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Preservation Law (HIPR 6200): The Law

Information and resources for the Master of Historic Preservation students

What is "The Law"

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:

  • Legislation (statutes, laws)
    • session laws, statutory codes
  • Regulations
    • administrative codes, registers
  • Court decisions or opinions
    • reports, reporter

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:

  • Indexes are common to most fields. In law they are generally used to locate journal articles.
  • Legal encyclopedias function much the same way as a general encyclopedia.
  • Digests are a unique legal research tool that acts like a cumulative index to all court decisions.
  • Looseleaf services provide analysis, practice advice, and current updates to rapidly changing fields like tax and environmental law.
  • Treatises provide a scholarly, in-depth treatment of a topic and they can be very in-depth. For instance one set covering just federal civil procedure runs to 26 volumes.

Online Legal Research Sites

      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
      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

Briefing Cases

There are two kinds of "briefs". The appellate brief is written by an attorney and lays out 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, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)", he wants you to prepare a summary and analysis of the court's opinion and be ready to discuss the case.


Google Scholar


Notice the two broad search settings.

  1. Articles (deselect patents unless you really want patents) 
    1. This selection is most effective if you are looking for a specific journal title or an article you know exists.
    2. You can search by author, publication, and date. 
  2. Case law
    1. If searching for case law, you then have the option to limit to particular courts.

Under Settings (if logged into your Google account)

  1. Go to Library Links
  2. Search for University of Georgia
  3. Select both University of Georgia options
  4. Resources held by the Main Library and the Law Library will be linked

Guide to Using Google Scholar and Other Free Legal Research Tools

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