There are many resources available to paralegals, attorneys, or law students who are looking to perform comprehensive legal research for the preparation of a case, motion or article. Listed below are the nine most important forms of research resources:
1. Catalogs – Legal catalogs are online databases that provide access to a many different sources of research information, including newsletters, journals, books, magazines, and professional directories. Other catalogs generally offer their information on pay per view or delivery by mail basis, which includes sites such as https://www.LawCatalog.com.
2. Digests – Are organizational systems of case materials or legal articles, that are organized with either electronically or in hard copy, where the materials are organized by subject, and not by chronological order (such as court reporter or chronicle, which catalogs the decisions made by a court in order of their publication). Digests are ideal for paralegal researchers who are not looking for a particular case, but a particular subject matter.
3. Annotations – These are comments that summarize, analyze, or criticize a particular case, law, statute, regulations, or group of any of the above in the interest of categorization and simplification. Sometimes, annotations can be published in a standing publications, and will contain information to how to reference the text of the actual laws, cases, and so on that it is reference to.
4. Shepard’s Citations – Shepherd’s Citations are listings of citations that are accredited to a particular case or statute, that help provide sources of authority to anyone researching a particular law or case. While these bound editions are still published, they are becoming rarer and rarer. While there are many publications that provide services similar to Shepherd’s, the method of cataloguing is so synonymous with the publisher that “shepherding” has become a verb in legal circles describing the process of checking legal citations.
5. Loose Leaf Services – Also known as subject matter services, are publications that are devoted to providing consistent, updated information on a particular case or statute, especially on ones that are subject to ongoing interpretation throughout the legal system or discussion in legal media.
6. Legal Periodical Literature – Legal periodical literature as a general term refers to material published as a manner of legal discourse, usually in the form or legal article, essay, treatise, court cases, decisions, and so forth. Hard copies of this index are published every three years, though for the most part, like many other indexes and catalogs, there most up-to-date presence can be found online.
7. Legal Encyclopedia – Legal encyclopedia’s contain comprehensive, objective articles, often listed alphabetically, that describe particular legal terms, concepts, subjects, figures, and cases in comprehensive detail. Usually, legal encyclopedias, even electronic ones, will be update annually; many published in hard copy often tend to be devoted to particular elements of the law, like medical law, environmental law, etc.
8. Legal Treatises – Legal treatises are publications, that can be one volume or several, that are works that are generally centered around a central point or argument and incorporating research and smaller arguments and studies as part of the larger work. In general, they should be seen, in essence, as books on the law written to a central purpose.
9. Phone and mail – Most states and many non profit legal groups offer free hotlines or free email services designed to provide legal information as a courtesy to the public. Typically, these services are offered to lay people who are trying to figure out their rights or courses to legal action available to them, and not necessarily for comprehensive legal researchers, but paralegals can find them to be very useful means for finding information or having particular legal questions answered quickly.