Introduction to Study Aids
Study Aids are secondary sources that cover specific areas of the law. Unlike casebooks used in law classes, these resources provide explanations, analyses, criticisms and overviews of legal topics in narrative form. Students can use them to obtain a solid overview of legal topics and to review concepts learned in class. They are particularly useful for first-year students studying for first-year classes: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Legal Research, Property and Torts.
New titles and editions come out frequently. The most recent edition of a title will be on reserve; older editions are moved to the open stacks. The Law Library collects study aid materials in the series listed above. There are many other series on the market that the Law Library does not collect. Most of these series are in outline form.
Treatises are works written by legal scholar(s) that cover a specific area of law in great detail. Treatises provide the highest level of analysis and detail and provide extensive references to related sources in footnotes and appendices. They are often multi-volume works, and the author's name is often included in the title; for example, Farnsworth on Contracts.
Depending on the reputation of the work and the author, treatises can be persuasive authority to cite to a court. Treatises are primarily geared towards legal scholars and practitioners, but can also be helpful to law students.
Hornbooks are legal texts written expressly for law students by law professors using plain prose. They condense an area of law into a single volume and give a clear overview of the law's evolution, a discussion of courts' interpretation of the law, and an explanation of the application of the law today. This presentation of "Black letter law" makes hornbooks an attractive study aid. A hornbook published by West Group identifies itself as such on its cover.
There is no clear line of demarcation between treatises and hornbooks, but as a general rule a hornbook is not as detailed as a treatise and provides fewer references to other sources. Accordingly, hornbooks are not considered persuasive by courts and should be used only for background purposes. West also publishes a Practitioner's Series of Hornbooks that include selected practice documents. They are frequently multi-volume sets.
Concepts and Insights is a series of study aids that give a detailed, straightforward presentation of the law along with a brief explanation of how the law developed. They point out particularly difficult points of law and walk the reader through examples in an effort to clarify. Concepts and Insights are as detailed as Hornbooks but have far fewer footnoted references.
Study Aids in the Turning Point series focus on complex issues within an area of law; for example, proximate cause within the area of Tort law. The area of focus is evident from the title of each volume. In addition to presenting the historical development of the law, the Turning Point series also includes major cases in an effort to explain complex issues.
Examples and Explanations combines clear text with examples, explanations, and questions to test understanding of the material. The text deals with legal as well as policy issues. Concepts are illustrated with charts and graphics. Sample exam questions with suggested answers are also included.
The Global Issues Series provide an introduction to international, transnational and comparative legal issues and while integrating them into the basic law school curriculum. Helpful for both professors and students alike, the materials provide familiarity with the growing impact of foreign and international sources of law and the various contexts in which the domestic legal practitioner can expect to encounter them.
Law Stories give the textual background of leading cases within a broad area of law along with behind-the-scenes historical context and the role played by the cases in shaping current policy and debates.
Nutcases cover legal topics in the British legal system and transnational topics. The Law Library only collects the transnational topics. Nutcases give a straightforward presentation of the law followed by the basic facts and key principles of major cases. Additional commentary summarizes and ties together the key points.
Nutshells are short, paperback volumes that present a simple, no-frills overview of an area of law. Nutshells provide few, if any, references to other sources and are considered the most basic secondary source on a legal topic. They are quite helpful for non-lawyers and law students just beginning to study an area of law. All nutshells published by West include the word "nutshell" in the title. Never cite a nutshell in a legal document.
Study Guides by Area of Law
Civil Rights Law
Conflict of Laws
Government Benefits Law
Native American Law/American Indian Law
Preparing for Employment
Wills, Trusts and Estates