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Legal Secondary Sources (in print & online): Books, Directories, Encyclopedias, Law Reviews, Periodical Indexes, Loose-leafs & American Law Reports

Legal Secondary Sources (in print & online): Books, Directories, Encyclopedias, Law Reviews, Periodical Indexes, Loose-leafs, & American Law Reports

Secondary Sources are NOT THE LAW - However, Secondary Sources are Excellent Sources to Help You Find Primary Law (the Law Itself)

This Libguide discusses many different types of Secondary Sources:

  • Treatises (like Nutshells & Hornbooks; include many other scholarly works as well)
  • Legal Encyclopedias (Am Jur 2d & CJS)
  • American Law Reports (ALR Series)
  • Law Reviews & Law Journals
  • Directories Looseleafs (Loose-leafs)
  • Restatements

For a brief overview of a legal subject, a Nutshell can often be helpful.  For a more rigorous review of a legal subject, a Hornbook may be the right treatise to utilize.  Nutshells & Hornbooks are types of Treatises.  However, there are many more Treatises beyond these two types.  Many Legal Treatises are widely respected Scholarly Works and are often Definitive Sources that trace the legal history & development of a certain legal subject & analyze major cases & statutes.  Treatises can be super helpful if you find one in your subject area!

Loose-leafs (another type of Treatise) are more of a practitioner's resource, often including Tables & Forms.  While many Loose-leafs are moving to an online format, print loose-leafs are still maintained and are often favored due to their convenience & currency.

Legal Encyclopedias often give a broad overview of a legal topic.  Like a Nutshell, Legal Encyclopedias can be a good way to get a general overview of a legal concept or subject.

American Law Reports (ALR) is a multi-series publication and includes Federal, State & International materials.  ALR is comprised of articles that focus on unsettled areas of the law (often a split between Federal Circuits or State Courts).  ALR articles, called annotations, provide background, analysis and citations to relevant cases, statutes, law review articles, and other annotations.  

Law Reviews & Law Journals (including Bar Journals) are considered Legal Periodicals and they often provide valuable commentary or analysis on a range of legal topics.  They are published, as the category suggests, periodically (quarterly, monthly, or weekly).  Frequent authors of Legal Periodicals include:  Legal Scholars (Law Professors), Judges, Practitioners & Students (who often prepare Notes & Comments).

Directories (such as Martindale Hubbell (an attorney directory) or Sullivan's Directory (directory of IL attorneys specifically)) help locate attorneys, judges, expert witnesses...etc.

Finally, the Restatements are very valuable Secondary Sources that can be used as Persuasive Authority.  Restatements are written by legal scholars and give summaries of existing common law (court opinions) in the following areas:  Agency; Conflict of Laws; Foreign Relations; Judgments; Property; Restitution; Security; Torts; Trusts...etc.  They are a distinct legal form of scholarship.  The American Law Institute publishes the Restatements producing one highly authoritative, rule-like source for the common law.