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Employment and Labor Law: Legal Research Basics

Guide to library resources in the field of employment and labor law.

Primary and Secondary Sources

Legal Sources are given different weight or authority.  Primary Sources are official pronouncements of the government such as regulations, legislation, and court decisions.  Secondary sources analyze legal doctrine and they include law reviews (a certain type of academic journal).

Primary Sources

  • Statute or Law: "A law enacted by a legislative body - such as the United States Congress, or a state senate. Statutes are the primary source of law in the United States" (Legal Information Institute).
    • Where to find:  Legislative web site, Legal Information Institute, codified books, legal looseleaf services, legal databases.
  • Regulation: "A rule, adopted under authority granted by a statute, issued by a municipal, county, state, or federal agency. Although not laws, they have the force of law and often include penalties for violations" (Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary).
    • Where to find:  Agency web site, legal looseleaf services, legal databases; may be harder to find full text than statutues.
  • Decison: "A conclusion, usually by a court, which involves the interpretation or application of law to the facts of a particular case" (Robert's Dictionary of Industrial Relations, 4th ed.)  Decisions are also made by administrative judges or boards. They are popularly known as 'court cases".
    • Where to find: codified volumes, legal looseleaf services, legal databases, selected web sites; Supreme Court decisions can be found on the Legal Information Institute web site.

Secondary Sources

  • Law Review Articles:  Law reviews are scholarly legal journals published by law schools. The articles focus on narrow, contemporary legal topics and are written by legal scholars, judges, and attorneys and are edited by law school students.  A typical law review article is lengthy and heavily footnoted, usually with references to court decisions as well as other law review articles.
    • Where to find: Legal databases, law journal databases, law libraries.
  • Treatise:  A scholarly legal publication, usually analyzing, with the latest decisions, the body of law in a particular area.
    • Where to find: Law libraries; some are also available in legal databases.

Legal Reference Books

Online Legal Reference Books

Black's Law Dictionary