Limits of legal reference

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

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Law librarians are here to help you find information but...

Legal Reference does not include legal interpretation or advice. If you have a specific citation, need background information on a famous case, or help in identifying and locating print or on-line 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 web sites for you to visit, or direct you to the most convenient law library for in-person assistance.

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 select 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 demonstrate how to use them, how they are updated, and how they relate to one another. We will follow up when clarification is needed, and can offer referrals to outside individuals or programs. You, the patron, must read, analyze and interpret the material in the light of your own situation, and decide what action to take. Essentially, we can help find legal information; you need to apply that information to the facts of your case.


Last updated: April 25, 2018