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Chapter 4. Secondary Source Research

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Introduction

American Law Reports (ALRs)

American Law Reports are commonly referred to as "ALRs."  Each individual ALR is a comprehensive survey of a narrow legal issue. ALRs are thoroughly researched and include treatment of the issue across jurisdictions.  You will not find an ALR for every legal issue, but it is well worth your time to see if one exists because ALRs are a goldmine of legal information.

ALRs are published by West, but can be found on both Lexis Advance and WestlawNext.  They are not included on Bloomberg Law.

When to use ALRs:

  • Find a survey of a legal issue
    • Across jurisdictions
    • With differing fact patterns
  • Identify cases and statutes on your legal issue
  • ALRs are generally NOT the best secondary sources to cite.

Restatements

Published by the American Law Institute (ALI), Restatements are a codification of the common law.  Covering a variety of fields, the Restatements essentially "restate" the common law rules as they have developed over time in the majority of U.S. jurisdictions.  Along with providing common law doctrines, the Restatements include commentary, hypotheticals illustrating how the rules should apply, and case summaries. The Restatements generally carry substantial weight as persuasive authority and are frequently cited.

Restatement rules, comments and illustrations are available on both Lexis Advance and WestlawNext. Case summaries are only available on WestlawNext.

When to use Restatements:

  • Find a well organized discussion of the law
    • Rules
    • Explanations
    • Examples
  • When primary authority is adverse, can use to suggest what the law should be
  • Probably the most persuasive of all persuasive authority.

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Dorie Bertram
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