Legal Research for Records Managers

By Montana, John | Records Management Quarterly, January 1996 | Go to article overview

Legal Research for Records Managers

Montana, John, Records Management Quarterly

Authorities and writers often urge that information managers utilize adequate legal research, both for everyday management activities, and for the development and implementation of retention schedules. Unfortunately, the organization's lawyers may not be interested in doing the research, may have other priorities, or may not be skilled in this type of research. Thus, for many records managers, the reality is that complying with this advice means doing that research oneself.

For the nonlawyer, this can be a seemingly hopeless task. Law libraries contain thousands of apparently identical volumes; the organization of this material makes little obvious sense, and the sheer volume of material to be searched is immense - the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is over 250 volumes (each 500-700 pages in length), the Federal Register, 65,000 to 70,000 pages every year. There are, in addition, the United States Code (USC); statutes and regulations for all fifty states, five territories, and the Indian nations; court cases from federal and state courts; administrative decisions; revenue rulings and procedures; no-action letters; and a variety of other miscellaneous materials.

Plowing through this mass for that minute fraction one is interested in at the moment requires knowledge of its structure, an understanding of where relevant material is likely to be found, and knowledge of how it is indexed. This column will set forth the basics of the research process.


Most law applicable to business activities comes from three basic sources - the legislature, the courts and administrative agencies such as Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (O.S.H.A.), etc. Each of these three sources has counterparts on both the federal and state level - the federal legislature is Congress, and, of course, each state, territory or Indian nation has an assembly or legislature. Similarly, there are federal courts, dealing with questions of federal law, and state, territorial and tribal courts, each dealing with legal disputes arising within its territorial or subject matter jurisdiction. Finally, there are federal and state regulatory agencies, which administer the technical administration of tax schemes, workplace rules, or other legal matters which require relatively detailed rules for adequate oversight.


Legislatures produce laws called statutes, adopted after public debate and a vote. Statutes are organized and numbered and placed in a set of volumes such as "Code of the United States" or "Colorado Revised Statutes" or the like. These are the preeminent law for most purposes. Courts look to the statutes of the jurisdiction in deciding a question, and are usually bound by them, although they do have some discretion in construing vague or conflicting statutes. A court may only overrule a statute when the court concludes that it is unconstitutional. Even in this case, however, the legislature can assert its supremacy by rewriting the statute so as to address any constitutional infirmity, and thereby overrule the courts. So long as a statute is written in a constitutionally permissible fashion the courts are bound to follow its mandate. In addition, court decisions can be overruled (prospectively) by statute.

Regulatory agencies such as the I.R.S. produce laws called regulations, administrative regulations, or rules. Rules and regulations are usually, but not always, codified in a fashion similar to that of statutes (e.g., "Nevada Administrative Code"). Regulations are of great interest to records managers, because they contain detailed requirements which businesses are required to follow, commonly including record-keeping and records retention requirements. In contrast to statutes, regulations are adopted without debate or public vote. Instead, the agency is required to notify the public of its intent to make rules in an area, allow the public to comment on the proposed rules, and then consider those comments prior to adopting the final rule. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Legal Research for Records Managers


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.