Recently many 1Ls have been coming to the library and using the legal encyclopedia. Some users have reminded me greatly of the classic Sesame Street clip where a boy gives an alien directions to his mothership. In their haste to get to the answer, some law students have been rushing to search for their keywords in the text itself, or rushing to look in the text for the reference given in the index without following the steps to do so. The result is that students have been becoming frustrated unnecessarily because they are not using a step by step procedure.
Let us say that you have been hired at a small law firm that does not have a subscription to Westlaw or Lexis, or that does not allow new associates to use the online databases for fear that they will unwittingly run up huge bills. You are tasked with looking up in the print legal encyclopedia, a particular issue related to your case.
You brainstorm and come up with the terms:
- Controlled Substances
- Forfeiture of property
You look them up in the Index in that order (If you look up Children first, when you get to where Controlled substances would be located as a subheading under children it will send you to the Controlled Substances and Drug Abuse heading in the index).
You find that the section on forfeiture of property belonging to children and minors is referred to as: CLCADM § 149
Table of Abbreviations
Since you do not know what CLCADM stands for, you flip to the beginning of the index where there is a table of abbreviations. You look up the abbreviation CLCADM and you find that it stands for “Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice”
Encyclopedia: Alphabetic Order
You then look for this entry in the set of encyclopedia. You browse the volumes looking for where this entry falls alphabetically.
You find that the term “Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice” is written on the spine, and you look for your entry in the volume labeled:
“Criminal Law: Core Aspects
Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice and Public Order”
Now, what if the term were not visible on the spine.
For instance, let’s say you were looking up the reference INVESTSEC § 39
INVESTSEC refers to Investment Securities and if you browse the volumes of Cal Jur, you will see that the volume you need is
“Interference with Economic Advantage
The term “Investment Securities” falls alphabetically between these two terms, so you know that you can find the term “Investment Securities” in this volume.
Topic first; Section second
Going back to our Example of CLCADM § 149 which we know refers to Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice § 149, you open the book that contains this reference, and then you first need to find the right topic. There is more than one topic in this book and therefore possibly more than one § 149. First look at the top of the page and make sure you are looking at the Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice topic. Then look within this topic for section 149.
Footnotes for citations to Primary law
When you find the part of this section that discusses your issue, you may need to find the primary source that supports that particular answer. To find the primary source, you need to see if there is a footnote related to the sentence discussing your issue. Footnotes will be at the bottom of the page, Look first in the footnotes for the Section number, eg [Section 149] then for the specific footnote. Numbering for the footnotes for each individual section begins with 1. This means you must be careful to find the right section before you look for the numbered footnote.
Update in Pocket Part
Once you have found your entry, your task may not be over, you still need to update your research. Recent changes in the law will be reflected in the pocket parts. These are softbound publications placed in the back pocket of the relevant encyclopedia volume that indicate changes in the law between the time when the hardbound edition was published and the time when the softbound pocket part was published.
For the CLCADM § 149 entry, there is no pocket part and no update available at this time. However for INVESTSEC § 6, we find that there is an entry in the pocket part. To determine when the pocket part was published, look at the first page of the pocket part. It will say “ISSUED” followed by the date of publication. Stamped on the pocket part is the date it was received by the library. If you need information that is more up to date than the Issued date, you will need to examine the online database version of CalJur from Westlaw or Lexis.
Here is a video tutorial from USD on Using CalJur and Witkin’s.
TJSL Video on Using Secondary Sources