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Legal Research Basics: Secondary Sources: Practice Aids

General characteristics of major secondary sources in legal research

Legal Directories

Legal directories are an excellent tool for tracking down practitioners who specialize in a particular legal area.  Likely the best known of these directories is Martindale Hubbell, available electronically.

Jury Instructions

Another practice-focused secondary source, pattern jury instructions are a helpful tool to practitioners and judges during the trial process.  These can be found in print and online, through databases such as WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law.

Practice Aids

What is it?

Practice aids can take many forms; rather than being a citable resource, these guides are ordinarily used by practitioners and self-represented litigants to understand how to handle particular legal situations.  Because they are practice-oriented, these books are less about analyzing the law and directed instead at guiding a practitioner through the legal process, perhaps citing particular forms or laws along the way.


  • Good resource for document creation and litigation strategy
  • Provides little framework for understanding legal issues
  • Provides few, if any, references to expand research
  • Not citable

Where to find these:

  • In print - practice aids can be found in the Law Library on our Reference shelves beyond the Circulation Desk.
  • Electronically - practice aids of varying forms and titles can also be found on Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law

Form Books

What is it?

A specific type of practice aid, form books provide stock legal forms for various legal transactions and events.  These forms are meant as a basis on which practitioners can create their own tailored legal forms. 


Similar to practice aids - good for document creation, not for expanding research

Where to find these:

- In print - the Law Library has a few different form book series, which can be found on the Reference shelves behind the Circulation Desk

- Electronically - forms can be found on many different paid and free legal research sites, including Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law

- Free sites with legal forms tend to charge a small fee for access to the downloadable form; sample websites include Findlaw (and Findlaw for Legal Professionals) and Nolo.