Finding statutes using paper

there are definitely times when online resources are the most efficient and fastest way to do research but sometimes like when you’re trying to find a statute when you don’t have a citation using paper can be your quickest and best option before we dive into paper statutes let’s take a minute and make sure we’re all on the same page and understand what a statute is statutes are laws passed by a legislative body they command or prohibit something or declare policy they codify and supplement case law there are both state and federal statutes here’s another very important thing you should remember about statutes there are two forms annotated and unannotated annotated statutes are superior for doing legal research and include historical notes and references to cases law reviews practice materials and other helpful tools that will help you understand the issues that are covered in the statute unannotated statutes only give you the text of the statute some of you might still be wondering why you would ever have to use paper resources at all there are lots of reasons and we highlight them in one of our other tutorials called why should I bother with paper resources when so much is available online if you haven’t already be sure to watch this three-minute video so you can have a good general understanding of why knowing about paper statutes is so important you’ll learn that many practicing attorneys still use paper and that you might have very limited access to online resources at your jobs internships and clerkships but there are a few additional reasons and these reasons are specific to statutory research first Massachusetts annotated statutes are currently only available on westlaw and Lexus and in paper so if your access to westlaw lexus is limited or you just don’t have access using print annotated statutes is a great alternative second sometimes with paper you can get a better understanding of the context of the law statutes can often have a large number of very detailed sections and some researchers find it very helpful to find other relevant sections of a statute in paper because they can easily see how their section correlates to the others and while westlaw lexus do have tools to flip forward and backwards through the sections of a statute you might find it faster and easier to flip through the pages of a book if your initial inclination is to use online resources that’s totally fine because there are lots of really great online resources but just remember that if you get stuck and you’re not finding what you need online you might want to try finding your statute using paper federal statutes are on the sixth floor and state statutes are on the fifth floor Massachusetts statutes are not shelved with the other state statutes they’re set apart in the Massachusetts reading room on the fifth floor with all the other Massachusetts materials all state and federal statutes generally follow the same steps that will go over now let’s take a quick look at how you would find a Connecticut statute on drunk driving when you get to the statutes you’re interested in you’ll see that there are loads of volumes sitting on the shelf grabbing volumes off the shelf and flipping through them hoping you’ll get lucky is not a good strategy instead to quickly find what you need use the general index the general index will tell you the title and section of the volume you’ll need so you don’t have to waste time and your clients money with the help of the general index we see the Connecticut doesn’t use the phrase drunk driving instead they call it driving under the influence of liquor or drugs and it’s indexed under traffic regulations and rules of the road we also quickly learned that the statute we need is in the volume that contains title 14 section 227 a when you’re dealing with paper statutes you’re not interested in page numbers instead what you need as a title and section when we get to the statute we need will see lots of helpful resources first we’ll see the actual text of the statute but with the annotated statutes we’ll get lots of other great research tools like historical notes that tell us when the statute was enacted and when it was amended we’ll see cases that deal with the statute this section is often referred to as the notes of decisions and they’ll list brief summaries of relevant cases along with citations so you can determine which cases are on point and if you should take the time to read any of them the annotations also include citations to practice materials and form books as well as law review articles and legal encyclopedias these annotations are extremely helpful and will save you lots of time if you’re using paper statutes you must remember to check pocket parts or supplements for updates these updates generally come out once a year and will alert you to any changes in the law as well as any additional cases and secondary sources that deal with your statute currency is one of the greatest advantages of online research databases can be updated almost immediately as soon as changes happen but remember depending on where you’re working interning or clerking you might not have access to westlaw on lexis so if you find yourself using paper don’t forget to check pocket parts and supplements so let’s recap statutes are published in two ways annotated and unannotated annotated statutes are superior for doing legal research because they contain historical notes cases Law Review articles practice materials and other helpful resources currently annotated statutes are only available on westlaw Lexus and in paper so if your access to westlaw lexus is limited paper is a good alternative to quickly find a statute check the general index for the title and section lastly always check the pocket parts and supplements to make sure you’re getting the most current information for more information on using paper resources watch our other tutorials and for more details be sure to contact a reference librarian

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