Law, simply put, is the formal pronouncement of the rules which guide our actions. Legislatures, state and federal, make laws. So do local governments. Executive branches and agencies implement laws through regulations. Courts enforce and interpret laws and regulations and settle disputes through their decisions.
The output of these law making bodies goes into print and online resources. The material produced by these groups becomes much of what is in law libraries and what lawyers consult during their legal research. The collection of materials are referred to by specific terminology:
Outline of the U.S. Legal System, Bureau of International Information Programs, United States Department of State (PDF)
So how does someone find the relevant law? How do you identify specific documents in these reporters and codes? First, keep in mind there is a great difference between retrieving a known document and researching or trying to find documents that help you answer a legal question. If you have a citation to a specific legal document like a statute or a court decision it is fairly easy to retrieve that specific document. [See the Citations tab.] Conducting actual legal research is much more complex. The legal publishing world has created a number of research aids:
|Findlaw - learn about the law, browse the legal forums, subscribe to a legal blog|
|Legal Information Institute - explore the legal collections, stay updated, ask a legal question. From Cornell University Law School|
|Lexis Web - "all legal content, all sites validated"|
|Justia - ask legal questions, primary law materials for the state and federal levels, subscribe to a legal blog|
|Public Library of Law - a searchable interface to a large collection of free primary law materials for the state and federal levels. Created by Fastcase|
There are two kinds of "briefs". The appellate brief is written by an attorney and presents a legal argument presented to an appellate court. The student brief is a short summary and analysis of the case to use in classroom discussion. When a professor says "I want you to brief Miranda v. Arizona,
Notice the two broad search settings.
Under Settings (if logged into your Google account)