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Resources for Law School Clinics

What are Secondary Sources, and Why Use Them?

Secondary sources are sources that provide information about a legal topic to build understanding, provides references to the primary law, and sometimes include forms. A form can be a model document or a document that can be downloaded and filled in. A secondary source can give you a starting point for drafting documents and alert you to important drafting considerations.

Research Tips:

  • The Table of Contents is Your Friend: it will allow you to learn more about the context of your legal concept, which is important for conducting indepth research.
  • Always Check Your Forms: a template is a great place to start, but you should always check that the template you use is relevant to the client's facts and circumstances, is consistent with up to date legal principles, and uses correct names, facts, and spellings.

Practice-Focused Secondary Sources

Comparing Jurisdictions

A 50 State Survey is a secondary source that allows you to compare the state law for different areas of law. This is a great tool for researching a legal issue across state jurisdictions. 

  • State Q&A: this tool on Practical Law allows you to pick an area of law and compare different state laws. This is a tool that allows you to, in essence, build a secondary source that compares the state law for a specific area of law (e.g. compare requirements for starting an S Corporation in Delaware, Illinois, and Indiana).
  • 50 State Surveys: 50 state surveys essentially take a practice area (e.g. environmental law) and provides a list of the applicable statutes and regulations in each state, as well as the applicable federal statutes. This is another tool that brings together information about different jurisdictions in one place. These databases are available on Westlaw and Lexis Advance
  • Chart Builder on Bloomberg Law: this tool is similar to the State Q&A in Practical Law, except that the results are displayed in an easy to read chart. To find the Chart Builder, choose a practice area on Bloomberg, then choose a topic, and finally choose the jurisdictions.
  • Cheetah - has Smart Charts comparing state laws on corporate law, securities, banking, tax, intellectual property, and other areas of law
  • ALR: ALRs (referenced in the Legal Research Review tab) typically compares how different states have examined a subject area, so this is another place to compare how different jurisdictions interpret a legal question.

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