Identifying State Legal Encyclopedias

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If you’ve taken a legal research class, you have probably heard a professor discuss the importance of state legal encyclopedias as a research tool. Why? They include jurisdiction-specific coverage of a wide range of legal topics. The information contained in an encyclopedia may be brief, but it will point you to the primary law on point for your state jurisdiction.

If you practice within a particular state, you are likely familiar with the state’s encyclopedia. When I ask for an example of a secondary source on day one of Advanced Legal Research at UNC, “Strong’s North Carolina Index” is the most common response every semester.

However, what do you do when you are researching in a state that you aren’t familiar with? Maybe you are going to conduct multi-state research and need to start in multiple state encyclopedias? Less than half of the 50 states have a dedicated legal encyclopedia. Is browsing secondary sources state-by-state in Westlaw Edge and Lexis+ (maybe even the library catalog) the quickest way to identify which states have an encyclopedia?

Luckily, this work has already been done for you! Harvard Law Library has an excellent list of state legal encyclopedias available here. The list identifies the title and publisher of legal encyclopedias for each state. Need a quick view of the landscape of state legal encyclopedias? Check out the map below - the 23 states in red currently have some form of a state legal encyclopedia. 

Bonus: If you are a legal research instructor, this list is a great go-to resource for selecting jurisdictions with or without state legal encyclopedias depending on what you would like to assess on an assignment! 

Posted by Nicole M. Downing on Wed. September 7, 2022 10:00 AM
Categories: Uncategorized

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