Looseleaf Services, Using
Quick guide to the what, why and how of looseleaf services.
What is a looseleaf service?
A looseleaf service is a popular type of legal resource which brings together a variety of types of information concerning a particular topic or area of law. A looseleaf service is so called because it is made up of pages or pamphlets filed in looseleaf binders, often a multi-volume set. This format allows current information to be easily added to the existing materials. The ease of updating the binders allows supplementation to be added frequently, even weekly in some cases. Most looseleafs are now available online.
Why use a looseleaf service?
There are two major reasons to use a looseleaf service. The first is for the convenience of finding in one place various types of materials concerning an area of law. Primary and secondary materials, statutes and regulations, administrative and judicial decisions are all often found in a single looseleaf service (or database), such as the Standard Federal Tax Reporter.
The second major reason is currency. Most looseleaf services are updated frequently, sometimes as often as every week. Thus, they are a good source of up-to-date information in a particular area of law.
Which areas of law do looseleafs cover?
Looseleafs are also common in practice areas in which both administrative and statutory law, as well as judicial opinions are important, for example, environmental law, labor law, tax law, and securities law.
How are looseleafs organized?
Looseleaf services may be organized in one of two ways: interfiled or newsletter-style.
An interfiled looseleaf service is especially helpful because it brings together in one place current information on a particular topic. In an interfiled service, individual pages in the binder can be removed and replaced, so changes in the law can be incorporated into the text in a sort of "cut and paste" fashion. This eliminates the need to consult a pocket part or supplement. Interfiled looseleafs are indexed thoroughly to make it easy for the user to find current information on his or her topic quickly. Most looseleafs published by Commerce Clearing House (CCH) are interfiled looseleaf services. These are now part of the CCH Intelliconnect database.
A newsletter-style looseleaf is issued as one or more topical newsletters each week or month. These newsletters are often circulated to interested attorneys in the firm or other organizations to help them keep abreast of new developments. Library staff then file the newsletters in a binder for reference. Usually, there will be a cumulative index to the series of newsletters.
The advantage of this type of looseleaf service is that the most recent developments are summarized in each issue of the newsletter, which may be conveniently browsed by the attorney on a regular basis. Most services published by the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) are newsletter-style. These can be found online here.
Where are looseleaf services located in the library?
Looseleaf services in print are generally shelved on the fourth or fifth floor with other materials on the same subject. Online looseleaf services are also available through the library's home page. You can search by title and be linked directly to the database which includes this material.
Tips for using looseleaf services in print
- The best way to identify a looseleaf on a particular topic is to use Legal Looseleafs in Print, available in most law libraries. Another good way to identify a looseleaf is to ask someone in your practice area or to ask your librarian. As a last resort, try browsing the shelves where other materials on your subject are located.
- Read the directions in the front of the first volume. Don't expect to be able to just "dive in" to a new looseleaf: their comprehensiveness and currency (two advantages) result in a complex organizational scheme (a disadvantage). Five minutes spent reading will save mistakes and wasted time later.
- For known documents, use the finding list and case tables. These provide the most efficient access to regulations, laws or decisions.
- When you don't have a known document, but just a topic, use an index. Remember that looseleafs often have a variety of indexes, so take the time to identify which one will be most useful for your research.
- Remember that the indexes of interfiled looseleafs refer you to paragraph or section numbers rather than page numbers.
- Remember that both primary and secondary materials are found side by side in looseleaf services. Be aware of which type you are dealing with, and if unsure, ask.
- Consult with a reference librarian if you are have questions about finding or using looseleaf services.
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