This is the "Types of Legal Materials" page of the "1L Law Library Survival Guide" guide.
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This research guide explains the resources, both print and electronic, in a law library for a new law student. There are brief explanations of the types of legal resources that a law student is likely to encounter for research and exam preparation.
Last Updated: Feb 4, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Types of Legal Materials Print Page


Welcome to the Hofstra Law Library!  Navigating the law library is easy once you have a good idea what materials you will find there and who to talk to when you need assistance.  We are all here to help you succeed in law school!



This guide was originally created by Lisa Spar. 

It is currently updated by Marin Dell (last updated 8/8/14).


What Are the Different Types of Legal Materials?

Primary and Secondary sources.

  • Primary law consists of constitutions, statutes, administrative law, and court cases. Primary law is “the law” as passed by authoritative bodies.
  • Secondary sources, such as law review articles, books by experts (often referred to as “treatises”), and legal encyclopedias, comment on and explain primary law, but do not have the force of law that primary law has.

Federal and State materials.

  • The U.S. federal government and each of the state governments make their own laws and regulations. A legal issue may be a federal or a state issue, or both. Courts and judges can be federal or state. There are also county and municipal courts and judges which derive their authority from the local state government.

Assistant Director for Reference and Instruction

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Lisa Spar
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Lisa Spar l Assistant Director for Reference and Instructional Services and Special Professor of Law
Law Library l 122 Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11549
516-463-5392 l
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