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SJD Guide to Law Library Services

SJD Guide to Law Library Services


Welcome to the Harvard Law Library's guide to services for Harvard SJD students.

The staff of the Harvard Law Library, including research librarians, will return to working in our offices in the library in in early August 2021.

For the latest information about when the library will be open to in-person visits from members of the HLS community, including SJD students, please check the law library's main website,

Services During the COVID-19 Lockdown

We appreciate your patience as we return to providing on-site library services to the HLS community in August 2021.  The COVID-19 lockdown has had an impact on our ability to provide materials and services to SJD students, and some of those impacts may be felt even after we return to working in person. 

The two sites listed below have the most up-to-date information about the status of our services.

Research Assistance

Our research librarians are staffing a virtual reference desk during business hours (10am-6pm eastern, Monday-Friday).  For more information, visit

If you have a research question related to Historical and Special Collections, send an email to

Other Ways to Get Help

Liaisons and Contacts

SJD Research Librarian Liaisons

If you are a current SJD student, and your name is not paired with a librarian in the list below, please send an email, with your dissertation topic, to Jennifer Allison


Library Administration

  • Jonathan Zittrain Edit/Delete Quick Stats
    Vice Dean, Library And Information Resources, Faculty Co-Director, Berkman Center For Internet And Society, Professor Of Computer Science, SEAS
    Areeda Hall 511
  • Jocelyn Kennedy Edit/Delete Quick Stats
    Executive Director
    Areeda Hall 518

Whom to Ask

Service Contact
Access, Circulation, Library Information
Bloomberg Law Database
Database Access and Passwords
Document Delivery (FRIDA)
Historical and Special Collections
Instructional Technology Visit
InterLibrary Loan (ILL)
Purchase Requests Your Research Librarian Liaison
Renewing Library Materials
Requesting Library Materials
Research Help Your Research Librarian Liaison or
Westlaw Database



HOLLIS is where you can track your library loans, renew items, check due dates and more. After logging in, click your name in the top right corner, then "My Account."

Borrowing Materials 

Circulation and access services are provided at the circulation desk at the entrance of Langdell Hall. If you have questions about borrowing, renewing, or requesting library materials, staff can assist you at that circulation desk, or over the phone at 617-495-3455.

Borrowing privileges are limited to current members of the Harvard community with a Harvard ID or those with a Fletcher, Officer Dependent or Spouse Special Borrowers card. Harvard Library materials are generally loaned for a semester at a time. Specific loan period details are noted with the item listing in HOLLIS.

All books are subject to recall after they have been borrowed for 14 days.

Periodicals, journals, primary source materials, and looseleafs do not circulate. Approximately 20% of the Library collection actually circulates.

To check out a book or other item from Harvard libraries go to the library in which the item is located. Consult individual library listings for borrowing and access policies.

Finding Books at Harvard

Use HOLLIS to find books and other materials available at the Harvard University libraries, including the Law School Library.

The Library is rearranging the Langdell and ILS stacks. Check the Guide to Finding Items at HLSL to find each country’s current location and general call number locations.

Finding Books Beyond Harvard

Recommendations for Purchases & Gifts to the Library

The library encourages you to recommend new and important older titles to add to the collection. Please send as much information as you have about recommendations or donations to J. Bridget Reischer ( or your liaison.  You can also fill out the Purchase Request form online.


Preserving and Citing Materials on the Internet

Because links often change or become broken (known as “link-rot”), Bluebook's recommended method for citing on the web includes the use of an archiving service. is a free, easy-to-use archiving tool developed here at the Harvard Law School Library. It captures an archive of the page and gives you back a 'Perma Link' to be used in your citation. 

Document Delivery (FRIDA) Services


If you have questions about our document delivery services, email

What is FRIDA?

FRIDA (Faculty Research & Information Delivery Assistance) is part of the Law Library's Faculty Research & Scholarly Support Department (FRSS). It is the primary service for faculty members and SJD’s to obtain delivery of known documents from the Law Library or other sources.

FRIDA is available Monday through Friday, 9 AM - 1 PM and 2PM - 5PM. FRIDA is closed on holidays.

Note: Materials requested after 3:00 p.m. and requests received during a weekend or holiday will be processed on the next business day.


Submitting Requests

Submit FRIDA requests via the Request Form or by any of the following methods:

Make sure that your request includes:

  • Your name and HLS email address (note: requests submitted from a non-HLS email address may be flagged as spam)
  • As much and as accurate bibliographic information as possible (if the citation is incorrect, often we cannot retrieve the item)
  • Any crucial deadlines

Materials available from FRIDA

At Harvard:
FRIDA will scan and retrieve books from libraries on the Cambridge and Allston campuses.*  
Physical books are delivered to the hold shelf in Langdell for you to pick up at your convenience.

Outside of Harvard:
For materials not owned by Harvard, SJDs should submit requests through Scan & Deliver, Borrow Direct or ILL.  Find more information about which option to choose here.


How long will it take?

FRIDA makes every effort to fill requests within 2 business days, but turnaround time may vary if there is a high volume of requests, if an item is not available in the stacks or if we need to get something through Interlibrary Loan.

We will notify you if there are problems with a request.

*Law, Widener, Divinity, Cabot, Gutman, Baker, Tozzer, Yenching and the Kennedy School libraries.


Scan & Deliver

Need a book chapter from Widener? An article from MCZ? Use Scan & Deliver to save a trip by requesting their material be scanned and emailed to you. 

Scan & Deliver, a free electronic document delivery service of the Harvard University libraries, allows Harvard faculty, students and staff to request scanned copies of chapters and articles from materials held at the Harvard Depository and participating Harvard libraries. When viewing an item in Hollis or Hollis Classic, initiate a request by clicking the Scan & Deliver link located in the Holdings or Availability portion of its record. A one-time registration is required for first-time users. 

Log in to your Scan & Deliver account to track filled and outstanding requests. 

Please note the following: 

  • Requests may be made for personal use only and are limited to a single chapter or article up to 100-pages
  • Requests are fulfilled within 4-days and include email updates
  • Reserve, course reserve, microfilm and already checked-out items are not eligible
  • Request made for multiple chapters from a single book will be rejected
  • No more than 2 requests per day per library
  • No Rush Service

Scan & Deliver is just one of the Harvard Library's suite of services, providing Harvard researchers with a full range of options for locating and requesting materials. Please contact the Library Circulation Desk, 617-495-3455, for more information.

Electronic Resources

Major Legal and Law-Related Databases

For a list of databases available via Harvard Law School Library, please visit our Find a Database page (with links to and descriptions of frequently used databases at HLS) or contact the reference desk if the database you are looking for is not already listed.

Finding Databases at Harvard

Many other electronic resources and databases are available from other Harvard libraries on the Databases page.  You can filter the databases by keyword, title or subject including regional and cultural studies databases.  If you attempt to access some of these remotely, you may be prompted for your Harvard credentials.


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"

Current Awareness Services

New articles and working papers

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.  


SmartCILP provides a weekly email listing new citations from journals and on topics of interest to you. The citations are drawn from the CILP database. Please contact the Reference Desk, 617-495-4516, for information on subscribing to SmartCILP.


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.

Google Scholar

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.



Through HeinOnline's MyHein, you may set alerts for tables of contents from journals or search queries.  See MyHein's User Guide for more information.

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 Create Search Alert link on the 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:

  1. Look up the journal in Hollis (limit to journals as resource type and then limit to online on the right hand side after you run your search).  
  2. A list of records that have links to the full text of the journal will be displayed.
  3. Select the database that has the most current issues and locate the journal.
  4. Look for a link to set up an alert.

Sometimes, the links in the alerts will not work properly. Try using the Lean Library extension or the Check Harvard Library bookmark to get the appropriate URL for Harvard access.

Alternatively, you can try inserting just after the .com or .org and before the first slash in the URL. For example,     ​

becomes     ​

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: 

New Books at Harvard

You can generate alerts for new results for searches run in Hollis when you are logged in.  Look for the "Save Search" button at the bottom of the filters down the left side of the results page.

Westlaw Alerts

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. 

Lexis Alerts

You can set up a search to be run periodically on Lexis and have results delivered to you. Additionally, with Shepard's Alert changes to Shepard's reports for your authority can be sent to you automatically.  See instructions for setting up alerts on Lexis Advance.

BNA Alerts

BNA publications give you access to cases, laws and regulations as well as news and analysis on a large number of topics. Highlights and headlines can be delivered to your email inbox daily.

You can do e-mail keyword alerts from many of the BNA publications through Lexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg.


Research Guide on Publishing

Please look at our research guide on Publishing in Law Reviews and Journals for a more comprehensive overview of this topic.


SJD students are entitled to up to 50 submissions ($325) per academic year during their time at HLS.

Please see the library's tutorial and quiz to obtain a Scholastica account  (HarvardKey required)

Study Plans & Reading Lists

Select Sources for Creating Reading Lists

Find & Use Data

Making & Using Data

Empirical Research Overview

If your goal is to use statistics in your research, review information at HLS support for Empirical Research Services.

Empirical Research Classes

Harvard offers a variety of empirical courses.

The Harvard Empirical Legal Studies Series offers a variety of events.

For self-guided education, consider some of the resources here:

Empirical Legal Studies

Empirical Legal Studies uses data analysis to study the legal system. Empirical Legal Studies is comprised of the body of scholarly research in this field, the methods employed to conduct this research, and the application of this research.

Additional Help

Check out these law library research guides:

For help in finding data, contact:

Finding Data

No matter your relationship to numbers and charts, many researchers will want to find and use data to illustrate and support points made. 

A good general place to start looking for data is the law library's Statistical and Data-Related Resources research guide.

For the novice numbers person, here are easy-to-use resources for finding charts:

For the intermediate to advanced numbers person, there are a variety of data sources that provide replication datasets:

More Data

Literature Review

Conduct a literature review to help you identify data made or cited by others.

Browsing Print

For ideas on what data may be useful, browse the HLS Library Reference collection of statistical materials in the range of H61 to HA4675.

More Data Resources

Researching U.S. Law

A Brief Introduction to U.S. Legal Research

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 U.S. Legal System

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.

Three Branches of Government 

Under the Constitution, there are three branches of the federal government, and each is endowed with unique powers:

  • The Legislative Branch is comprised of two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is responsible for enacting legislation.
  • The Executive Branch is headed by the President, who signs legislation enacted by Congress.  This action creates binding federal statutes. The Executive Branch also includes federal administrative agencies, which are responsible for promulgating regulations pursuant to the powers granted to them in federal statutes.
  • The Judicial Branch hears cases to determine the constitutional validity of federal laws and to resolve legal disputes involving federal law between parties.


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.

Primary Authority: Cases

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.  

  • Federal trial courts are the United States District Courts. Each District Court serves a region, such as the District of Massachusetts, the Central District of California, or the Southern District of New York. 
  • The trial court has various other names in the states, such as the Superior Court in California, the Superior or District Court in Massachusetts, and, confusingly, the Supreme Court in New York. 

Appeals from the trial-level courts are heard in the appropriate appellate court.

  • The federal appellate court system is organized into twelve circuits. Massachusetts is in the First Circuit, New York is in the Second Circuit, and California is in the Ninth Circuit. Each circuit has its own United States Court of Appeals.  
  • Each state also has its own system of appeals courts. These courts hear cases directly from the state trial courts.

At the top of each system is the highest court.  

  • In the federal system, this is the United States Supreme Court.  
  • Each state has its own supreme court, which generally has the final word on the application of the laws in that state. However, the U.S. Supreme Court can still decide cases on the validity of state laws under the U.S. Constitution.

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.

Researching Case Law

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:

  • Official reporters, published by the government, generally include only the text of the judicial opinion.
  • Unofficial reporters are published by legal publishing companies. In addition to the text of the opinion, they additional content to help the researcher understand what the case is about and find related opinions.


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:

  • Westlaw's citator is called KeyCite.
  • In LexisNexis, the citator service is called Shepard's (the term "Shepardizing" a case comes from this).

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.

Primary Authority: Statutes

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.

Researching Statutes

There are two type of statutory publications:

  • Statutes are published chronologically, in the order in which they were enacted. For federal statues, the name of this publication is the United States Statutes at Large.
  • Statutes are also "codified." This means that all of the statutes that are currently in force are organized by topic. The United States Code contains all of the federal codified statutes. It is divided into 51 titles, each covering a distinct area of law. Each title has multiple sections.

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.  

Secondary Authority

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.

  • A legal dictionary defines a legal word or phrase in a few sentences.  
  • Legal encyclopedias define a specific legal concept in a few paragraphs.
  • An article in a legal periodical (called a law journal or a law review) provides analysis of a legal topic, generally in around 25-75 pages. Articles are written by law students, law professors, practicing attorneys, and judges.
  • A legal treatise provides book-lengthy analysis of a legal subject.

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

Legal Citation

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 

U.S. Legal Research: Steps

Once you have a topic, it is recommended that you conduct your legal research project in this order.

1.  Look up any unfamiliar legal words or phrases in a legal dictionary, such as Black's Law Dictionary.  Note citations to any relevant statutes and judicial opinions.

2.  Learn some basic information about your topic from a legal encyclopedia, such as American Jurisprudence or Corpus Juris Secundum, again noting citations to relevant statutes and judicial opinions.

3.  Once you are ready for more in-depth anaylsis of your topic, try looking for relevant law review articles and treatises, making sure to continue to keep track of citations to relevant statutes and judicial opinions.

4.  Use the annotated code to research the statutes that were cited in the secondary sources.

5.  Use the annotations from the annotated code, in addition to citations you collected earlier, to find relevant judicial opinions.

6.  Make sure the judicial opinions you find are still good law by using citators.

Grants Info

Getting Grants

Read and reread everything:

  • Simple details such as careful editing can make or break an application.

Discuss the why: 

  • It’s important to understand the value your project will have for your own community and also for the greater community.  It’s likewise important to describe the impact of the project in the context of the grant.  Stay within the scope of the request for grant applications.  Think about what is happening locally and show broader knowledge.

Get to know the funding organization:

  • Look at former successful grant recipients.
  • Look at funder goals and don’t lose sight of these goals.  Reviewers are looking at factors like significance; people represented; and whether the project is cost-effective.  To this end, the budget must be realistic. Use a conservative estimate to make sure you arrive with enough money.  Having a low estimate is not your best strategy. 
  • Reach out to the program officer to ensure the fit is a good one.  When you contact the officer:  (a) send an abstract of your project; (b) communicate interest in funding; and (c) get feedback and tips.  Remember that the officer is very busy. 
  • Show that you will be a cheerleader for the project; show enthusiasm and share that with others.  Promote and disseminate ideas that flow from the grant, including promoting the granting organization.  Be open with communication always to signal your transparency.
  • Ask questions, especially if something is unclear or if you are unsure of an application detail.

Other thoughts on grant writing:

  • The current trend in grants is collaboration or partnerships.  SJD students seeking funding will want to consider working with others across Harvard, at other institutions (academic and otherwise), including in other geographic regions.
  • Large grants require a principal investigator.  This is often a faculty member.
  • There are great differences in culture among disciplines.  For example, grants in the humanities can work very differently than grants for the Medical School or Law School.

Finding Grants

There are an overwhelming amount of resources for finding grants. 

One of the best places to start is the Harvard

This GSAS site allows for easy searching of grants for graduate students, using a variety of parameters, such as geography and citizenship status.

Another recommended place to start is the Harvard FAS site for grant support:

The FAS site has resources and guides for searching six grants databases.

Three of these include:

On this part of the FAS site, you can also browse funding agency by type, for example, government agency or private funder.

There are many specific databases for locating funding opportunities.  Here are two in the area of Human Rights:

Researching Employers

Academic Jobs

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.

Corporate Jobs

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.

Government, Nonprofit & NGO Jobs

If you are interested in finding a job at a nonprofit, NGO or governmental agency, try these websites.

Law Firm Jobs

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.

Getting Help

Contact Us!

  Ask Us! Submit a question or search our knowledge base.

Chat with us! Chat  with a librarian (HLS only)


 Contact Historical & Special Collections at

 Meet with Us  Schedule an online consult with a Librarian

Hours  Library Hours

Classes View Training Calendar or Request an Insta-Class

 Text Ask a Librarian, 617-702-2728