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Prepare to Practice: Advancing Your Legal Research

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This guide will walk researchers though several of the more advanced legal research concepts, particularly those that many students encounter in their summer employment or when starting new jobs. These topics are not comprehensive and those interested in a deeper exploration, may consider taking the Advanced Legal Research course.

State Law Comparisons

50 State Surveys

Fifty state surveys help researchers compare issues of state law across multiple jurisdictions. Often these surveys will contain citations to the state law that covers the relevant issue.

 
Want to check out the content mentioned in the video above? See: 
 

For more information on how to find and compare state law check out our Comparing State Laws and Constitutions Guide:

Please keep in mind that 50 state surveys are secondary materials, and that not every legal subject will be covered by these resources.

Legislative History

Finding Federal Legislative Histories

Legislative histories can help you understand the motivation behind specific language in a law or a bill. Often federal legislative history information is already compiled and available for researchers to use.

 
Want to check out the content mentioned in the video above? See: 

For more information on how to find a legislative history if it has not been compiled yet, check out our Federal Legislative History Research Guide:

Once you've gathered your legislative history materials, use the following lesson to learn how to interpret the materials you found:

State Legislative History

For state legislative histories, the process may be more complicated.  Each state generates different materials in the lawmaking process and their procedures for storing those materials differ.  It is important to start your research with a legislative history research guide for the state in question.  These guides will typically provide a step-by-step approach to finding legislative history information in your jurisdiction.

Federal Regulation

Intro to Regulatory Materials

Federal regulation is important in a number of areas of law. There are great resources to help you get started when searching for federal regulatory material.

 
For more information about Administrative Law Research see our guide:

Regulation is particularly prevalent in certain areas of law. Consider using the following guides if they are relevant for you: 

Court Dockets

Locating Docket Materials

Dockets provide information that never makes it into case decisions, and can help researchers learn about cases that were decided, cases in which a decision was never issued, and cases that are currently in progress.

 

Want to check out the content mentioned in the video above? See:

For more information see our research guide on:

To learn more about PACER visit:

Sample Forms

Locating Forms and Drafting Tools

Lawyers in practice often rely on model forms and common language that has been proven to hold up under legal scrutiny, when creating instruments such as contracts, wills, and agreements. Tailoring pre-existing functional language to your needs, may be more appropriate than unique expression in these circumstances.

 

While many platforms offer sample forms and agreements, it is wise to approach these documents with caution, and stick with well-vetted sources whenever possible. Want to check out the content mentioned in the video above? See: 

For more information see our research guide on:

For more legal forms by state visit:

Current Awareness

Current Awareness Sources

Keeping up to date in the area of your interest can be both important to your work and to developing relationships with legal practitioners. Choosing a few current awareness sources that you check regularly can be a great way to stay informed.

 

Want to check out the content mentioned in the video above? See:

To learn more about law blawgs that may be of interest to you visit:

Getting Help

Contact Us!

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

Chat with us! Chat  with a librarian.

Email: research@law.harvard.edu

 Contact Historical & Special Collections at specialc@law.harvard.edu

 Meet with Us  Schedule an online consult with a Librarian

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Classes View Training Calendar or Request an Insta-Class

 Text Ask a Librarian, 617-702-2728

 

CC License

CC License

Creative Commons License

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

You may reproduce any part of it for noncommercial purposes as long as credit is included and it is shared in the same manner.