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Law Library

Secondary Sources in Legal Research: Legal Treatises

Treatise Characteristics


  • Overview and in-depth discussion of an area of law
  • Analysis & Commentary
  • Citations to primary sources
  • May be one volume (e.g. hornbooks) or multivolume
  • May be hardbound or looseleaf
  • More and more are becoming available online
  • Use for background info, more detailed, more specific and more analytical than an encyclopedia. 

    Selecting the Best Treatise


    • Coverage
    • Organization
    • Currency
    • Accuracy
    • Reputation of Book
    • Reputation of Author
    • Reputation of Publisher

    Updating Treatises

    • Treatises are usually updated one to four times a year
    • Online versions may not be any more current than the print.
      • Look for a 'database updated' note.
      • Click on the Information symbol to find out how current the source is
    • In Print
      • Usually a pocket part or a pamphlet
      • Treatises are in looseleaf binders are updatd with inserted sheets.

    Online vs. Print

    Advantages to Using Treatises Online

    • Terms & Connectors Searching
    • Browse the Table of Contents
    • Hypertext links to cited sources
    • Portability: Information on your desktop, WiFi
    • Download/E-mail/print information
    • Avoid cost of subscribing to print version or time to go and use it at a library
    • Multiple users at the same time (don’t have to wait for a book that someone else is using)

    Disadvantages to Using Treatises Online

    • Cost of searching online
    • Harder to browse online (i.e., harder to flip back and forth through “pages”)

      Locating Relevant Legal Treatises

      Library Catalog

      An online catalog is a tremendous resource for identifying treatises on a particular subject.  Using our library's catalog will let you know what treatises we own, how current our copy is, where to find the book(s), and give you a link ot an online version if available.

      You can also identify treatises that exist, but that we may not own, by using a broader online catalog. The Mobius Union Catalog contains the holdings of a consortium of academic libraries in Missouri.  WorldCat contains the combined holdings of approximately 25,000 U.S. and foreign libraries.

      Professional Recommendations

      Online Commerical

      Each vendor puts (some of) the books they publish on their service. Most major titles are now only on one service,

      Some publishers are well known & respected for their publications in certain subject areas.  Examples include Matthew Bender's treatises on Admiralty,  Bankruptcy, and Immigration; BNA's treatises on Labor & Employment, Tax, and Intellectual Property; CCH's treatises on taxation, corporate governance and antitrust.

      It can, therefore, be important to recognize who owns what publishing company(ies) because the major services may not have the most important treatises in a given area. 

      Online Treatises

      Lexis Advance

      • Matthew Bender's treatises (Admiralty, Bankruptcy, Immigraion and more)
      • LexisNexis

      If you know the name select Browse Sources and search for the title. Otherwise select Secondary Materials under content type and then put in your search terms. 

      Bloomberg Law

      • BNA treatises (Labor & Employment, Tax and more)
      • Practicing Law Institute

      From the initial search screen of Bloomberg Law, click on the database ‘Books and Treatises.’  You may search by publisher or by practice area. 


      From the initial search screen click on ‘Secondary Sources’ and then ‘Texts and Treatises’ to limit your search to treatises.  If you know the title, type it into the search box.  If it is available on the Westlaw system, it should 'autofill' i.e. provide the full title for you.  Choose that and click the search button to the right of the box.


      • CCH (tax, corporate governance, antitrust and more)
      • Aspen


      Database Links