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Secondary Sources in Legal Research: Legal Periodicals

Encyclopedias. Treatises, Periodicals, Restatement, American Law Reports and other secondary source material.

Legal Periodicals

Legal Periodicals

Legal periodicals contain articles about law and law-related subjects and normally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Student edited law school reviews
  • Student edited specialized journals
  • Bar association journals
  • Commercially published journals in specialized fields
  • Legal newspapers

HeinOnline is the largest full-text online database of approximately 1,000 law journals. Coverage for most journals begins with the journal's inception  For some journals, however, current volume coverage is limited to indexing. 

More on the types of legal periodicals

  • Law Reviews
    • There are both general and special topic law reviews. E.g., Washington University Law Review and Washington University Global Studies Law Review
    • Student edited
    • Available in large academic law libraries
    • Some Coverage on Westlaw; Lexis; Bloomberg Law; HeinOnline;Web
    • Characteristics
      • 3 Types of Articles
        •  Lead articles (written by scholars/practitioners) - Lead articles are normally written by scholars and practitioners and usually consist of intensive explorations of somewhat narrow legal topics or issues. There are sometimes 100’s of citations and these footnotes become valuable case-finding tools. 
        • Note and Comment (Student writing) - Student notes tend to be shorter and are frequently devoted to analysis of a recent case or statute. 
        • Book Reviews
  • Bar Journals
    • Shorter, less scholarly, less footnoted articles
    • Intended for practicing attorneys
    • Every state has one; also some local
  • Legal Newspapers
  • Legal Newsletters

Useful For

  • New or Undeveloped Areas of Law
  • Areas of law where there is a conflict (e.g. Splits between federal circuits)
  • In-Depth Analysis of a Narrow Topic
  • Copious citations to other secondary and to primary authority

Selecting the Most Relevant Periodical Articles - Criteria

  • Type of Publication (Scholarly vs. Practical vs. News-Oriented)
  • Type of Article (Lengthy Analysis vs. Essay vs. Comment vs. Case Note vs. Recent Developments Update)
  • Coverage
  • Accuracy
  • Persuasiveness
  • Reputation of Author
  • Reputation of Periodical

How to Locate Relevant Law Review Articles

Law review articles are only helpful if you 1) find a relevant article within a journal and 2) have access to the full-text of the article.

Legal periodical indexes can be very helpful in finding an article because

  • their coverage is typically more complete and comprehensive
  • they use "controlled vocabulary" which allows you to easily find all articles on a topic or by an author.

Westlaw and Lexis Advance each contain the full-text of many journal articles. Downsides to using them may include

  • Incomplete coverage of the articles within a journal
  • Lack of coverage before the mid 1980's
  • Text is .html formatted instead of .PDF

Sources: