Q. What is the difference between a primary legal resource and a secondary legal resource?

Answer

Legal materials are divided into two categories: primary and secondary.

Primary legal resources are the law itself and include:

  • constitutions, statutes, and codes (from the legislative branch of government)
  • cases (from the judicial branch)
  • administrative rules (from the administrative or executive branch)

These resources have primary--and sometimes binding--authority in court.

Secondary legal resources aid in understanding the law.  Secondary legal resources include:

  • law review articles
  • legal encyclopedias such as American Jurisprudence 2d
  • ALR articles
  • treatises
  • hornbooks 

These resources can be used to find relevant primary sources through the legal analysis presented as well as through references and footnotes.  They may have persuasive authority in court but never have primary authority.

  • Last Updated Nov 18, 2021
  • Views 1866
  • Answered By Dennis Johnson, Criminal Justice & Paralegal Librarian

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