As an attorney or legal professional, you already know practice guides save you time when performing legal research, drafting a legal document, or in a range of other scenarios. These secondary sources can be particularly useful when navigating an unfamiliar practice area, or a more nuanced issue in an area of law with which you are familiar.
Practice guides are widely available from a number of publishers and heavily relied upon by attorneys, yet there are no rules directing how a practice guide should be written, or standard formats dictating what content must, at a minimum, be included.
As a result, not all practice guides are created equal.
Selecting a trustworthy publication from the several options available can be overwhelming. A practice guide is an investment— a tool in your practice kit—and therefore should be a reliable resource. Below, we’ve set forth a few tips that will help you determine whether a practice guide is reliable and will fit your practice needs.
Tip 1: What is the publisher’s history?
Take a closer look at the publisher of the practice guide or treatise you’re considering. Head over to their website. If they are new to the legal publishing industry, consider how much expertise they have in this area.
The publisher may have been in business for some time, but has only recently entered the legal publishing industry. These types of publishers don’t specialize in legal publications, and are likely trying to grab some market share of a profitable industry. Look for well-established legal publishers that focus on practical law books, such as James Publishing, a trustworthy legal publisher that has specialized solely in treatises and practice guides for over 40 years.
Tip 2: Who is the author?
Before investing in a guide, consider who has authored the publication. There are several media conglomerates that quickly churn out guides spanning countless areas of law. While some of these guides may be written by judges or expert practitioners, many are written by anonymous legal analysts who have little to no experience actually practicing law. Is this the person you’d want guidance from when crafting a complex legal argument in your brief or preparing for trial? Probably not.
Look for guides authored by practicing attorneys and judges who have several years of experience practicing in the specific area of law and are highly regarded as experts in their practice area.
Tip 3: How “practical” is the practice guide?
Beware the boastful practice guide or overpacked treatise. These books will claim to be “the most comprehensive guide” in a particular area of law. If a guide truly is that comprehensive, it may not only be overwhelming to reference (defeating the purpose of saving time) but also quite pricey. Think: Do you need the priciest, most comprehensive book in your tool kit, or the guide that has exactly what you need for a fraction of the price?
Head over to the table of contents or index to see what’s included. A useful guide will have what you need for actual practice, not just theory. Truly practical guides will have time-saving motions and pleadings, forms, client letters, and step-by-step procedural checklists, pattern arguments, model questions, pitfalls to avoid, and practice tips.
Tip 4: Is the guide searchable?
This ties in with Tip 3 above, but think beyond the table of contents. Instead, consider whether the practice guide is offered in a digital format. Purchasing a digitized practice guide means you will be able to easily search a practice guide, so you can quickly find what you need. This makes your practice guide even more valuable, especially when you’re short on time.
Casetext offers 91 premier practice guides from James Publishing. In addition to being truly practical guides authored by experts, what makes these even more valuable is that they can be purchased and accessed directly from the Casetext platform. The availability of these guides on Casetext makes them even more powerful because they are searchable, which allows attorneys to find what they need in their guide faster.
In short, a practice guide can be a valuable tool in a lawyer’s toolkit. A practice guide is an investment, and to be truly useful, it needs to be reliable, practical, and searchable. The next time you’re shopping for a next practice guide or treatise, consider the above tips to help you find the right publication for your practice.
To learn more about the searchable, high-quality practice guides available at Casetext, visit https://casetext.com/secondary-sources-practice-guides/