Library Guide for LL.M. Students

This guide includes Internet links, research tips, and lists of books that Hastings LLM students might find useful.

We hope you enjoy your time at Hastings. If you need help with any library or research project, feel free to contact librarian Vince Moyer.

Quick Links:

Legal Writing and Research
American Federal Law
California Law
Research Assistance
Study Guides
Dictionaries and Legal Writing

Books and Online Sources for Legal Writing and Research

ALWD Citation Manual : a Professional System of Citation
KF245 .A45 2006 (Reference and Circulation Desks)

Basic Legal Research Workbook
KF240 .S562 2005 (5th Floor)

Legal Research : How to Find & Understand the Law
KF240 .E35 2007 (Reference Desk)

Legal Writing : Process, Analysis, and Organization
KF250 .E39 2002 (5th Floor)

Plain English for Lawyers
KF250 .W93 2005 (Course Reserve at Circ Desk)

How to Brief a Case -- click here to see the elements of a case brief and here for an example.

Lexis Nexis

Books with practical advice for law students

Acing your first year of law school : the ten steps to success you won't learn in class
KF283 .N69 2008 (5th Stacks) 

Getting to maybe : how to excel on law school exams
KF283 .F47 1999(5th Stacks)  

How to succeed in law school
KF283 .M86 2001 (5th Stacks)

Ivy briefs : true tales of a neurotic law student
KF373.K473 A3 2007(5th Stacks)  

Law school confidential : the complete law school survival guide : by students, for students
KF283 .M55 2000 (5th Stacks)  

Law school without fear : strategies for success
KF386 .S44 2002 (5th Stacks)

One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School
KF373.T88 A33 1988 (5th Stacks)  

Starting off right in law school
KF273 .N97 1997 (5th Stacks)  

The complete law school companion : how to excel at America's most demanding post-graduate curriculum
KF283 .D4 1992 (5th Stacks)

The elements of legal style
KF250 .G37 2002 (5th Stacks) 

The redbook : a manual on legal style
KF250 .G376 2006 (Reference Desk)

American Federal Law

A Brief Overview of American Law

It is important to remember the hierarchy of American law. Cities can make laws, but these laws must be in compliance with the law of the State in which that city is located. Each of the fifty states make laws, but these laws must be in compliance with federal law. Federal law is therefore supreme.

Federal law is made by each of the three branches of government:

  • The executive branch makes laws through the various federal agencies. These laws typically are called regulations. They are first published in chronological order in the Federal Register (also on the 4th floor in the library) and then are arranged by subject in the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • The legislature makes laws by passing bills in Congress. When a bill becomes law, it is then called a Public Law. These laws are first published in chronological order in the U.S. Statutes at Large and then arranged by subject in the United States Code.
  • The judiciary branch interprets the laws created by the legislature and the executive branch. The judiciary also makes law by resolving disputes between individuals, organizations, or businesses that have been brought to the federal court. Once a court has issued an opinion in a case, then other lower courts must follow the court's ruling. The structure of the federal court is described in detail here. (Click here for an image.) Federal cases typically are brought in a federal district court and the opinions published in the Federal Supplement. Cases may be appealed to the federal appellate court; the opinions are published in the Federal Reporter. Some cases are subsequently appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court; those decisions are published in US Reports, Supreme Court Reporter, and Supreme Court Reports Lawyers' Edition.

It is usually easy to find U.S. law; the hard part is interpreting the law. To help you understand the law, there are numerous secondary sources with descriptions and analyses of the laws. Some of these include legal encyclopedias, nutshells, hornbooks, treatises, practice guides, and law journals. For a description of many of these useful resources, you can view the library's study aids webpage or consult the library's guide to finding law journal articles.

The Hastings Law Library has an extensive collection of both the primary sources of American law (regulations, public laws, and case law) and the helpful secondary sources which explain the law.

The Law Library of Congress webpage is a good starting place for students unfamiliar with the U.S. legislative process. It includes information about how U.S. laws are made and a brief guide to the U.S. legal system.

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Selected Introductions to American Law

The following five books are good places to start if you want to get a better understanding of the American legal system. They are very readable and don't go into so much detail as to be overwhelming:

An Introduction to the Legal System of the United States, 3rd ed.
By E. Allan Farnsworth
KF387 .F3 1996 (5th Floor)

Introduction to the Law and Legal System of the United States
By William Burnham
KF385 .B87 2002 (5th Floor)

Introduction to the Law of the United States
By David S. Clark
KF385 .I58 2002 (5th Floor)

Law in the United States: An Overview
By Peter Hay
KF385 .H313 2002 (5th Floor)

Legal English: An Introduction to the Legal Language and Culture of the United States
By Teresa Brostoff
KF272 .B76 2003 (5th Floor)

Primary Law


U.S. Reports- these are available online through HeinOnline
Supreme Court Reporter

United States Supreme Court Reports
Federal Reporter
Federal Supplement

United States Code
United States Code Service
United States Code Annotated

Code of Federal Regulations

Secondary Law

U.S. Supreme Court Digest
West's Federal Practice Digest

The most important secondary sources are law review articles and treatises.

You can fnd these in Lexis and Westlaw and in the UC Hastings Library Catalog.

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California Law


This is an overview of the California court system. Information about the Supreme Court of California is available from the California Courts website.

Primary Law


California Reporter
California Reports

California Appellate Reports

Deering's California Code

West's Annotated California Codes

McKinney's Digest
West's Digest

California Code of Regulations

Research Assistance

Library Catalogs

To find out what books are available at the Hastings Law Library and other nearby libraries, use the catalogs below:

Hastings Online Catalog
Search or browse by AUTHOR (example: Traynor, Roger J), TITLE (ex: Criminal law and its administration), CALL NUMBER (ex: KFC610.A56 1980), SUBJECT (ex: Environmental Law International Cases), or KEYWORDS (ex: cappuccino future).

San Francisco Public Library (SFPL)
You can obtain borrowing privileges with proof of California residence. A SFPL library card number allows remote access to online databases such as JSTOR (for journals) and EBSCOhost (for newspaper articles). SFPL is just down Hyde Street (a two-minute walk) and is a great source for foreign newspapers and books.

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Library Assistance

Reference Desk Hours:
Monday-Friday: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Saturday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
(415) 565-4751

Reference Chat

Reference Email Form

Reference Appointment Form

Do you have a question about the library, American law, or legal research? The librarians at Hastings are available to help with basic questions about printed or electronic legal resources, or to help you plan your research strategy for a particular project. Feel free to stop by the reference desk anytime. If you have a detailed question about your research, you might want to call (or e-mail) and make an appointment.

Online Databases

The following online databases are useful for researching American law. Hastigs LLM students receive Lexis and Westlaw passwords in your LW&R class, and the passwords (if necessary) for the library's subscription electronic resources are listed on the Electronic Resouces webpage.

Online Resources

Study Guides

Need a little help? Nutshells (short narratives about a specific area of law), Course Outlines and other books can make American legal topics a little less confusing. Click here to see some study aids available in the library. The bookstore also has a good selection of study guides (for sale).

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Dictionaries and other Legal Writing Resources


There is a sizeable collection of English and foreign language dictionaries available at the library and online. Many of the library's dictionaries are kept at the Reference Desk. To use these dictionaries, just ask for them at the Reference Desk. The following are some specialized ones:

Elsevier's Legal Dictionary : in English, German, French, Dutch and Spanish
K54 .E45 2001 (Reference)

Multilingual Dictionary of Copyright, Rights, and Contracts
K1419.5 .M84 1995 (5th Stacks)

Translations of Commonly Used Court Related Phrases
PB73 .T72 1998 (6th Stacks - LIB USE ONLY)

West's Law and Commercial Dictionary in Five Languages
K54 .W47 (Reference)


Black's Law Dictionary
KF156 .B53 2009` (Circulation Desk, 4th Floor Reading Room, Dictionary Stands -4th, 5th, 6th Stacks)

Introduction to Legal English : an introduction to legal terminology, reasoning, and writing for lawyers, law students, and business professionals who speak English as a second language, 3rd ed.
By Mark E. Wojcik
KF250 .W65 2009 (5th Floor)

Last updated January 6, 2010