Finding the Answers to Legal Questions, Second Edition

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors
  • Reviews

This book is available in e-book format for libraries and individuals through aggregators and other distributors—ask your current vendor or contact us for more information. Examination copies are available for instructors who are interested in adopting this title for course use.

Whether for self-representation, to be an informed consumer of legal services, or to learn the U.S. legal system, more people than ever are using the library to obtain legal information and legal research advice. The new edition of Finding the Answers to Legal Questions is a comprehensive guide to help librarians confidently assist users in finding the legal information they need. Newly revised and updated, this timely, clearly organized, and easy-to-use resource is packed with guidance to help librarians answer questions that span the gamut of the law. An ideal book for practicing librarians looking to better serve users' legal needs, as well as for students preparing for careers as librarians, it provides

  • an overview of fundamental legal information, including the basic structure of the U.S. legal system and primary law;
  • how-to instructions for finding primary law in print sources, free websites, and pay-for-view databases;
  • information on how to evaluate the trustworthiness of online and print resources;
  • tips for conducting a legal reference interview;
  • guidance for handling common legal questions, such as lawsuits, family law, landlord-tenant disputes, wills and estate planning, debt, bankruptcy, employment, and criminal law; and
  • advice on how to build a basic legal reference collection.

This book will help librarians connect users to the most accurate, up-to-date legal information.

List of Figures

Part I: Foundation: Legal Information Overview

Chapter 1: The Structure of the Legal System in the United States

  • Getting Started Finding Legal Information
  • Fifty-One Legal Systems
  • The Rule of Threes
  • Three Types of Primary Law
  • Three Branches of Government
    • Legislatures Enact Statutes
    • Administrative Agencies Promulgate Regulations
    • Courts Make Case Law
  • Three Levels of Courts
    • Trial Courts
    • Intermediate Appellate Courts
    • Final Appellate Courts
  • Conclusion

Chapter 2: Secondary Sources and Practice Materials

  • Secondary Sources Generally
  • Secondary Sources: In Print
    • Legal Encyclopedias
    • Treatises
    • Practice Materials and Forms
    • Loose-Leaf Services
    • American Law Reports
    • Legal Periodicals
    • Restatements
  • Secondary Sources: Pay-for-View Databases
  • Secondary Sources: Free Online Access
  • Conclusion

Chapter 3: Federal Primary Sources

  • Introduction
  • General Secondary Sources for Federal Law
    • American Law Reports—Federal
    • Practice and Procedure and Form Books
    • Treatises
  • Free Web Sources for Federal Law
    • Government Sites
    • Educational Institutions’ Sites
  • Primary Law: U.S. Constitution
    • Secondary Sources on Constitutional Law
    • General Sources
  • Primary Law: Federal Statutes
    • Pending Legislation
    • Current Statutes
  • Primary Law: Federal Cases
    • United States Supreme Court
    • United States Courts of Appeal (aka “Circuit Courts”)
    • United States District Courts
    • Other Federal Courts
  • Primary Law: Regulations (Administrative Law)
    • Print
    • Websites
  • Primary Law: Federal Court Rules
    • Print
    • Websites
  • Conclusion

Chapter 4: State and Local Primary Sources

  • Introduction
  • All-in-One Websites
  • State Constitutions
  • State Statutes
    • Statutory Codes
    • State Session Laws
    • Court Decisions Interpreting Statutes
  • State Administrative Law
    • State Regulatory Codes
    • State Regulatory Registers
    • Court Decisions Interpreting Administrative Law
  • State Court Decisions
    • Opinions from Trial Courts or Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
    • Finding State Appellate Court Decisions in Hard Copy
    • Finding State Appellate Court Decisions for Free Online
  • State Court Rules
  • State Executive Materials
  • Other State-Specific Resources
  • Local Law: Primary Sources
  • Tribal Law and Federal Indian Law: Primary Sources


Part II: Preparation: Understanding Legal Information Needs

Chapter 5: Legal Research Basics

  • Deciding What Legal Information Is Needed
    • The Reference Interview for Legal Information Needs
    • Legal Information versus Legal Advice
  • Techniques for Finding What Is Needed
    • Jurisdiction
    • Secondary Sources
    • Citations: Known Item Searching
    • Keyword and Subject Searching for Case Law
    • Keyword Subject Searching for Statutes and Regulations
  • Building on What Is Found
    • “Pearl Growing”: Finding One Good Case, Then More Like It
    • Pay-for-View Services: Lexis and Westlaw
    • Updating
    • How Much Is Enough? Who Can Help Me Further?
  • References

Chapter 6: Resources Beyond the Public Library

  • Law Libraries
  • Free Legal Help
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
    • About Mediation
    • ADR Organizations and Resources
  • Choosing a Lawyer
  • Conclusion

Part III: Information: Specific Legal Questions

Chapter 7: Lawsuits

  • Framework for Questions in This Area of Law
  • Getting Started
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions
    • Process of a Lawsuit
    • Legal Procedures and Forms
    • Pretrial Stages of a Lawsuit
    • Evidence
    • Trial Process
    • Juries and Jury Instructions
    • Appeals
  • Resources Recap

Chapter 8: Family Law

  • Framework for Questions in This Area of Law
  • Getting Started: A Checklist
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions about Relationships
    • Questions about Marriage
    • Questions When Unmarried and Living Together
    • Questions about Divorce
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions about Children
    • Questions about Parenting Plans
    • Questions about Child Support
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions about Domestic Violence
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions about Adoption
  • References
  • Resources Recap

Chapter 9: Landlord-Tenant

  • Framework for Questions in This Area of Law
  • Getting Started
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions From Tenants
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions from Landlords
  • Epilogue
  • Resources Recap

Chapter 10: Wills, Estate Planning, and Probate

  • Framework for Questions in This Area of Law
  • Getting Started
    • Understanding Key Terms
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions
  • Resources Recap

Chapter 11: Debts, Collections, and Credit

  • Framework for Questions in This Area of Law
    • Multistate Matters
    • Matters Involving Contracts
  • Getting Started
    • Debtor: Basic Starting Information
    • Creditor: Basic Starting Information
    • Facing Foreclosure
  • Finding Answers
  • Frequent Questions about Debt Collection
  • Quick Tip: Got a Judgment, Now What?
  • Good to Know: Debt Collector Do’s and Don’ts
  • Resources Recap

Chapter 12: Bankruptcy

  • Framework for Questions in This Area of Law
    • Federal Law Governs
    • Currency: Be Sure You Have the Most Recent Information
  • Closer Look: When One Question Masquerades as Another
  • Getting Started
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions
  • References
  • Resources Recap

Chapter 13: Employment and Unemployment

  • Introduction
  • Getting Started
  • Resources Recap
  • Framework for Questions in Employment Discrimination
    • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions about Employment Discrimination
    • Resources in Employment Discrimination
    • Primary Sources: Federal Law of Employment Discrimination
    • Primary Sources: State Statutes in Employment Discrimination
    • Do-It-Yourself Publications in Employment Discrimination
  • Resources Recap
  • Framework for Questions in Unemployment Compensation
    • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions about Unemployment Compensation
    • Resources in Unemployment Compensation
    • Primary Sources: Federal Statutes about Unemployment Compensation
    • Primary Sources: State Statutes in Unemployment Compensation
    • Do-It-Yourself Publications in Unemployment Compensation
  • Resources Recap
  • Framework for Questions in Workers’ Compensation
    • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions about Workers’ Compensation
    • Resources in Workers’ Compensation
    • Primary Sources: Federal Statutes in Workers’ Compensation
    • Primary Sources: State Statutes in Workers’ Compensation
    • Do-It-Yourself Publications in Workers’ Compensation
  • Resources Recap
  • Framework for Other Employment Law Questions
    • Wages and Hours
    • Wrongful Discharge
    • Workplace Privacy
  • Resources Recap
  • Conclusion

Chapter 14: Criminal Law

  • Framework for Questions in This Area of Law
  • Getting Started
  • Finding Answers to Frequent Questions
    • Rights of the Accused
    • Crimes and Criminal Codes
    • Criminal Procedure
    • Criminal Defenses
  • Resources Recap


Part IV: Collection: Building a Basic Collection or Website

Chapter 15: What’s Online, What’s Not, and When to Use What

  • Introduction
  • Primary Law
  • Secondary Sources
  • When to Use Print Sources
  • When to Choose Free or Pay-for- View Online Databases
  • Comparing and Combining Print, Free Online, Pay-for-View Repositories
  • Conclusion

Chapter 16: Evaluating the Trustworthiness of Websites and Self-Help Law Books

  • Introduction
  • Jurisdiction
    • Statutes
    • Regulations
    • Case Law
  • Obsolescence
  • Domain
    • .gov
    • .edu
    • .org
    • .com
  • Scope of Coverage
  • Authorship
  • Authority
  • Self-Help Law Books
  • Conclusion

Chapter 17: Creating a Library Webpage and Basic Legal Collection

  • Deciding What Your Library Needs
  • Building a Basic Website of Local Legal Links
    • Topical “Clusters” for Your Site
    • Shortcuts: Megaportals and Piggybacking
    • Linking to (and from) Your OPAC
    • Easy Tools for Website Creation
  • Building a Basic Print Collection—On a Shoestring, or No String, Budget
    • Secondhand Book Sources
    • Hand-Me-Down Book Sources
    • Do-It-Yourself Book Publishers
  • Final Words
  • References
  • Resources Recap

Appendix A: Glossary
Appendix B: Recommended Legal Sources Online
About the Authors

Virginia M. Tucker

Dr. Virginia M. Tucker is currently assistant professor at the School of Information at San José State University. She was the County Law Librarian in Bellingham, Washington, for over ten years. Prior to joining the School of Information faculty, she was an information architect and client training manager at Dialog/Thomson (now ProQuest) and the Physics Librarian at Stanford University. Dr. Tucker has a PhD in information systems from Queensland University of Technology, an MLS from the University of California at Berkeley, a BA from Stanford University in music composition, and a paralegal certificate. Virginia received the prestigious Liberty Bell Award in 2010 from her local bar association for her “outstanding work in helping the public gain a better understanding of the law.” In 2016, the bar association honored her with the annual award for “Dedication to the Spirit of the Law.” As a volunteer, she has created websites for the Whatcom County Bar Association and LAW Advocates, the local legal aid group. She served for several years on the board of the non-profit Dispute Resolution Center and has taught CLE workshops on legal research in Bellingham and Seattle.

Marc Lampson

Marc Lampson was admitted to the practice of law in 1985. In addition to his law degree, he holds a Masters of Library and Information Science degree with a specialization in law librarianship from the University of Washington. He has practiced both civil and criminal law on the trial and appellate levels and in both federal and state court. Since 1984, he has also taught law students, library and information science students, paralegals, laypeople, and prisoners “legal research,” that is, how to find and analyze legal resources. At the Information School at the University of Washington he has taught Research Methods, Information Behavior, and Information in Social Context. Marc currently is the Public Services Attorney and Reference Librarian at the Public Law Library of King County in Seattle, Washington.

”Highly recommended for public, academic, and law libraries."
— Booklist (starred review)

”Tucker and Lampson provide an excellent resource for librarians, beginning law students, and paralegals ... Highly recommended for all public libraries and undergraduate academic libraries supporting prelaw curriculums or training paralegals."