I. Check with your nearest library, such as a local public library or county law library, for the availability and location of a legal information collection in your area.

II. Know your facts
A. What is the subject
B. What has happened: who, what, when, where, why and how

III. Classify the problem
A. Is it under state or federal jurisdiction
B. Is it a civil or criminal case

IV. Be familiar with the organization of the judicial system A. Federal: Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, or District or Bankruptcy Courts
B. State: Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, or trial level courts, e.g. Superior or District Courts
C. Administrative tribunals

V. Select the appropriate background search
A. Legal dictionaries are helpful in defining terminology used in similar cases
B. Legal encyclopedias give an overview of the subject

VI. Use indexes to find an exact page or to find information on a particular subject

VII. Use primary sources
A. Statutes or acts passed by U.S. Congress or state legislatures
B. Rulings, decisions or opinions of courts
C. Regulations of state and federal agencies

VIII. Use secondary sources
A. Treatises
B. Law Reviews
C. Looseleaf services

IX. Check for the most current information
A. Newest edition
B. Most recent supplement
C. Pocket parts

X. Use citators to find a table of subsequent cases citing to the original case for further history and treatment in the courts


by the Office of the Administrator for the Courts for the Washington State Judiciary