Secondary Legal Resources

AuthorTed Tjaden
The goal of legal research is to f‌ind relevant legislation or judicial deci-
sions (primary legal resources) that apply to the particular legal prob-
lem being researched bec ause only legislation or judicial decisions have
the power to affect legal rights. However, f‌inding relevant statutes and
cases can be a challenge for f‌irst-time legal researchers.
Therefore, an effective legal research technique when sta rting to re-
search a particular problem is to f‌irst consult secondary legal resources
to gain a broad overview of the topic. Secondar y legal resources include
such things as textbooks, law journals, seminar papers, encyclopedias,
case law digests, and Web guides. Starting with secondary legal re-
search resources has several advantages:
Secondar y legal resources generally provide a good synopsis of the
law and provide footnotes or links to relevant legislation or case law.
They are usually written by experts in their f‌ield, allowing the re-
searcher to legitimately take advantage of someone else’s work.
Most materials are relatively current, especially if they are in loose-
leaf form at or online.
Some secondar y legal resources, such as leading textbooks or well-
researched law journal articles, are highly persuasive in court and
cited by judges in their decisions.
This chapter provides a brief overv iew of textbooks, law journals,
seminar papers, legal encyclopedias, case law digests, and general legal
reference resources (law dictionar ies, legal citation guides, legal direc-
tories, forms and precedents, court rules, current awareness tools, law
reform commission reports, and Web guides). The emphasis will be on
Canadian m aterials, with discussion of British, A merican, and Austra l-
ian material s where relevant, since these are usually the other jurisdic-
tions of most interest to Canadian legal researchers.
Lawyers, judges, academics, and other researchers have written books
on most, if not all, legal topics imaginable. If you f‌ind a relevant book
covering your area of legal research, you will have saved yourself a lot
of time by leveraging the rese arch of experts on the topic (the notion of
“standing on the shoulders of giants”).1
You can f‌ind law-related textbooks at most courthouse, law soci-
ety, and law school law libraries. Many law f‌irms also own law-related
textbooks relevant to their own areas of practice (for information on
selecting or acquiring law-related resources, see Chapter 9). Searching
for law-related textbooks has been made easy with the advent of the
Internet. Catalogues for major law librar ies in Canada (and throughout
the world) can now be found online (see Table 2.1). Searching these
online library catalogues by author, title, subject, or keyword can help
you identify relevant materials for your topic to help you decide if you
want to borrow the material or buy it for yourself.
Table 2.1
Chart of Major Online Canadian Library Catalogues Containing
Law-Related Material
Law Librar y WWW Address for Catalog ue
Diana M Pr iestly Law Library (UVic) http://libra
UBC Law Librar y
Thompson River s University
Courthou se Libraries BC www.courthous
U of Calgary Ben nett Jones Law Librar y
John A Weir Memorial Law Libra ry
(U of A)
Alberta L aw Libraries www.lawlibrar
1 For an inter esting discuss ion on the role of legal “treatises” in t he development
of the law, see Angela Fern andez & Markus Dubber, eds, L aw Books in Action:
Essays on the Anglo-Americ an Legal Treatise (Oxford: H art, 2012).
Secondar y Legal Resources 49
Law Librar y WWW Address for Catalog ue
U of Saskatchewan Law Library
Law Society of Saskatchewan http://libra /
EK William s Law Library (U of
www.umanitob aries
Manitoba L aw Society http://opac.libra /
U of Western Ontario L aw Library www.lib.uwo.c a/la w/
Paul Martin L aw Library (U of Windsor)
Osgoode Hall Law School (York U) www.osgo /
resources-and-ser vices/library/
Law Society of Upper Ca nada
Bora Laskin Law Library (U of Toronto) http://libr
Supreme Court of Canada L aw Library
William R Lederman Law Libr ary
(Queen s U)
Brian Dick son Law Library (U of Ottawa) ww
Lakehead University Faculty of Law w
department s/law/law-libr ary
Nahum Gelber Law Libr ary (McGill U)
U of Montreal Law Libra ry
U of Sherbrooke Law Library /biblio
Centre d’accès à l’informat ion juridique
(CA IJ) brary
U of Laval Law Library
Gerard V La Forest L aw Library (UNB) ww
U of Moncton Law Library /
Law Society of New Brunswick Librar ies
Sir James Dunn L aw Library (Dalhousie U) www.libr aries.d
Nova Scotia Barrister s’ Society /library_ser vices/
Law Society of Newfoundland &
Labrador /libra ry/
Law Society of PEI Library ww w.lspei.p ibrary.php
National Librar y of Canada

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