Legal Writing Resources

flickr photo by Garry Wilmore

flickr photo by Garry Wilmore

In addition to exams, the end of a law school semester also signals the time when research projects and papers are due. The best legal writers are clear, thorough, and concise. The following are a list of resources that will help you become a more effective legal writer.

Blogs & Articles


GSU Law Library Research Guides 

Executive Orders


flickr photo by Scott Ableman

Interest in executive orders has risen over the past few weeks in light of President Obama’s move to use an executive order to grant around 5 million undocumented immigrants relief from deportation (CNN).

Black’s Law Dictionary defines an executive order as “An order issued by or on behalf of the President, intended to direct or instruct the actions of executive agencies or government officials, or to set policies for the executive branch to follow” (9th Edition). Vivian Chu and Todd Garvey note in their Congressional Research Service Report, Executive Orders: Issuance, Modification, and Revocation, that executive orders are one of various instruments, including presidential memoranda and presidential proclamations, that the President can use to implement policy (CRS Report RS20846, Page 1).

Chu and Garvey explain in their report that “executive orders are generally directed to, and govern actions by, Government officials and agencies” (CRS Report RS20846, Page 1). Furthermore, executive orders generally only have an indirect effect on private individuals (CRS Report RS20846, Page 1).

For more information on the authority of the President to issue executive orders, limitations, and revocation and modification of executive orders, read Chu and Gravey’s CRS Report.

You can locate executive orders for online using the following resources:

  • The current administration’s executive orders.
  • National Archives: Executive orders from 1937 (Franklin D. Roosevelt) – Present (Barack Obama).


Booking A Study Room

DSC_0191Study space will be in high demand as we get closer to the exam season. The study rooms located in the Law Library are some of the best places prepare for exams if you prefer group study. The study rooms come in several sizes, include whiteboards, and have hardware for you to hook your laptop to a projector. While you can always go to or call the circulation desk to reserve a study room, it is generally more efficient to book at study room online using the Law Library Study Room Booking System.

By using this system, you can book a study room while away from the library and then simply pick up the keys from the Circulation Desk. The online system allows you to reserve a study room up to 7 days in advance. Please be aware that only groups of 2 or more law students can reserve a study room. Additionally, to avoid forfeiture of a study room, 2 members of the group must be present within the first 10 minutes of the reservation.  For more policies, see the Policies webpage.

To reserve a study room online, follow the steps below.

1. Go to the Law Library’s homepage and click on Book a Study Room.



2.  Using the calendar at the top of the screen, select the day you would like to reserve a room. Next to each room you will see how many people are recommended for a room (Ex. Room 120 (6) means 6 people). Click on the time for the room you would like to reserve. At this point, you will need to log-in with your Campus ID and Password.


3.  Using the form, provide your name, the names of your group members, and the reservation times. Do not forget to click save!



4. Lastly, when your reservation time is due, stop by the Circulation Desk to pick up the key. At this time you can also check out markers for the whiteboard. If you need to cancel a reservation, just stop by the Circulation Desk or call at 404-413-9100.


Legal Encyclopedias

UBN_Collier's_EncyclopediaBy this time in the semester, if you have heard it once you have heard it a thousand times, start your research with a secondary source. Easier said than done, right? With a library full of treatises and law review articles, it can be hard to nail down which source is the best source to use when beginning a research project. Believe it or not, one of the best sources (at least I think) to start your research with is the tried-and-true legal encyclopedia.

Now, this is not your parents’ encyclopedia – or maybe it is if your parents were attorneys. Vaguely similar to the encyclopedia you used to write grade school papers, the legal encyclopedia provides users with a concise overview of a variety of legal topics. Name one other resource in the library you can use that defines the basic elements of assault, explain consideration, and cites to primary sources? A legal encyclopedia is a treasure trove (not in the legal sense) of information. And the best thing about it is you can access it online or in print.

Popular Legal Encyclopedias


The Supreme Court Is Back

United_states_supreme_court_buildingIt’s October, which means the Supreme Court of the United States is back in business. The Court started hearing oral arguments on  Monday, October 6th. The following are a few helpful resources for those interested in keeping up with the latest term of the Court.

For those interested in learning more about the Court, the Law Library has several books on the Court:

Meet Austin Martin Williams

10474675_10101977959525169_7086341506432026106_nThis is the fourth installment of our Meet a Librarian series. In the first three installments you met Deborah Schander, Pam Brannon, and Terrance Manion. In honor of my birthday today, I thought I would interview myself for the series.


Austin (AQ): What is your name and what do you do?

Austin (AA): Austin Martin Williams, Coordinator of Research Instructional Services  

AQ: How long have you been at Georgia State University College of Law Library? 

AA: 4 years. I started way back in August 2010.

AQ: What books are currently on your night stand?

AA: I just finished up Command Authority by the late Tom Clancy and I am a few hundred pages into Path of the Assassin by Brad Thor. Both are excellent reads.

AQ: What is an interesting fact about yourself that you would like to share with our readers?

AA: I am the most interesting man in the world…ok, not really. Interesting fact is the only time I ever had cable TV during my entire life was when I was in law school, which is usually the time when people cancel cable.

AQ: When you are not saving the world here at GSU Law Library, what do you enjoy doing outside of work?

AA:  Play the guitar sparingly, read, watch Manchester United, and catch up on all the TV shows I never got to see on cable. Thank you Netflix!

AQ: Lastly, what is your favorite vacation spot? The place you go to leave it all behind for a few days.

AA: Anywhere in North Carolina. It has everything, the beach, the mountains, and a professional hockey team (Go Canes!)

There you have it folks. The complete, unedited,  behind the scenes interview with me, Austin Martin Williams.

Need Help? We Can Help!

DSC_0430Whether you have been spinning your wheels for hours on a Legal Bibliography assignment, unable to get started on a research paper, or are having trouble tracking down a source for your law review article, we can help. The reference librarians are here to help you with all of your research needs. You are asking yourself then, “How can I get in contact with a reference librarian?” Here are a couple of ways.

1. Chat Reference: Whether you are at home, on the train, or at a baseball game, you can always get in contact with a reference librarian by using our chat reference service. The chat reference service is located on every page of the Law Library’s website. Just look for the little red tab on the left side of the screen. Chat reference is operated while the reference desk is open. To see the reference desk hours, consult our calendar.

2. Reference Desk: If you are on campus, stop by the reference desk. The reference desk is staffed by reference librarians and reference graduate research assistants (GRA). To see the reference desk hours, consult our calendar.

3. Email, Telephone, In Person: If you would like to get help from a specific reference librarian, you can contact us by email, phone, or in person. To get our email addresses, phone numbers, and room numbers, refer to the Law Library’s directory. Generally, if you would like to meet in person, send us an email ahead of time with information about your question, so that we can set aside time to meet with you and do some preliminary research on your topic.