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One of the best ways to find case laws or statutes - particularly when you are unfamiliar with an area of law - is to find a relevant secondary source.  Examples can include:

  • Law review articles.  Examples include the Washington Law Review and Washington University Law Review.
  • Legal encyclopedias.  Examples include American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum (available at the Pierce County Law Library).  UWT does have access to West's Encyclopedia of American Law (linked from the Getting Started tab).
  • Handbooks/Guides.  Examples include Consise Hornbooks and Nutshell Guides - overviews of a particular area of law with defintions and major cases.

When you start with a secondary source, you not only find case law and statutes, but also vocabulary that can significantly improve your searches.  For example, when researching product liability, related terms might include "breach of warranty", "negligence", and "strict liability".

Legal Research Guides

Free Sources of Federal Law

This list links to free Internet sources for U.S. legal material. For additional sources, visit the Law Library's guide for Members of the Public.

Contact the Gallagher Law Library Research Services librarians for help researching federal law.

What ARE case laws and statutes?

Case Law

"When most people talk about "the law," they tend to think only of statutes. But when disputes arise over the meaning of statutes, judges must interpret the statutes. Judges' interpretations of those statutes -- called "opinions," "decisions," or "cases" -- are as important to understanding what the law is as the words of the statutes itself. So once you find a statute that seems to address your situation, you might need to take the next step and see what the courts have had to say about it."

(Nolo Legal Glossary, The Role of Court Cases in Understanding Statutues,



"When people talk about "what the law says" or "what the law is," they are generally referring to statutes (sometimes called codes). Statutes, which are created by the U.S. Congress and by our state legislators, attempt to lay out the ground rules of "the law."

(Nolo Legal Glossary, The Role of Statutes in Our Legal System,