Limits of legal reference

We are here to help you find legal information, but we can't provide legal advice.

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What can law librarians help me with?

Law librarians are here to help you find information, but legal reference doesn’t include legal interpretation or advice. If you have a specific citation, need background information on a famous case, or help in identifying and finding print or online legal resources, we can probably answer these on a "ready reference" basis. Our job is to guide you to legal information. For more complicated questions, we can recommend and loan general books on a topic, suggest websites for you to visit, or direct you to the most convenient law library for in-person help.

When you come to us with a legal question, a law librarian will conduct a reference interview in enough detail to be able to identify the issues and choose materials that are most likely to help you find an answer. The Trial Court Law Libraries' collections include both the primary sources of the law itself and the secondary sources that interpret them. Since primary law is made up of texts and interpretations by many different branches of government (legislative, judicial, administrative) and in multiple jurisdictions (national, state, local), this process is frequently quite complex, even for what may seem like a simple question.

Once the sources are identified, the librarian will show you how to use them, how they are updated, and how they relate to each other. We will follow up if you need clarification, and can offer referrals to outside individuals or programs. You must read, analyze and interpret the material based on your own situation, and decide what to do. Essentially, we can help find legal information, but you need to apply that information to the facts of your case.

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Last updated: August 2, 2019

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