databases like WestlawNext® or LexisNexis®, which have hundreds of thousands of published opinions from state and federal courts across America already digitized into searchable format!

Finding Cases

The first place to start is going to be a general legal research database, like Westlaw or LexisNexis. They have hundreds of thousands of cases and other legal materials, but there are some things you’ll need to know before you can find them.

Most importantly, understand what kind of case law you’re looking for. There are several ways that cases can be organized: by subject area (like family law), jurisdiction (state/federal courts), the court (California Supreme Court), or year published (all recent cases).

Next up: know where your case will be found once it’s been identified as relevant. On Westlaw and LexisNexis this is called “citation research,” which means finding citations from other sources that reference the case in question. 

These sources could include statutes or regulations; court opinions issued by lower courts; books written by attorneys; articles written by experts; etc., so think about how each source might cite your topic and whether those citations would lead back to your search terms if they were included directly in their text too!

Finding Statutes And Regulations

There are several ways to find a statute or regulation. The most obvious approach is to go straight to the right section of your legal research guidebook, which may be called “statutes” or “regulations.” You can also search for local laws by looking up the statutes and regulations for your state on LexisNexis or Westlaw.

Another way to locate statutes and regulations is by using Google Scholar, which will show you laws from any jurisdiction in the world. If you’re looking for federal legislation, start by searching using keywords like: “FEDERAL CODE,” “U.S.C.,” or “TITLE 15.

The full-text version of these documents will come up first; however, if you want a plain-language version that’s easier to read than legalese, try searching with the word “PLAIN” before one of those three terms (for example: “PLAIN UCC 1-308A”).

If this isn’t enough information for what you need, keep reading! Below are additional resources on finding statutes and regulations

Finding Cases Using Shepard’s Citation Service

If you don’t know how to conduct legal research, or if you are just getting started on a new case, Shepard’s is a great resource. It allows you to search for cases based on the citation. This can be very useful if you want to find an old case or if your client has an unusual name.

If Shepard’s has something that fits your needs, it will give detailed instructions as to how to use it and where the information is located in the library. It includes sample citations so that students can see what they should be looking for when they go into their local law library.

Navigating the complexities of contracts requires a keen eye for legalese. Our guide on How to Spot Legalese in Contracts equips you with techniques to identify and comprehend the fine print within legal agreements.

Briefs and Memoranda for Attorneys

Briefs and memoranda are the most common legal documents. Briefs are written to persuade a judge to rule in favor of your client, while memoranda are written to persuade your client (or potential clients) that you know what you’re talking about. Both briefs and memoranda should be written, logically, and concisely.

Professional writing style guidelines exist for both briefs and memoranda because they must be persuasive enough to convince a reader who is not interested in the subject matter at hand

therefore, these documents cannot contain any irrelevant information or superfluous language. If you want more practice with these types of legal writing projects, take advantage of our free sample briefs available on our website!

Locating Court Rules (Federal And State)

When you need to locate the court rules of a particular state, it can be helpful to know the various ways in which they are published. Court rules are generally published in one of four ways:

In the Federal Register: Like many states’ constitutions and statutes, federal regulations and their amendments including those that pertain to specific federal courts are published in this government publication. The Federal Register is available online or through your local law library.

In an official newspaper: Each state has its official newspaper, which may contain all or some of its court rules. If you’re not sure where to find this information, contact your local bar association for more information on how they publish their court rules and where they’re located (if at all).

In an official legal journal: Some states do not publish their court rules in either an official newspaper or on a website; rather, they provide access through subscriptions to specific journals that publish these types of documents as well as other legal news-related items (e.g., proposed legislation affecting civil procedure). 

A list of such legal journals can usually be found by searching “state bar association” + “subscription services.”

On the State’s Website: Most states now have websites that include their entire set of laws/rules as well as links thereto from within each chapter’s heading section (sometimes called tabs) 

Rather than having them listed separately from each other like older versions did before being updated into HTML format instead so people could use search engines like Google better when looking for something specific about lawmaking activities around them.”

Locating Attorney General’s Opinion

Attorney General opinions are written by lawyers for other lawyers. They’re not binding on courts, agencies, or other attorneys. And they’re not binding on the attorney general either!

But you can still find them useful. Attorneys generally make recommendations about the law that are often cited in court rulings, which means AGOs can help you determine whether a decision could apply to your case.

Finding To Learn More About A Court or Judge

To find out more about a court, you can use one of the following resources in our legal research guides:

Court rules and regulations. If you want to learn about the rules and procedures of a particular court, your first stop should be its website. 

Each state has its own set of rules for how courts operate and what they do, which are published on each state’s general assembly website (in some cases, they may also be available in book form at local law libraries). 

In addition to learning how cases are filed with this court (and what information is required), how they’re heard by others within it (like judges or juries), and what types of decisions can be appealed from their judgment you’ll also learn whether there are special requirements for practicing before them (for example: such as passing an exam).

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Where To Look For Free Legal Advice

Law school clinics are free legal services offered by universities to students. They provide a valuable opportunity for students to learn how to practice law while providing services to the community.

Legal aid offices are non-profit organizations that help low-income people with their legal issues. You may find that some offer advice or representation at no cost, but others will charge a fee based on your income and ability to pay.

Law school libraries have plenty of resources that you can use for free including research guides, databases, and websites, as well as librarians who can assist you with your research questions!

Career Services offices often offer free counseling sessions where students can discuss their career goals and get advice about job hunting strategies (including looking for employment opportunities off-campus). Sometimes they also offer resume writing workshops or interview preparation classes through the Career Development Center (CDC).

Student organizations on campus might also offer assistance with legal research questions and they’re another great way to network while getting involved in campus life!


Legal research is one of the most important parts of the legal field. It helps you to find information about cases, laws, and documents that can help your case. Good legal research skills are essential for any student attorney who wants to succeed in this industry.

So with that being said, we’d like to share some of our favorite legal research guides for students! These resources will help you understand how to do thorough legal research from start to finish without losing track of any key points along the way.

To begin with, let’s talk about how these guides work: they provide step-by-step instructions on how to use different sources like books or websites to find relevant material that supports your argument or position regarding a particular issue; they also tell us what types of information should not be used unless necessary (e.g., hearsay evidence).

Further Reading

Explore these additional resources for more insights into legal research and writing:

Harvard Law Library – Research Strategy Short Description: Access Harvard Law Library’s guide on research strategies, offering valuable techniques and tips for effective legal research.

Stanford Law Library – Research Guides Short Description: Stanford Law Library provides a collection of research guides covering various legal topics, assisting you in navigating complex legal research.

Marquette Law Library – Research Guides Short Description: Dive into Marquette Law Library’s research guides, designed to aid law students and professionals in finding authoritative legal information.

And here’s the “FAQs” section:


How can I improve my legal research strategy?

Enhancing your legal research strategy involves identifying reliable sources, using advanced search techniques, and staying updated with the latest legal developments.

Where can I find comprehensive research guides for various legal topics?

You can explore reputable law libraries like Harvard, Stanford, and Marquette, which offer a range of research guides covering diverse legal subjects.

What are the key components of a well-structured legal memorandum?

A well-structured legal memorandum typically includes an issue statement, a summary of facts, legal analysis, and a conclusion or recommendation.

How can I identify and avoid legalese in contracts?

To spot legalese in contracts, focus on convoluted language, overly complex sentence structures, and terms that have specific legal meanings.

What should I consider when writing persuasive legal briefs?

Crafting persuasive legal briefs requires clear organization, compelling arguments supported by legal precedent, and a concise presentation of your case’s merits.