rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 1: p. 84
Sources: Finding the Answers to Legal Questions: A How-To-Do-It Manual
Chris G. Hudson

Chris G. Hudson, Assistant Law Librarian for Serials and Government Documents, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Finding the Answers to Legal Questions is a recent release in Neal-Schuman’s long established “How-To-Do-It Manuals” series. This title explicitly aims first for an audience of librarians and staff of public libraries providing legal reference services as well as students preparing for such careers. But secondarily, it serves members of the public and other students on the initiating end of legal reference inquiries. In this, it differs subtly but importantly from established general legal reference guides for the public, such as those published by Nolo, Sphinx Legal, and the like. Toward these ends, Tucker and Lampson have divided the 17 chapters of material into four general parts.

The first part is a legal information overview whose content is the least unique in comparison to existing legal guides. Unfortunately, some of the information in this section is outdated. The most egregious example of this is that GPO Access is still treated as the primary delivery system of federal law when FDsys has been in the works for well over two years and is due to replace GPO Access for good before the end of 2011. The book’s second part provides a decent summary of how to navigate the important distinction between providing legal information and providing legal advice. The third part organizes the available resources into various sub-specialties of law in the context of realistic reference questions but does not provide much depth; it is primarily a springboard to compiled lists of more greatly detailed resources. The fourth part is the most original; it offers collection development advice for legal materials and practical examples of web-based legal tutorials. Regrettably, even this section is marred with questionable statements; for instance, “as a general rule, all primary law—enacted law, case law, and administrative law—can be found … on the free web” (191).

This manual may ultimately prove useful to public librarians who feel extremely inexperienced in legal reference, but libraries with strict budgets would do better to rely on general research guides for the public, such as Nolo’s Legal Research (9th ed.), augmented by the wealth of publicly available online legal tutorials like those available on Cornell’s Legal Information Institute website.



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