Secondary Legal Sources

In legal research, secondary sources refer to a variety of resources that explain, interpret, and analyze primary sources. They include legal dictionaries, encyclopedias, law reviews, American Law Reports, treatises, restatements, and jury instructions. Secondary sources are a great way to start research and often have citations to highly relevant primary sources.

Secondary sources are not law, and as such are not mandatory authority. They are always persuasive authority. Persuasive authority can be used to support a legal position or argument, and courts may choose to consider it when deciding an issue. However, it is not mandatory that they do so.

Legal Dictionaries

A legal dictionary contains the definitions of legal terms. It's the first place you should look when you do not understand what a legal term means.

Legal Encyclopedias

Legal encyclopedias are a great place to begin research and are used them to find a general overview of a particular area of the law.


Restatements are a series of treatises that articulate the principles or rules of a specific area of law. They are written and published by the American Law Institute to clarify or "restate" the general principles of common law. They are often cited by courts and are considered highly authoritative.


A treatise is usually a multi-volume set of books that provides comprehensive analysis of an area of law. They are often written by highly regarded legal scholars and may be cited as persuasive authority.

American Law Reports

American Law Reports (ALR) contain articles, or "annotations," of narrative text summarizing case law on specific topics across a number of jurisdictions. ALRs cover more narrow topics that are presented in more depth and with greater detail than an encyclopedia article.

Law Reviews / Journals

Law reviews (or law journals) are a type of legal periodical and are the primary forum for legal scholarship in the U.S. academic legal community. They contain articles and essays by law professors, judges, and other legal scholars. While not typically cited in legal arguments, the articles usually provide an in-depth discussion of the legal issue and provide citations to significant and often recent, primary and secondary sources.

If you want to know if Daemen Library has access to a specific law journal, then you can search the title of the publication in the SearchCat on the library homepage. Searching a journal title here is the easiest way to quickly see if the library has access to it and which database(s) it's available in. You can also try our dedicated journal search.

Jury Instructions

Many jurisdictions, both state and federal, have approved "pattern" or "uniform" jury instructions for frequently-tried cases. A party must use pattern instructions if they are provided. If there are no pattern instructions for a particular case or cause, the attorneys must draft them. In that case, one may consult "non-pattern" or "model" instructions provided by legal publishers, pattern instructions from another jurisdiction, or one may seek appropriate language from governing statutory or case law. Because pattern jury instructions frequently provide commentary that summarizes the authority behind the instruction, they often provide an excellent starting point for legal research.