The purpose of this guide is to help people unfamiliar with legal research identify key areas and locate materials to answer their questions. This guide does not give legal advice* -- see a lawyer for that.
Legal research can be confusing and time-consuming;. be prepared to invest a good amount of time in your research. Especially until you become familiar with legal terms and citations, you may need to go over sources several times before understanding what it means.
* Library staff can not provide substantive advice on a legal problem, interpret legal materials for you, or explain how the law applies to your particular case. That would constitute the "unauthorized practice of law" [W.V. Code §30-2-4 and Brammer v. Taylor, 338 S.E.2d 207 (W.Va. 1985), footnote 7].
Most people think that laws passed by the legislature are "the law", but in reality the law is a complex combination of three types of law. These typically follow the structure of the jurisdiction's government. So, in the United States we have
The first thing you have to figure out is what kind of information you are looking for:
Useful guides to starting your research are:
Created by Timothy A. Balch. Available under a Creative Commons license: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)