What Are Secondary Law Sources
Secondary sources may also include tables listing primary authorities, as well as references to where authorities are discussed in the text. This can be useful if the researcher has a quote on a particular source of law on which he is interested in further analysis. These tables are usually also located at the end of a volume or sentence and may be called a case law table or reference table. Secondary sources can influence a legal decision, but do not have the supervisory or binding authority of primary sources. The secondary resources discussed in this guide fall into six main categories: Here is a section that deals with authorship and originality. Which primary authorities are discussed in this section? According to this treatise, what makes a work “original” in terms of authorship? A good place to start most research projects is with a secondary source. A secondary source is not the law. It is a comment on the law. A secondary source can be used for three different purposes: it can tell you about the law, tell you the primary law, or serve as a persuasive authority. Few sources do these three works well.
Important classes of secondary legal sources include: treatises, journal articles, legal encyclopedias, ALR annotations, reformulations, and loose-leaf services. This guide provides a brief description of these sources, please also see our secondary sources tutorial and our article search tutorial for more information. Some printed secondary sources are organized chronologically, but most are organized by topic. A legal encyclopedia is arranged alphabetically by general subject; a specialized treatise is organized into a logical sequence of sub-themes; A series of practices can be organized according to general topics and then according to specific sub-themes. Going through the table of contents can be a quick way to identify the most important topics covered by the source. A secondary set of sources consisting of a large number of volumes can have different levels of table of contents, similar to a legal code: a table of contents for the whole set, a table of contents for a chapter, or even more detailed levels. Secondary sources based on articles, such as ALRs or legal encyclopedias, usually have a table of contents at the beginning of an article. If secondary sources don`t really establish the law, why should they care? Legal encyclopedias are the most common secondary sources. They have more breadth than depth and can therefore provide an introduction to a variety of legal topics. If the researcher is not familiar with an area of law and needs a list of key key authorities in that field as a starting point for further research on that topic, legal encyclopedias are a solid place to begin their research.
They are, as one would expect from the term “encyclopedia”, arranged alphabetically by subject. American Jurisprudence 2d (Am. Jur. 2d) and the Corpus Juris Secundum (C.J.S.) are two of the best-known legal encyclopedias. Some states have jurisdiction-specific legal encyclopedias, such as Ohio Case Law 3d. Law students and aspiring law scholars are likely to find a wide range of secondary sources. In the following sections, we briefly describe some of the types of secondary sources most commonly used by legal researchers. Figure 6.2.1 provides an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each type of secondary source described. Find an appropriate secondary source for each individual legal issue. Given the raw size of resources that the term encompasses, it may be useful to define “secondary sources” first. One of the most useful features of secondary sources is that they direct researchers to primary authorities and sometimes to other secondary authorities on the subject. An ALR article may summarize cases on a narrow topic in different jurisdictions; A treaty not only summarizes cases, but also provides a detailed analysis of opinions on a particular legal issue; A series of court-specific practices will highlight critical cases on this issue in that state.
For underdeveloped areas of law, a scientific paper can refer the researcher to a multitude of excellent papers. This scientist probably conducted months, if not years, of research, identifying the most relevant primary authorities and consulting the most authoritative secondary sources on the subject. In short, because secondary sources reflect how the law is perceived, they are really important for a fuller understanding of the law. The reformulations were originally developed by legal experts to reformulate the law and, currently, to describe what the law should look like. In both cases, the reformulations are very persuasive, although they cannot describe the law very well. They can serve as adequate legal researchers.