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Research Assistance Policies for Visitors
Our Policy on Legal Research and Legal Advice
While we can help you use the Legal Information Center, we cannot do legal research for you. If you need to find out what the law is, we encourage you to come into the Legal Information Center and look it up. When you come in, we will show you where the sets are and how to use the indexes, but you are responsible for your own research. If you find a law or case that is not clear to you, we will not interpret it for you; instead we will suggest law dictionaries or other sources that might help you interpret it. Why do we have this policy? There are several good reasons.
- Advising people what the law is and how it applies to their situation may be practicing law–it is what lawyers do. We are librarians; our job is to help people use the library, not to research and interpret the law for them.
- Legal research can often be complicated, even for a simple question. For example, you might ask, “What is the statute of limitations for a car accident in State X?” Depending on the state, it might make a difference whether the accident resulted in an injury or a fatality. It might also make a difference if the person who wants to sue was a minor at the time of the accident or was unable to start a lawsuit right away.
- And there might be other factors to consider. It makes sense for you to do your own research and see what factors might apply to your situation. You can then choose which cross-references to follow. Doing legal research for all callers would soon overwhelm our staff. It is fair to everyone to say: “Please come into the Legal Information Center; when you come in, we will help you find and use the sources you need to do your own research.”
If you need someone who will research and interpret the law for you, you should talk to an attorney. We have a list of free and low-cost legal services and referral services.