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Legal Writing Guide: Databases

About

Not many databases are devoted solely to the topic of legal writing as a whole.  However, examples of specific types of legal writing can be found in specialized HeinOnline, IICLE SmartBooks, Lexis, and Westlaw databases.  You must judge for yourself how useful these form and "real life" examples are to your own legal writing process.

This page offers directions for finding some of those databases.  For pointers to HeinOnline, Lexis, and Westlaw databases which contain individual journal titles devoted to legal writing, see the Journals page of this guide.

Access to Lexis and Westlaw is restricted to Law School students, faculty, and staff with passwords to those services.  Access to HeinOnline is restricted to those who are on campus or who have LUC log on credentials.

Briefs, Motions, and Memoranda

HeinOnline's National Moot Court Competition Library contains materials from the 1st (1950) competition through the present.  You can look through the briefs from year to year, or skip directly to "View Winning Briefs by Year," under the Browse option at the left of your screen.

Your access to Lexis through the Law Library's subscription also includes some briefs and motions databases.  Look for the Court Records, Briefs and Filings category on your main page, and click the "View More" link to see a list of those.  Choose the database which is most narrowly suited to your needs.  Or, to find briefs and motions specific to a particular area of law, look for the Area of Law - By Topic category on your main page and click the "View More" link.  Choose a topical area and then look for a folder or set of links containing the words, "briefs," "motions," or "filings."

Your Westlaw access includes some databases of briefs and motions, too.  Go to the Directory (linked at the top and left of your screen) and look for a link to the Litigation category.  Within that, you will find "briefs" and "motions" links, and through those you can access databases that contain those types of documents.  Choose the database which is most narrowly suited to your needs.  You can also find databases of briefs and motions specific to certain other areas of practice.  To do that, choose the Topical Practice Areas link in the Directory, choose an area of law within that list, and then look for "briefs" or "motions" options within that.

Forms

Selected forms databases are also included in the Law Library's subscriptions to Lexis and Westlaw.  A collection of Illinois forms is also available to you through our subscription to the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE) SmartBooks database.  These are some suggestions for locating forms in each of those products.  Look closely at the database directories in each to get a full picture of what is available to you in those services.

In Lexis, look for the Secondary Legal category on your main page, and from within that choose the Forms & Agreements link to see a selection of forms databases.  On that page, you also can choose to see forms for particular jurisdictions or related to specific areas of law.  Other routes to topic specific forms are the Area of Law - By Topic category on your main page, and the "Center" links under Litigation and Transactional Resources on the right side of your screen.

In Westlaw, go to the Directory (linked at the top and left of your screen) and look for a link to the Forms category.  In that category you will find a variety of forms databases.  Choose the one that is most narrowly suited to your  needs.  You can also find forms which are specific to selected topical areas of law.  To do that, choose the Topical Practice Areas link in the Directory, choose an area of law within that list, and then look for a link that contains the word "forms."

IICLE Online is an electronic collection of publications by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Education (IICLE). To search efficiently among the hundreds of forms in the IICLE Online Library, select your area of law and then check the "Search only content with forms available for download" box before entering keywords to search.  Once you locate a useful form, you can download it and then adapt it for your own use. NOTE: as of January, 2018, IICLE Online is no longer available off-campus.

Scholarly Writing

HeinOnline's most well-known portion is its extensive Law Journal Library, which holds articles from almost 1500 journals on the subject of law.  All of the prestigious academic journals are included there, from volume one to, in most cases, the most recent full volume.  Peruse those to get a sense of what is required in serious scholarly writing.

In Lexis, click the Law Reviews & Journals link in the Secondary Legal category, on your main page, to get to a list of databases that contain articles about legal topics and issues.  Choose the database that most narrowly suits your needs.  You can also use links on that page to locate law reviews and journals that publish articles related to specific areas of law.

In Westlaw, go to the Directory (linked at the top and left of your screen) and look for a link to the Legal Periodicals and Current Awareness category.  Within that, choose the Law Reviews link, which will take you to a list of links for Westlaw databases that include scholarly legal articles.  Choose the one that best suits your needs and interests.  You can also find journals and law reviews databases which are specific to selected topical areas of law.  To do that, choose the Topical Practice Areas link in the Directory, choose an area of law within that list, and then look for a link that contains the words "law reviews" or "legal periodicals."

Transactional Materials

In Lexis, you can see the forms available for transactional areas of practice by using the links in the Litigation and Transactional Resources box on the right side of your screen.  Be sure to note the last link, "More Transactional Practice Centers."  Or, choose an area of law from within the Area of Law - By Topic section of your main Lexis page.  Be sure to click the "View More" link to see a full list of topical areas of law.

In Westlaw, go to the Directory (linked at the top and left of your screen) and look for a link to Topical Practice Areas.  Within that, choose the area of transactional practice that interests you.  For some topical areas, you will find databases that include examples of transactional work products.  The Forms category in the Directory is another route to certain types of transactional examples.

Subject Guide

Patricia Scott's picture
Patricia Scott
Contact:
Director, Law Library & Clinical Professor of Law

Philip H. Corboy Law Center

25 E. Pearson St.

Chicago, IL 60611

(312) 915-8515