Legal research in the United States

Legal Research In The United States

Legal research in the United States

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What is legal research?

"Legal research is the process of identifying and retrieving information necessary to support legal decision-making. In its broadest sense, legal research includes each step of a course of action that begins with an analysis of the facts of a problem and concludes with the application and communication of the results of the investigation."

From: J. Myron Jacobstein and Roy M. Mersky, Fundamentals of Legal Research, 8th ed. (Foundation Press, 2002) p. 1.

This article focuses on the process of finding legal documents issued by courts, legislatures and other government entities in the United States. Finding legal information in the United States can be challenging. Many lawyers use electronic databases such as LexisNexis or Westlaw to access legal information. However, these resources may not be accessible to all. Special focus is given in this article to finding free legal materials on the Internet. As this article discusses a process, it is somewhat informal in tone.

The next section of this article provides necessary background for understanding the process of legal research. Concepts such as law, legal authority and jurisdiction are taught to law students during their first year in Law School. The process of legal research is then discussed, followed by discussion of the primary sources of law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Background Concepts

What is the law?

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law defines the law as...
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