Legal Research 101: Secondary Authority
What you'll learn
- Students will learn what is and how to navigate secondary authorities.
- Students will be able to distinguish between primary and secondary authorities.
- It is helpful if students start with the first class (Primary Authorities) as there are a number of references to primary authorities, but it isn't required and with a little determination, students can figure this subject out.
Finding the "law" (i.e. cases, statutes, constitutions, regulations) related to your case is one thing. I mean, anyone can find free statutes online on any state website. Google Scholar is full of case law from most every jurisdiction in the United States. The problem that people run into is knowing how to use the law they've found and knowing in what context the law might be applied in their case.
This is where secondary authorities come in. Secondary Authorities, are those resources that help people understand the law and how it might be applied. Secondary Authorities are "secondary" because they are not weighted as heavily as primary authorities (i.e. they are not the law and should not be cited in legal documents). The reason people even use secondary authorities is to help provide context for the law (i.e. cases, codes, regulations) they've found. They tell you how the law can be used in your case just by moving the facts around.
In this program, students will be exposed to a variety of secondary authorities. Students will also learn how to navigate these secondary authorities, and why they might be useful to you and in what context they might be useful. Designed as a beginning course, it is also helpful for the seasoned litigant as a refresher course to help jiggle latent brain cells offering suggestions on other resources that can be useful.
Who this course is for:
- Persons who need a refresher on the basics of legal research, are presently litigating their own case, or just want a better understanding of the fundamentals of legal research.
Bret Christensen is a 16-year veteran of assisting the public as a Law Librarian. Bret earned his law degree (J.D). at Western State University College of Law, Fullerton (California) and a Master of Library and Information Science (M.L.I.S.) degree from San Jose State University (San Jose, California).
Bret speaks, writes articles, teaches, and creates media of all kinds on the topic of how to conduct research for attorneys, paralegals, pro se litigants and the general public. His blog at legalresearchiseasy is but one example of his dedication to spreading the religion that legal research really is easy and that with a little practice anyone can learn the finer techniques of the trade.