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Law: QuickStart Guide

This guide is intended to serve as a starting point for finding legal information and is intended for public library users and librarians.

Public Law Libraries

Trial Court Law Libraries HomeMassachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Step 1.  PUBLIC LIBRARY IN YOUR CITY OR TOWN.  Begin your research at your local public library.  With the assistance of your reference librarian, use the library's legal reference collection and bookmarked legal websites.  This will help to find basic information to get your research started.  For a public library near you, or to get directions and contact information, click on the Massachusetts Libraries tab from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners homepage found at

Step 2.  PUBLIC LAW LIBRARY IN MASSACHUSETTS.  Continue your legal research at a public law library, either online with Ask a Law Librarian! or in person, with the assistance of a law librarian.  Use the Ask A Librarian! feature for live chat, e-mail, or contact information. Look for a public law library near you.  Find legal citations, cases, books and online materials that will guide you through the legal research process. 

The seventeen Massachusetts Court System libraries, called The Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries located across the Commonwealth, and The State Library of Massachusetts in the State House in Boston are open to the public.   Document DeliveryDocument Delivery Service is also available.


Step 3.  Finding a Lawyer, Low Cost Legal Assistance, Limited Assistance Representation and Referral Services.  Find practical, easy to understand information about your legal rights in Massachusetts.  You may qualify for legal aide, too. Use  Consult Lawyer Referral Services through the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, and the National Lawyers Guild. offers a directory by zip code or town.  Start with the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries web page Massachusetts Legal Referral.

Great Websites

Whether in Massachusetts or beyond, these sites provide valuable information links.

Website Charts

Whether teaching a class or needing to transition away from the expense of legal databases, consult this chart of free legal websites for finding legal information.

Legal Search Engines

First find Google Scholar under "More" at  Click on Advanced Scholar Search.  Keywords are entered at the top, but before submitting the search, scroll down to the bottom green section, Legal Opinions and Journals where cases can be searched. Select one of the bullets: Search all legal opinions and journals; Search opinions of all [federal] courts; Search opinions of [state] courts.  For Federal Courts: set to all federal courts, or select a court, such as United States Supreme Court, or 1st Circuit: Appeals & District.  For State Courts: set to a state, such as Massachusetts.

Legal Citations

How to read a legal citation with this brief guide from Boston College Law School.

Legal Glossary

Consult this easy to use web site to define a legal term.  Use both search bars for maximum understanding of a term, or if the term is not found in the Enter a Legal Term search bar.

Librarian Blogs

Tool Kits

In addition to the information and instructional aides found in this Legal Resources Self Help Center guide, the American Association of Law Libraries has posted guides to assist your research.  Massachusetts is not covered, but the Four Great Websites in the box heading this column cover Massachusetts-specific legal information.

GPO (Government Printing Office)

FDsys Banner

Massachusetts Library Association Conference Materials

Public librarians teamed up with Trial Court law librarians and MassLegalHelp web content in 2010 provider to introduce legal reference skills to Massachusetts nonlaw librarians.

PowerPoint Classes

Bookmarks & Posters for Access to Justice Help

These LegalHelp and Access to Justice bookmarks and poster were developed by the Massachusetts team and law librarians with mini grant funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Train the Trainer sessions at the Public Libraries and Access to Justice Conference in Austin, Texas, January 11-12, 2010.  There are generic and customize templates for our two-sided LegalHelp bookmarks, both in black and white and color.  Libraries may insert their own institutions and contact information in the customize templates.  There is also an Access to Justice small poster.

Public Libraries and Access to Justice

Read about the Access to Justice national initiative, conference, and efforts of the Massachusetts team to help train nonlaw librarians to assist the public with legal information and referrals.

Books on Legal Research is one of three statewide websites that make up the Massachusetts Legal Websites Project. The project is a collaborative effort of the civil legal aid community of Massachusetts. We are funded by Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation.

Other websites included in this project are:

  • offers resources about legal issues facing lower-income Massachusetts residents to advocates and social service professionals; and 
  • support to other legal services programs across the state with their websites.

The mission of  is to improve access to justice for low income and disadvantaged persons through innovative use of the Web.  We are working to  connect, support, and educate advocates and the general public. The content of the website is written by people within the legal services community.

Expert Witnesses

Presenting scientific evidence and interviewing expert witnesses in areas such as neuroscience, exposure science, mental health, and forensic science are covered in this new 3rd edition of a manual on presenting scientific evidence.


Shortly over a year after L. Frank Baum registered the copyright claim for his famous children's book of the same title, he filed another application for copyright “on all musical numbers and lyrics under the title given.” The claim was made in the names of L. Frank Baum as author and Paul Tietjens as composer. The envelope was designed by W. W. Denslow, who illustrated the first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book. The colorful lettering of Baum's name and address are flanked by the Mother Goose and Father Goose characters made famous in his earlier children's books.

Although the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film is the best-known dramatization of the Wizard of Oz, it was not the first production. In June 1902, an extravagantly mounted stage version opened in Chicago to great critical acclaim. The 1903 New York production became one of the greatest successes in Broadway history at that time and continued as a road-show for another decade.

Save with Public Libraries

Civics Education

Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor, Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice   »Read Bio

"Last year, I founded the iCivics program (at to engage students through online games and interactive resources. On this free website, students can step into the roles of government actors and can find ways to participate in real-world civic action. For teachers, we provide lesson plans and curriculum units that are aligned to standards in every state and in the District of Columbia."

Law for Libraries

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Legal resources related to Massachusetts libraries and librarians.

Massachusetts Friends of Libraries Organization

WebJunction Legal Sources