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Legal Research Manual

This edition of Legal Research Manual builds on many previous editions. While the manual is designed principally for use with the first year legal research classes, upper year law students will also find it a useful reference.

American Law Reports (ALRs)

The American Law Reports (A.L.R.), in addition to reporting selective state and federal cases, contain detailed "annotations" to each case. Each annotation is similar to a memorandum of law and exhaustively reviews the leading cases relevant to the specific fact situation raised in the case.

For the Canadian lawyer researching specific US law, the American Law Reports is a good starting point. If an annotation is found dealing with your specific problem, the majority of your US research will have been completed. For the more recent series, each annotation can be updated for later cases by checking the pocket parts in the back of that law report volume.

Typical annotations include: "What constitutes private passenger automobile in insurance policy provisions defining risks covered or expected" ; or "Products Liability: Ladders". In each annotation, all US case law specifically on point is analyzed.

Cases arising out of the state courts are annotated in ALR which exists in a number of different series. Federal cases were contained in ALR up till 1969, and are now found in ALR Federal. US Supreme Court cases are annotated in the Lawyers Edition (L.Ed.) of the Supreme Court Reports.

To find out if there is a specific annotation on point use the print Index to Annotations (covering ALR 2d, ALR 3d, ALR 4th, ALR 5th, ALR Federal and L.Ed 2d). It is important to check the pocket parts, both in the Index and in the law report containing the annotation that you are relying on. The pocket parts refer to more recent material.

The ALRs may be searched on law students' individual WestlawNext Canada accounts:

  • Click on the "International" tab on the WestlawNext main page.
  • Select "Secondary Sources" under "All WestlawNext U.S." The American Westlaw platform will open in a separate tab on your browser.
  • Select "American Law Reports" under "By Type."
  • Search the ALRs by entering one or more keywords in the search box at the top of the screen.
  • The ALR Index can also be searched or browsed.  The link to the Index is on the right menu under "Tools and Resources."