Self-help law center

Representing yourself in court

Legal assistance - Finding legal information

Doing legal research, whether to prepare your case for court or to learn about the law, may require the use of both primary and secondary sources. Some primary and secondary sources are available free-of-charge on the web; however, most legal information is available only in print or from fee-based electronic resources.

Primary law

Primary law is the law itself. It is created by our three branches of government:

Statutory law (legislative branch)

Administrative law (executive branch)

Case law (judicial branch)

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Secondary law

Secondary sources of law are materials that explain, analyze, index and update the law. These include dictionaries, encyclopedias, topical treatises and textbooks, practice guides, and law reviews and journals. Although most secondary sources are not available on the Web, please consult the Wisconsin State Law Library Index to Topics (State Law Library link) page for links to some useful secondary materials.

Locating primary and secondary source law

There are three comprehensive law collections in Wisconsin. Public and county law libraries may also have some legal materials.

Wisconsin State Law Library (Madison) (State Law Library link)

University of Wisconsin Law Library (Madison) (external link)

Marquette University Law Library (Milwaukee) (external link)

Your local public or university library
Contact your local public library or visit their website to inquire as to availability of primary and secondary legal materials. Your local university library may also be able to assist you. (external links)

County law libraries
Some counties have a small collection of legal materials. Contact your county's clerk of court Adobe PDF for details.

Additional resources

Law: An Introduction - General information about how courts work and the various steps in a trial (State Law Library link)
Index to Legal Topics - Guide to over 200 legal topics including Wisconsin and federal laws (State Law Library link)

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