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Secondary Sources

This guide will help explain why you should generally start your legal research with secondary resources, which to use for your research task, and how to use them effectively.

What are Legal Treatises

  • They are in-depth scholarly works on a particular subject area.
  • They offer a mixture of being accessible, while not too technical or theoretical to be useful to law students, and still carry scholarly weight.
  • These will help you learn the black letter law of a particular subject area, especially when you are unfamiliar with the particular type of law.
  • Most of  the foremost treatises in their respective area of law are searchable online; such as Collier on Bankruptcy (Lexis), Norton on Bankruptcy (WestlawNext), etc.
  • Many works are often referred to as treatises and there is no exact qualifying characteristic to make a book covering a particular subject area a treatise.
    • Other less scholarly works but that often fall under the umbrella of treatises are hornbooks, which are most often used by law students but are still part of many practitioner's collections.
      • Other less scholarly and more law school friendly works include nutshells, outlines, etc.

When to use Legal Treatises

  • There are many practical uses for consulting a treatise.
    • For law students they represent an invaluable resource in preparing for final exams and establishing a firmer foundation on topics to be discussed in class.
    • For practitioners they represent a quick way to freshen up on an issue they do not encounter often as a way to begin their research of an issue.
    • Occasionaly, depending on the treatise and the amount of respect given to it, courts will give credence to legal treatises as persuasive authority.

Examples of Legal Treatise

Example of Legal Treatise

Photo by WestLaw found here.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the State of Georgia, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Georgia State University College of Law and the authors of the works contained on this website do not assume or accept any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currentness, or comprehensiveness of the content on this website. The content on this website does not in any manner constitute the issuance of legal advice or counsel. The information on this website is intended to provide resources that may aid the research of the topics presented, and are in no way a comprehensive list of sources one should consult on the topics presented. Please note that case law, statutory law, and administrative law may be modified and/or overturned. Additionally, because the laws vary between jurisdictions, the laws referred to herein may or may not be applicable to the law within the reader’s jurisdiction.