Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Treatise Yourself

"I've been searching case law for a while, and I'm not finding anything helpful!" If that sounds familiar, consider picking up a treatise instead. Secondary sources often provide a better starting place for legal research than searching in case law databases, since they will provide a bigger-picture overview of the legal concepts and terminology, along with footnotes to selected primary law like court opinions and statutes.

But how do you decide which treatise to consult? Simply searching the campus libraries' online catalog can present a dizzying array of results, and it isn't obvious there which ones are also available online in Law School-only databases like Westlaw, Lexis Advance, or Bloomberg Law. Below are some recommended resources to find the right treatise for your research topic.
  • Appendix B of Olson's textbook Legal Research in a Nutshell (on Course Reserve) contains a brief list of selected legal treatises by subject, with information about online availability.
  • Have a question about anything related to federal practice? Two excellent starting places are Moore's Federal Practice (Ref. KF8840 .M663 & online in Lexis Advance) and Federal Practice & Procedure (Ref. KF9619 .W7 & online in Westlaw). These authoritative, multi-volume sets provide a detailed overview of federal law practice topics, with substantial primary law references in their footnotes.
  • Duke Law's own Research Guides include treatise recommendations for more than two dozen topics.
  • Do Duke's research guides not cover the topic you need? Georgetown Law maintains online Treatise Finders for more than 60 legal topics. Each page in the alphabetical topic listing includes a list of selected treatises, with brief descriptions, and information about online availability in Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg, or other sources.
  • On the hunt for even more treatises on a topic? Consult Legal Information Buyer's Guide and Reference Manual, an annual guide to legal publications which contains useful reviews of print and electronic legal resources. Although the three most recent editions are not available in full text online, even the slightly older 2015 edition in HeinOnline can provide helpful recommendations for subject treatises (Chapter 27) and state-specific materials (Chapter 28). Those two chapters provide more than 500 pages of reviews and recommendations for legal treatises and other publications.
You can also ask to see last year’s edition of the Legal Information Buyer's Guide at the library Reference Desk, which is, of course, a good place to visit if you have other questions about locating good secondary sources on a topic.