Finding the Law in All of Its Forms: A New Book for Attorneys Deserves a Place on the Shelves of All Special Libraries, Especially Those Whose Patrons Cannot Afford Premium Legal Research Services

By Greenfield, Elizabeth A. | Information Outlook, November-December 2014 | Go to article overview

Finding the Law in All of Its Forms: A New Book for Attorneys Deserves a Place on the Shelves of All Special Libraries, Especially Those Whose Patrons Cannot Afford Premium Legal Research Services


Greenfield, Elizabeth A., Information Outlook


No matter where or who you are, at some point, you'll need to perform some sort of research into legal and law-related resources.

You may be a homeowner seeking to resolve a dispute, a college student writing a paper on First Amendment rights, an academic scholar researching a fine point of American legal history, a financial services firm researcher looking for government regulations, or a private law firm library manager striving to contain ever-growing research resource costs. At some point, you're going to ask yourself how you can find the free (or almost free) legal research sources you need.

Run a keyword search on WorldCat for recently-published books on legal research on the internet, and toward the top of the list you'll see Internet Legal Research on a Budget, written by Carole A. Levitt and Judy K. Davis and published by the American Bar Association's Law Practice Division. Levitt and her business partner, Mark A. Rosch, are well-known for their live, online programs on internet-based legal research and for their books for lawyers about using the internet for fact-finding and cybersleuthing. (Some years ago, i reviewed the second and third editions of their Lawyer's Guide to Fact-Finding on the Internet [ABA 2003 and 2006] for another publication, so I am familiar with their work.) Their company, internet for Lawyers, inc., also maintains a helpful website at www.netforlawyers.com/.

Even though Internet Legal Research is published by the ABA and bills itself as a source of free and inexpensive resources for attorneys, it could also be useful for those who lack a legal education or training. At just 320 pages, it's very manageable in size and not at all daunting to read. The book includes both a fairly detailed table of contents and an excellent index, and does not mire the reader in dense legal jargon.

Written by two law librarians who happen to be lawyers as well, Internet Legal Research is not a book about performing investigative or fact-based research, such as medical, scientific, patent, or company research (although it could sit very comfortably next to such a book). instead, Internet Legal Research on a Budget is about finding the law in all of its forms, including statutes, case decisions, regulations, and ordinances, in all of the places where the law resides (and sometimes seems to hide). The authors draw on their vast expertise and experience in legal research, but always with an eye on the budget. Lawyers have to be careful about incur ring research-related costs, as clients today are proving less and less willing to pay for them. And laypeople simply don't have access to premium legal research services such as LexisNexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg Law.

The book's chapters are organized by types of resources, such as statutes, dockets, executive and administrative materials, and case law databases. Chapters and their subsections begin with helpful, if brief, explanations of why the reader might use the materials under discussion, and it is this feature that makes the book suitable for the non-lawyer as well as the lawyer. …

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