Welcome to the Harvard Law School Library. This guide lists many of the services available to you as an HLS SJD student. For questions large and small, always feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Research librarians are available for drop in assistance without an appointment Monday-Thursday 11-6 and Friday 11-5 in the Reference alcove on the third floor, south end of the library. We are also available by chat and email Monday-Thursday 10-6 and Friday 10-5.
Our Ask a Librarian page provides contact information, current hours, a consultation request form, and searchable Frequently Asked Questions. See http://asklib.law.harvard.edu/.
As an SJD, you have a research librarian assigned as your primary point of contact. You can reach out using the generic contacts above to be connected with them, or contact them directly.
The Historical and Special Collections department expertly cares for and provides research assistance in the use of rare and historical materials as well as our manuscript collections. Please reach out to them by emailing email@example.com.
Questions about library hours, materials, book borrowing, renewals, etc can be directed to our Access and Circulation department. They have a service desk in the main lobby and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a page explaining How to Borrow, Renew and Return Library Materials at Harvard Libraries.
|Access, Circulation, Library Information
|Database Access and Passwords
|Borrow Direct (fast ILL through 13-member consortium)
|Scan and Deliver (requests via HOLLIS)
|Directions for Scan and Deliver
|Historical and Special Collections
|Printers, Copiers and Scanners (at HLS Library)
|Printers Scanners & Other Equipment
|InterLibrary Loan (ILL)
|ILL/Scan & Deliver
|Document delivery: FRIDA
|Publishing Support and Journal Submissions
|Your Liaison or Purchase Request form
|Renewing Library Materials
|Bloomberg Law, Lexis, Westlaw Accounts
|Your Liaison or email@example.com
|Book a Space EMS (Student Express Room Template)
A wonderful benefit of pursuing a doctorate at HLS is full access to the array of libraries and library spaces all over campus. These pages help introduce the study spaces and library locations available throughout the Harvard Libraries.
As an SJD student, you have access to a range of services to retrieve items from other libraries on our campus and from libraries of other research institutions.
Research Services may be able to help you with items not obtainable through HOLLIS Request, Borrow Direct, Scan and Deliver or ILL.
Please note that we cannot retrieve: Harvard Business Review cases.
The library encourages you to recommend new and important older titles to add to the collection. In certain cases, entire databases can be licensed if necessary for your research and scholarship. Please send as much information as you have about recommendations or donations to your liaison or fill out the Purchase Request form online.
In addition to the selected e-book collections listed below, Harvard Library subscribes to over 500 other ebook collections. On the Harvard Databases page search by title, subject or keyword, then refine your results by content type "E-books and texts"
Perma.cc is a free tool to preserve links to public websites referenced in your work from changing or disappearing. The HLS graduate program strongly encourages its use. As an HLS SJD, you may have a sponsored Perma account which will allow you to make unlimited Perma links.
You may request an account through your liaison, or the links below.
Zotero is a research management software that is easy to use and will help you manage citations. The software itself is free, and Harvard pays for unlimited storage. Zotero will produce consistent citations but does not produce perfect Bluebook format automatically. It is still a good tool to track articles and books in folders and note down points of interest in each. This page About Citation Tools has more information about Harvard-supported citation management and any upcoming trainings. This guide to Zotero provides installation information and explains incorporate Harvard-specific set ups.
The Bluebook is the main citation manual for law in the U.S. If you plan to submit papers for publication or your SJD supervisor requests it, you will need to use this system of citation. The publisher does not allow the library to provide institutional online access. Consequently, you will need to purchase a print copy, use a Bluebook available at the library, or purchase an online version for a 1 to 3 year subscription.
Scholastica Submission support started in 2021-22. Under this program:
Numerous options are available for keeping up with newly published literature, including those listed below. Please contact your librarian liaison or the Reference Desk for information about customizing journal alerts to meet your current awareness needs.
Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP)
Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP), updated weekly, offers tables of contents for newly published law periodicals, tracking over 500 major law reviews and journals.
EconPapers provides access to RePEc (Research Papers in Economics), the world's largest collection of on-line economics working papers, journal articles, new titles and software.
Any search on Google Scholar allows you to create an email alert for any new articles matching that search. Perform your search, then look to the bottom of the filters on the left side of the page.
You can also follow certain authors if they have a Google Scholar Profile. Click on the name of an author underlined in a Google Scholar citation. You will be directed to that author's personal page. Click on the blue "Follow" button to track that author.
SmartCILP provides customized weekly emails from Current Index to Legal Periodicals. You may subscribe to SmartCILP through MyHein. See this page with instructions.
LegalTrac Search Alert
LegalTrac Search Alerts allow you to create email alerts and RSS feeds of searches run in LegalTrac. Email alerts can be sent daily, weekly or monthly. After running a search in LegalTrac, create an alert using the Search Alert link in the upper right.
IngentaConnect, a database of the tables of contents of more than 28,000 multi-disciplinary journals, allows you to create a profile in which you designate journals of interest to you and receive regular email alerts of the table of contents of new issues.
1) register as an individual
2) select My Profile
3) Create new publication alerts and follow the instructions.
Journal Alerts through Publisher/Vendor Platforms
Many journal publishers and vendor platforms provide alert services. Try the following strategy to discover whether an alert service is available for a journal of interest to you:
Alternatively, you can try inserting .ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu just after the .com or .org and before the first slash in the URL. For example,
Please contact the Reference Desk if both of these workarounds fail.
SSRN Social Science Research Network
SSRN is dedicated to rapid dissemination of social science research and provides an email alert service in several specialized areas, including law, management, accounting, economics and politics. Through Harvard's institutional subscription, you may create e-mail alerts to a range of subject matters and series in various networks on SSRN. When you register for an SSRN, make sure you affiliate yourself with Harvard's institutional subscription. Ask your librarian liaison or contact the reference desk if you need assistance.
Law Commons (BePress)
Law Commons is a network of law school repositories on the BePress Digital Commons platform. You may follow specific authors, institutions and subjects that interest you. Look for the blue "FOLLOW" buttons:
Within Westlaw, you can set up a search to be run regularly and have the results delivered to you. You can also create an alert from a search you have already done. Look for the bell icon.
Set up a KeyCite Alert to be informed when new materials are added to the KeyCite report for the authority you are citating. Westlaw offers documentation about its alerting services.
These resources will help you to find academic job postings, research potential employers and keep up-to-date on scholarship in your field. You may also want to look at the career portals for universities of interest to you, as jobs are often also posted on those sites.
Whether you are interested in working as in-house counsel or in working in a different type of corporate job, these databases will help you to research potential employers.
If you are interested in finding a job at a nonprofit, NGO or governmental agency, try these websites.
Those interested in working at a law firm will want to start their research with these resources. You may also want to consult the resources provided by the HLS Office of Career Services.
This section of the guide provides a brief overview of the process for researching an issue of U.S. law. It is intended to introduce you to important concepts and terms without going into too much detail.
The United States has a common law legal system. Applicable sources of law include both legislation (statutes) and judicial opinions (cases).
The United States Constitution provides the framework for the U.S. legal system. It also guarantees that certain powers, rights, and liberties, for both the states and the people, are protected.
Under the Constitution, there are three branches of the federal government, and each is endowed with unique powers:
In addition to the federal government, each individual U.S. state also has its own government that creates its own law. As is the case with the federal government, states create law through legislation enacted by the state legislature and judicial opinions issued by judges in state courts.
If a state law directly conflicts with a federal law, the state law is preempted by the federal law.
If you are doing comparative research in which the U.S. is one of the countries, it is important to understand that, in the U.S. common law legal system, certain areas of law are generally the exclusive domain of the federal government. These include, but are not limited to, bankruptcy, federal taxation, immigration, and intellectual property.
Likewise, some areas are, in general, a matter of state law. Examples of these include property law, corporate law, and family law. In the areas of law that are generally governed by the states, there are some common law principles that apply generally in every state. So, for example, if you would like to research divorce law in the U.S., you will need to look at both the common law principles and the laws of the individual states.
The United States has both federal courts and state courts. Each court system is organized in a three-tiered structure.
The court of first instance for almost all cases is the trial court.
Appeals from the trial-level courts are heard in the appropriate appellate court.
At the top of each system is the highest court.
In the U.S. legal system, law created by the judiciary has the same legal stature as statutory law. The idea of legal precedent is also very important. Under the principle of stare decisis, opinions from higher courts are binding on lower courts, and must be followed.
Judicial opinions are published in chronological order in case law reporters. These are available in print and electronically.
There are two types of case law reporters:
A citator is a tool that you can use to learn whether a judicial opinion is still good law. This is important because judicial opinions can be overruled by higher courts. The U.S. Supreme Court can also overrule its own previous decisions.
The two major citator services are part of larger subscription legal databases:
When you are looking at a case in either of these databases, there will be a symbol at the top of the screen that indicates its citator status. In both databases, a red symbol indicates that the case is no longer good on at least one point of law. This does not mean the whole case is no longer valid. Instead, the researcher will have to read subsequent opinions to determine the exact point(s) of law on which the earlier case has been overruled.
Legislative activity basically works the same way in federal and state governments. An identical version of a proposed version of a statute, called a bill, is passed in both legislative houses. Then, the bill is signed by the executive. At that point, the bill becomes law.
A simple graphic representation of the process for a bill becoming a law is available here.
There are two type of statutory publications:
Annotated codes, which are published by major legal publishing companies, are great for research. They include the statutory text and helpful resources, such as citations to relevant journal articles, legal encyclopedias, and judicial opinions.
It is best to start your legal research with secondary sources, because they can help you easily find and understand the law.
Types of secondary sources are listed below, in order of least depth to most depth.
Each type of secondary source, in addition to providing explanations and analysis, cites relevant judicial opinions and statutes.
The Harvard Law Library has a separate research guide that explains in much more detail how to use secondary sources for legal research. Check it out at http://guides.library.harvard.edu/secondary.
It is generally required that citations to legal sources in academic documents be in the format required by the Bluebook. The current Bluebook is the 21st edition (published in 2020).
You can borrow a copy of the Bluebook to use for up to two hours (in-library use only) from the law library's circulation desk. If you will be using it frequently, you may want to purchase your own copy. You can purchase a physical copy, access to the electronic version, or both. Note that the law school does not provide access to the online Bluebook for students.
From time to time, the law library provides Bluebook training classes for foreign law students. See our research training calendar for upcoming classes. We also have a research guide at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/law/bluebook
Once you have a topic, it is recommended that you conduct your legal research project in this order.
Chat with us! Chat with a librarian (HLS only)
Contact Historical & Special Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet with Us Schedule an online consult with a Librarian
Hours Library Hours