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Secondary sources are all the legal resources that describe what the law is without actually having the force of law. For example, treatises, law review articles, and practice series are secondary sources while statutes, regulations, and cases are primary sources. Although secondary sources are not binding authority, they provide valuable, up-to-date insight and commentary about existing laws. These insights are especially useful when handling matters outside of an attorney’s usual areas of practice.

Unfortunately, secondary sources are not cheap — consider that a full set of Michigan Civil Jurisprudence has a retail cost of $25,119. That said, a lot of commercial legal research databases like Westlaw and LexisNexis provide access to secondary sources as part of their subscriptions. But this coverage is not comprehensive, some secondary sources are not located on either Westlaw or Lexis, and not every firm subscribes to a legal research database.

In the instances where a secondary source that you need is not available, trying to find a cost-effective alternative can be imperative. This is especially true when you need to access a secondary source only for a short amount of time and investing in the purchase of an entire book is not financially sound. In circumstances such as these, tracking down free secondary sources can be extremely useful.


Reproduced with permission.