Helpful Legal Resources and Links

by John Bandler

This is a starting point for legal resources for myself and students. A research starting place to find laws, regulations, and cases.

When I teach law to non-lawyers this can help get them started. Your library and librarians will have additional insight, advice, and resources.

1. Starting points

1.1 Your course materials

If you are taking an academic course, your start point is always the materials listed in the course syllabus. The course syllabus includes many readings, perhaps a course book and many articles. Your research relates to your course, your course assigned materials relate to your course, so it is certain that some of those assigned materials relate to your topic. So read them first and see what the cite to and refer to. Thus course materials are your start point, but rarely your finish line.

Maybe you are taking one of my courses? Review the course book and syllabus and articles listed in the syllabus, and articles on this website. If I am teaching about it, I have probably written something about it that can get you started.

1.2 My articles are starting points on the law and other topics

My articles can be cited and they explain the law in a relatively simple and straightforward manner. Then, these articles refer to and link to specific statutes, regulations, cases, or writings by experts in the field. If you are new to law, you can start with my Introduction to Law, articles, and others are linked to below.

My blog articles are necessarily short and concise and I do not pretend to be an expert in all things. So they are a start point but not your finish line. Sometimes they cite to other articles that have more detail, or external resources or references. Identify authoritative legal sources such as statutes, regulations, and case decisions that have strong precedent. Also think about secondary and tertiary sources.

Though website articles are not necessarily authoritative, I consider mine carefully written and continually updated and improved, and often they point to many additional and authoritative resources.

1.3 My books are starting points

Similarly, my books can be cited and they explain the law and practical applications. A published book from a reputable publisher is generally of higher reference authority than a website article. My books provide starting points, they cover miles of territory and sometimes not in extreme detail. So your research continues, and you can start with cited references and expand.

2. Open source search platforms (seeking reliable sources)

The Internet has great free information, if you know how to find reliable sites and use them properly to research.

After you have navigated through your starting points (course materials, see above, etc.) and branched out from there, you can consider:

  • Google Scholar (a great resource to search case law and legal articles)
  • Wikipedia (a great resource about law, summaries of cases, but we need to understand limitations and not give it undue weight)
  • Internet search engines (Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go, etc.) and here you need to look for reliable, credible sources, continually assess and never blindly accept.
  • See next section

When reading and researching, always consider who wrote it, why, their credentials, motive, authority, and reliability.

"Google" should never be your first research stop -- course materials should be.

AI tools like Chat GPT should never be your first research stop -- course materials should be.

3. Reliable open source (free) information on law

Cornell Law's Legal Information Institution (LII), an excellent legal reference

NYS Penal Law (PL) (New York's criminal code, substantive criminal law)

NYS Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) (New York's law about the procedure of criminal arrests and prosecutions)

U.S. Department of Justice reference materials (e.g., re: cybercrime investigation)

4. Your school's resources

If you are attending a school remember to use your school resources, especially the library, librarians, and other library staff. Most staff will be delighted to share their knowledge and show you their resources, and eager to show students there are ways to research other than just using "Google".

Your school has access to books, articles, academic databases, legal databases, subscription news sites, and more.

Take full advantage of those school resources!

If you are in one of my courses at a school of higher education, your library link might be below:

Explore those links and their resources to see how your library operates, their additional resources, advertised services, contact information, etc.

Remember not to wait till the last minute! A last-minute consultation does not help you as much, and librarians may face many requests at the end of the semester.

Some school libraries may be understaffed and even unable to provide all the services they advertise. So get there early, try your best, and be polite and patient (as always). Get whatever advice and help you can under all the circumstances.

5. Start simple and what is already right in front of you - then expand

Start simple and with what is already right in front of you, and what you are already required to read.

That's the course materials, and they give you a solid start.

Then see what they refer to, and read that. Then expand your research for greater knowledge and learning.

6. Assess weight, precedence, authority

Keep working towards sources of greater weight, precedence, and authority, and continually expand your research.

For example, if your research involves the First Amendment or Fourth Amendment, a great starting point is my articles on this website, and what is referenced in other course materials. But then you need to read (and cite) the actual Amendments, which are the highest authority. Then you will find other writings of intermediate authority (e.g., between my articles and the actual Amendment) which are relevant and helpful.

7. Conclusion

This page, this website and my books get you started and point you to additional resources. It's just a start but not the finish line so be sure to expand your research. The usual disclaimers apply (e.g., this is not legal advice).

8. Additional reading

Copyright John Bandler, all rights reserved.

Posted 3/4/2022, updated 5/22/2024.