Legal Research Refresher for Writing a Brief

book coverAre you researching for an appellate brief for your 1L LRLW class this spring? Now is a good time for a legal research refresher.

When conducting legal research, a good place to start is a legal research guide, of which Tarlton has plenty. Check out the ones that Tarlton has put together on various topics and which are easily accessible online. There are also full length books available providing overviews of legal research in different areas, including for the jurisdiction of Texas.

The basic takeaway from any research guide is that it is good to start with secondary sources before moving on to primary sources. (Primary sources include statutes, regulations, and cases.) The main secondary sources to try are:

  • legal encyclopedias,
  • treatises and practice guides,
  • law review articles, and
  • ALR annotations.

Here in Texas, we are fortunate to have a legal encyclopedia devoted to this single state, Texas Jurisprudence. By contrast, a treatise or practice guide provide a more narrow, but in-depth, overview of an area of law such as torts or contracts. Some treatises cover multiple jurisdictions, and Tarlton’s guide to Legal Treatises by Subject highlights many in our collection. There are also treatises and practice guides devoted to an area of law within a particular jurisdiction. Check out Tarlton’s guide to Texas Practice Guides & Form Books to see possibilities for Texas.

Keep in mind that when researching a new area of law, print may be more user-friendly than an online version, particularly for huge works like a legal encyclopedia or a set of statutes. And some materials are only available in print, such as the popular O’Connor’s series from Jones McClure.

Happy hunting!

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