While all lawyers serve as advocates, legal researchers advocating for political or social change require a unique set of skills and benefit especially from particular resources. This guide will help direct you to resources best suited for political and social advocacy work.
Evaluating sources is a crucial step in any research process. When researching for social or political advocacy work, you may be relying on a diverse set of resources, from established databases to non-profit organization websites. Before you begin using a source, it is crucial to ensure it contains accurate, useful, factual and reliable information.
Print material is hard to alter once it is printed. Not so with online sources.
Click on the "About" page of a website. Google the organization or publisher. Try to locate a date for an online article, or look in the footer of the webpage to see when it was last updated.
Many fee-based databases used by lawyers are legitimate, as are many free resources. But not all are. Use the sources recommended elsewhere in this guide (we've vetted them for you). For sources you find elsewhere, apply the steps listed above as rigorously to online sources as to print.
Check out Harvard Library's Fake News Research guide.
If you aren't sure if you should be using a source, Ask Us!
Using legal research tools from a mobile device, such as a cell phone can be slightly unwieldy if you're not using the right tools for the job. Most legal research platforms that you are already familiar with have mobile websites or applications such as the following:
More places to find great applications dedicated to accessing legal information on the go:
Certain mobile applications such as Law Stack even allow you to access legal materials on your device while in airplane mode, making them accessible in the absence of internet service. Once loaded into the Google Drive app documents that you have previously uploaded can also be accessed later, without wireless connectivity.
The basic LawStack app is free. Paid apps are available for sections of the USC and CFR frequently used by practitioners, selected state codes and practice area guides. Most of these apps cost about $30. View all LawStack apps.
If you are in an area where the power is out all together, but you have access to print legal materials, it's time to hit the books. Don't be intimidated--there are tools built in to help you:
Also, did you know that you can get research help over the phone? Call the Harvard Law School Library Reference Desk at (617) 495-4516.
Taking a trip out of town? There are law libraries all over the country that can help you even if you're away from home. Washburn University School of Law created a list of public State, Court, and County Law Libraries all over the country.
The President generates a wide range of documents in the performance of his/her duties. Executive orders, are issued regarding the operation and director of federal agencies falling under the executive branch of government. Presidential executive orders that have general applicability and legal effect are published daily in the Federal Register, just like agency regulations. Unlike regulations, there is no notice period required for the issuance of executive orders, although drafts are sometimes circulated.
Executive memoranda are similar to Executive Orders. They are issued to govern and direct federal agencies, however memoranda are less formal and are not required to be published in the Federal Register.
Executive materials are found in Title 3 of the CFR. Presidential Documents are found in the back of each day’s Federal Register. In addition, the White House website offers a great amount of information and access to Executive documents.
One source of regulatory information is the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which is located within the Office of Management and Budget (of the White House).
OIRA carries out several important Executive functions, including reviewing federal regulations, reducing paperwork burdens, and overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs.
To find federal regulatory information, like the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions and Regulatory Plan, as well as current and past OIRA regulatory reviews, visit RegInfo.gov.
Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents
Public Papers of the Presidents
For a full guide on how to access administrative law materials see the:
For LegiStorm Pro contact the Harvard Kennedy School.
For PoliticoPro access contact Tricia Farr and request an account.
Tools such as Leadership Library give you the ability to locate contact information for legislators and their staff and policy advisors, build lists of elected officials based on established criteria - such as who is up for reelection, and search for elected officials service on specific committees.
Legistorm will provide you with easy information on Town Hall Meetings in your area and Hearings, as well as access to financial disclosures for elected officials and staff. For more information about Campaign Finance visit the Federal Election Commission's page on Campaign Finance Reports and Data.
PoliticoPro and Legistorm contain daily briefings, newsletters, and feeds that will help you keep up to date on politics and policy.
PoliticoPro also has a number of subject specific policy reports to help you follow subject specific areas such as: employment & immigration, healthcare, energy, education, defense, cybersecurity, budget & appropriations, and more.
Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) publications have many newsletters and daily briefings that will help you stay up to date on topics you care about. A few examples of publications that might be of interest include:
Sometimes when you're interested in a rapidly developing area of news or law the best way to stay informed is to create an alert. Alerts can keep you updated on the status of a news story, pending legislation, an active case, or a relevant person. To learn more about how to set up alerts see the guide on Current Awareness Services or set up a Google Alert. For policy alerts consider setting up an alert with Legistorm or PoliticoPro.