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A Great Legal Source: Law Libraries

Finding Law Libraries

Law libraries are the fundamental locations where legal research takes place. Because the law is such a common practice throughout all of American society, law libraries are located all throughout the United States, but many have vary degrees of accessibility, depending upon where they exist in the private or public sectors.

As a rule, most law libraries serve the primary function of providing access to the law to anyone who needs it, but there are private law libraries just as there are private libraries. However, large firms and legal organizations may have far more than simply a few shelves of books, and may be able to support full legal libraries with their own full or part time staff of legal librarians, to be kept at the private disposal of the firm’s own associates and their representatives.

Many more public law libraries will usually be associated with municipal court houses, and may vary in size based on the size and volume of legal actions that are undertaken within that courthouse. Courthouse law libraries are entirely for the public use, however, and there are generally limited restrictions placed on their use for the public. Most of the best courthouse libraries are found in county courthouses, which will be located in the country seat. In very large cities, like New York City or Los Angeles, their main branch public libraries will sometimes feature a very significant legal libraries that would compare favorably to any at a local courthouse or law school.

Finally, there are law school law libraries, which will located on the campuses of most major law schools of any note or reputation. Thought these libraries are typically for the use of the law school’s staff, teachers, and student populations, many offer some public services, and will provide what are commonly called “friendship” services, where a researcher pays an annual fee to use the library (kind of like an annual payment on a library card).

Finding these programs can be as simple as knowing where to look, but there are many services online that will list local law libraries in the area (though not private ones since they are for organization use only), and most Internet search engines will provide location services.

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