As a research assistant or a journal member, you will likely need to find legal periodicals frequently. However, as a practitioner, you will want to carefully consider what sources you should be looking for.
Secondary sources (journals, treatises, encyclopedias, etc.) help you research the law, but remember that they are not law. While they will orient you to a topic, they only have the potential to be persuasive in a court of law. Periodicals are geared towards deep dives on certain topics and academic/background research.
There are two main types of legal periodicals: law journals and bar journals. Both are short pieces that focus very specifically on certain topics, but the former is generally more theoretical/academic in nature than the latter. Our discussion will focus on finding academic articles. We keep the Louisiana Bar Journal in print, and there are bar journals on Westlaw. (Note that the coverage will not be historical.)
Note that some journal articles may be geared towards research so it may be worth a search for that purpose. Although not done as frequently, it was common for librarians to publish bibliographies that would give all the best resources on a given topic; many of these are annotated, which means they provide quick summaries of the articles that could alert you to how helpful an article may be. (Search for Law Library Journal.) For example, I wrote a paper on history of management in law libraries; I utilized bibliographies from different time periods to find the perspective of management at that time. This was faster than scrolling through a large list of search results using particular search terms. Another example is that a guide to Louisiana-specific citation was printed in Tulane Law Review. (We'll touch on this under "About Legal Citation".)
The good and bad news is the same: there are many places and ways to locate these materials, but that can make it difficult to determine how and where to search.
It is easiest to begin this process with a complete citation. If you are missing information and struggling to fill it in, come see a reference librarian.
Do you need it in print or electronically? If electronically, do you need in its original form (as a PDF document) or is online text sufficient (i.e., Westlaw)?
For print journals, the process is simple.
For electronic journals, the process is also simple; there are just many places to look. Although journal articles may be found on Westlaw, I would not recommend it for that purpose. There are better places to search that are copies of the print journal, and therefore less likely to have errors. Westlaw also has limited historical coverage of journals. I would recommend you search for journals using the following databases, in order of preference:
**Note on access: these databases are available for all Loyola students and faculty. Some of these databases you must be on campus - connected to campus internet. Other databases may be accessible off-campus and will ask you to login before you can view an article. The login information is the same used to log into your LoyMail accounts.
It is possible to search for journal articles by subject in print. It is not as easy as electronic searching that you are likely already familiar with. You'll want to use an index to periodicals, which will allow you to search by subject matter for articles printed in a particular year. Some indexes will also allow you to search for articles that discuss specific cases, statutes, by author, and by article title. Here are some recommendations, but if you have more specific questions about researching journals in print, talk to a law librarian; both of these indexes are on the third floor, on top of the study carrels near the elevator.
The easiest and most common way to search is electronically. Although it is simple, there are many options. When you first start research in law school, play around with the different options to see what works best for you. In practice, you may be more limited by the resources at your disposal.