Legal Research & Research Skills •

Welcome LLM Students!

WelcomeIt has been so great to see all of the new LLM students here at the law school during the last week or so! We are very glad you’re here. There is such wonderful energy here on campus during this time of year.

We have seen many LLM students already in our library tours and Hollis/E-Research training classes so far. If you are an LLM student and you have not had a chance to sign up for these yet, visit the Law Library Training Calendar to register –

Comparative Law Resources in the Law Library

I often post in this blog about recently-acquired English-language comparative law resources in our collection. These types of resources can be a great way to explore the law of jurisdictions for which there are otherwise not a lot of materials in English.

One of our newer books, for example, will be very helpful to researchers who would like to conduct a multi-jurisdictional exploration of patent law:

Patent Enforcement in the U.S., Germany, and Japan
Toshiko Takenaka, et al.
Published in 2015 by Oxford University Press
Law Library, Langdell Building 3rd floor
Call number K 1505 .T35 2015

The lead author is a technology law professor at the University of Washington Law School, where she also completed her LLM and PhD. The book represents her collaboration on this subject with law professors and patent law attorneys in Germany and Japan. Topic covered include infringement, validity challenges, enforcement procedures, and remedies for each of the three jurisdictions.

Library of Congress Subject Heading Authorities in the Hollis Library Catalog

I also wanted to use this post to discuss searching the Hollis library catalog ( using subject keywords. This can be a good method for finding comparative law materials in the law library collection, not only in English but in other languages as well.

The law library’s catalogers use Library of Congress Subject Authority Headings ( when they catalog our library materials. Because they represent a controlled vocabulary, using LOC Subject Authority Headings in your subject keyword searches will help you find materials on the subject you specify regardless of what language the materials themselves are written in.

For example, you can search Hollis using these subject keywords:

patent laws germany japan

There are seven results for this search, four in English, one in German, and two in Japanese. The Hollis results screen is shown below.

Hollis Catalog Search Results Screen, Search is Subject Keywords: patent laws germany japan


In the Hollis record itself, each subject heading authority is hyperlinked. Click a link to find additional materials to which that subject heading authority was specifically assigned.

Hollis record with green box around hyperlinked subject heading authorities.


As you are learning how to use Hollis, you may want to experiment with searching by subject. You may find that your searches are more precise, and your search results more relevant, than using general keywords alone.

Please visit if you need help from a research librarian on searching Hollis or any other aspect of law library research.

New [And Improved] Title Spotlight: World Criminal Justice Systems: A Comparative Survey (9th ed.)

This time around, rather than looking at a brand new publication, I have decided to focus on the new edition of a treatise that was first published in 1984:

World Criminal Justice Systems: A Comparative Survey
Richard J. Terrill
9th edition, 2016
Law Library Reference Reading Room (Langdell 4th Floor), REF HV 7419 .T47 2016

This is not strictly a legal treatise, although much of its content will be of interest to comparative criminal law researchers. Instead, it focuses on the field of study of “criminal justice,” which according to the author encompasses several academic disciplines, including “[s]ociology, psychology, law, and public administration[.]” (Introduction, at 1)

The author makes it clear that this work facilitates the reader’s comparative analysis of the jurisdictions and legal systems surveyed, rather than providing its own. The book is targeted toward researchers with knowledge of the American criminal justice system; accordingly, the United States is not one of the featured jurisdictions. However, even non-U.S. researchers will likely find its clear, informative contents to be very valuable for introductory purposes.

For each of the jurisdictions covered (England, France, Japan, South Africa, Russia, and China), the author provides an informative overview of the government, the police, the judiciary, the law, the correctional system, and juvenile justice.  In addition, a chapter on Islamic Law was first added to the 8th edition in 2013. In this new edition, this chapter discusses the historical development of Islam and Sharia, and illustrates criminal justice principles in Islamic law countries using three “contemporary case studies” (Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey).

As the author explains in the introduction (pp. 7-9), when considering which jurisdictions to include, he focused on the evolution of their legal systems. In particular, he references “legal families”: while England represents common law; the “Romano-Germanic” tradition is represented by France as an original jurisdiction, as well as “borrowers” to varying degrees: Japan, South Africa, and the Russian Federation. The latter is also an example of a jurisdiction in the “socialist law” family, together with China. Finally, in adding the Islamic Law content, the author’s intention was not only to provide a view into criminal justice in “theocratic” societies, but also to focus on “countries [that] view the purpose and function of law in a different context from that which emerged in the West.”

In addition to its substantive content, the real value of this book to the researcher is its extensive bibliography of English-language sources, including books and scholarly articles, for each jurisdiction/legal system it covers.  Altogether, it is an excellent introductory source for legal researchers who are interested in researching any aspect of the criminal justice system in a comparative context.

Why get proficient in legal research?

Well, there are lots of reasons. If you’re working in public interest, researching efficiently will help you serve more people. If you’re working in a firm, you might not want to stay up all night doing research–and more urgently you might be under pressure to minimize billing of research hours.

Here’s one reason more that just caught our eye. From the NY Times a few weeks ago, How 4 Federal Lawyers Paved the Way to Kill Osama bin Laden, which describes the highly secret memo writing process that proceeded the raid of bin Laden’s compound:

Stretching sparse precedents, the lawyers worked in intense secrecy. Fearing leaks, the White House would not let them consult aides or even the administration’s top lawyer, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. They did their own research, wrote memos on highly secure laptops and traded drafts hand-delivered by trusted couriers. [emphasis added]

It’s just possible that someday you may be called upon to work on something so confidential that not even librarians can know about it and help you. (And one of our core professional values–so strong that we’ve been known to fight the FBI over it–is keeping private what our patrons are reading or researching.) Of course we hope scenarios like those described in the article are few and far between!

In the meantime and for everything that’s not super secret, we hope you’ll take advantage of our knowledge and services. Schedule a research consultation for your paper, project, or research for faculty. Or work on your own, but consult one of our research guides, which cover dozens of topics in legal research and beyond.

Jump Start Your Research With Our New Tool

The Harvard Law School Library recently launched a new tool to streamline your research. You can now run a single search to find research guides, items from the library’s catalog, responses to frequently asked questions, and databases that are recommended by the HLSL research librarians. If your search doesn’t return any results, you will be offered the opportunity to contact a librarian to get further help with your research. You can see the new tool in action in the video below.

You can find a link to this new tool on the library’s homepage under Research A Topic. We hope this will help to make your research faster and smoother, but if you encounter any issues, please feel free to let us know!

852 RARE: Of Butchers, Bakers, and Cordwainers

Among the appeals of older books and manuscripts are the fascinating glimpses they may provide into earlier times and their inhabitants. Recently a slim volume in a plain, nondescript binding crossed my desk. The title was in typically long eighteenth century style but straight-forward: A copy of the poll, taken the eighth day of September … 1780 at the Guildhall, in the Borough of New Windsor … at an election of two representatives to serve in the ensuing Parliament … . The poll in the title refers to a fifteen page alphabetical list of voters (only men, of course) and their occupations. This seemingly straightforward list provided an unexpected glimpse of life in a late eighteenth century English town, as well as a wealth of information about its residents.

TpThe town of New Windsor (now known simply as Windsor), 23 miles west of London, was a “free borough” and during the Middle Ages one of the fifty wealthiest English towns. After a period of decline it experienced a revival when George III began renovations to the castle there in the late 1770s. The town’s growth seems to be reflected in the 1780 poll, which shows a significant number of citizens in the construction trades: carpenters, bricklayers, glaziers, painters, and stone masons, among others. The list reveals that the town was sophisticated enough to support a perfumer (Robert Calley), a jeweler (John Snow) and a watchmaker (James Turlis) and had enough overnight visitors to keep at least four “innholders” in business. The poll also reveals broad class and economic divisions, listing several labourers, along with several gentlemen. Adcock

The occupation of the very first citizen—Thomas Adcock, staymaker— sounds delightfully archaic to a modern reader. Yet there were at least three of them in New Windsor in 1780. How many staymakers are there anywhere now? Or, how many coopers, horsebreakers, rabbit sellers, cordwainers, soap boilers, collar makers, peruke makers, or tripemen? How many of today’s occupations will sound delightfully quaint (or mystifying) 235 years from now?




On the other hand, most of the occupations in the list are recognizable, even if the vocabulary has changed, and show how the necessities of life were filled for New Windsor’s residents. HsThere were several victuallers, shopkeepers, shoemakers, higlers, “taylors”, and bakers, and at least two butchers, a cheese-monger, fishmonger, brewer,  a physician, an apothecary, tea dealer, and a milkman. Among the town’s inhabitants were at least five attorneys and a gaoler (jailer), as well as a number of family businesses: Joseph and William Cantrell (bakers) and Henry and William Coombs (ironmongers). Of course, death and taxes are always with us, as they were for the people of New Windsor, verified by the occupations of Edward Edwards (collector of excise) and Charles Jarman (taylor and undertaker).

This seemingly unremarkable 1780 poll list reminds us that such routine documents are anything but dull and may, in fact, be rich resources for historical and genealogical research.

Early English Manor Rolls Go Online

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce that we have begun a multi-year project to conserve and digitize our collection of English manor rolls. The rolls came to Harvard over a century ago, purchased in 1892 and 1893 by Harvard Professor William James Ashley (1860-1927) from London bookseller James Coleman. In 1925 the College Library transferred the collection to the Harvard Law School Library.

The manor roll collection consists of 170 court-rolls, account-rolls, and other documents from various manors, ranging in date from 1282 to 1770. The largest concentration comes from the manor of Moulton in Cheshire. Other manors represented are Odiham Hundred, Hampshire; Herstmonceaux, Sussex; Chartley, Staffordshire; and Onehouse, Suffolk. A limited number of materials in this collection are single-sheet charters and one item is a map of the manor of Shelly, Suffolk.

Manor roll 16A (2)

Detail of roll from Moulton, Cheshire 1518-1521 (Box 2, 16)


For a complete description of the collection, see the finding aid, which will change and grow as digital images of the rolls become available, and links to them, along with improved descriptions of the rolls will be added. We expect this primary resource will be of particular interest to legal and local historians, students of early modern English history, and genealogists, all of whom have already used the rolls in their research. We also hope that by putting the rolls online, they will reach a broader audience who may pursue research questions that have not previously encompassed the manor rolls. We welcome your suggestions for improved descriptions; email with your feedback.

Bestlaw – A New Tool That Aims to Make Westlaw Better

Bestlaw LogoUsers of WestlawNext will be happy to know that there is a new tool that might make your research just a little bit easier. A law student from the UC Berkeley School of Law has created a browser extension called Bestlaw that, in the words of their website, “add[s] the features Westlaw forgot.” Among these features are options for a more readable presentation of the text that removes extraneous menus and addition sources, the option to share the link to a document more seamlessly via email or social media, a feature that prevents you from getting signed off automatically, and tools for copying information about the case. Perhaps more interesting for many law students, one of the pieces of information that you can copy with a single click is the Bluebook citation for the document you are reading. Right now this feature only works for reported federal cases, but there are plans to extend it to other documents on Westlaw as well. While you should always check your citations and not rely on a third party to create them for you, initial tests of this feature produced correct citations.

Currently Bestlaw is only available as a browser extension for Chrome and it only works with Westlaw, but the website for the tool says that a Firefox version and features that will work with Lexis are also in the works. If you want to try it out, you the installation process requires only two clicks and if you decide you don’t like it, the website links to clear instructions for both disabling and removing it.

If you are interested in learning about other browser extensions that can help you make your research more efficient, stop by our training session on October 28th. For a full list of our technology training sessions, see our research training calendar.

Finding Records That Are No Longer in PACER

As some of you may have already heard, PACER, the online repository for records and filings from U.S. Federal Courts, recently removed documents from five courts in preparation for an update to the system. Though efforts are underway by some private organizations to find a way to make these documents publicly available again, this has left many PACER users concerned about how to find these documents (which included records from some high profile cases) in the meantime. If you find yourself looking for these documents, there are a couple of approaches you can take.

First, all Harvard Law School students have access to Bloomberg Law, which offers a helpful docket search feature. While it does not include records for all cases, its easy search interface and the fact that new records are added all the time makes it a good first source. To search for a docket, login into Bloomberg Law and click Litigation & Dockets in the top menu. Then select Search Dockets from the resulting drop down menu.

If you don’t find the record you need in Bloomberg Law, you can also visit the RECAP Archive. This free database collects federal court documents that are gathered by the RECAP browser extension. (You might also consider installing the extension yourself; it is available for both Chrome and Firefox). While the archive does not include all court records, it is growing all the time, so it is a good starting point for items not on PACER or Bloomberg Law.

If you find that the records aren’t available electronically, we have collected information about how to request materials from each of the courts that had items removed from PACER below:

If you are looking for further information on how to find court records and briefs, you can also refer to our research guide on the topic.

CALI Unconference

We are currently hosting the 2014 CALI Conference for Law School Computing here at Harvard Law School.  Before the official conference started, several attendees met on Wednesday, 6/18, for an “Unconference.”

The Unconference agenda was completely attendee-driven: the participants selected topics and then broke off into small groups to discuss them.  Topics included:

  • Is “Law Practice Technology” Worth Teaching as Part of an Advanced Legal Research Course?
  • Flipped Classrooms
  • Building Virtual Communities
  • Polling Tools
  • How Do We Train Faculty to Understand When Multimedia Tools Are Adding Value, When They’re Just Wanting to be “Cool”?
  • What Tool has Really Helped a Colleague Teach and Didn’t Demand a Lot of Time?

Check out for notes from the sessions.

Thank you to the attendees for some great discussions!

Check Out Our Latest Research Guides

The librarians at the Harvard Law School Library are always working to create new guides to help you with your research and technology needs and we have recently debuted several new guides: