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Secondary source material, information about the law, rather than the law itself, is not so readily accessible online for free. Secondary sources are invaluable for analysis and understanding what to do with the primary sources. Black’s Law Dictionary can help define the words; but much has been written to help practitioners and citizens understand what the law means, and how to work with it.

Walnut growing into tree

Annotated Statutes
Massachusetts General Laws Annotated (MGLA) and Annotated Laws of Massaschusetts (ALM) are published by Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis, respectively. They are available in print and online by subscription as part of WestlawNext and LexisAdvance. Annotations provide historical and statutory notes, cross references, references to law review, journal and other published commentaries and notes of decisions.

Massachusetts Digest is published by ThomsonReuters, available in print and online by subscription as part of WestlawNext. Digests have long been used as subject indexes to cases. Today, there is a trend to use keyword searching  online in databases of cases. However, examining a mediated index that uses authoritative terms may find cases that otherwise might be overlooked because the searcher does not know the proper terminology.

Shepard’s (LexisAdvance) and Keycite (WestLawNext)
In 1873, Fred Shepard developed a system for determining if a case or other authority could be relied upon as good law. Shepardizing, online or in print, will show (in the form of a list) whether a case or other authority has been overturned, reaffirmed, questioned, or cited by later cases. Keycite is another online citator that accomplishes the same objective.

Lawyers Cooperative Publishing published a 22 volume encyclopedia of Massachusetts law in 1992 entitled  Massachusetts Jurisprudence. It was supplemented by West Group until 1998 when it went out of print.

The Massachusetts Practice Series, published by Thomson Reuters, now serves as an encyclopedic tool written most specifically for attorneys, covering all aspects of Massachusetts law . There are 58 titles in the series, with many of the titles consisting of multiple volumes.

Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (M.C.L.E.) publishes more than 160 practice manuals covering every aspect of civil and criminal law in Massachusetts.

Law Reviews
Available from the Mass. Trial Court Law Libraries through HeinOnline, Law Reviews publish lengthy, comprehensive treatments of subjects in the form of articles. These articles are often cited as authority by courts throughout the United States and have had an influence on the development of the law.

Legal Newspaper
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly can be subscribed to at , online or in print. The newspaper reports court decisions, “changes in court rules, verdict & settlement reports, bar discipline notices and all other news vital to attorneys in the Commonwealth.”

General Treatises
Beginning with Joseph Story’s work in the early nineteenth century, treatises developed as a form of legal literature that systematically presented a single branch of the law. Examples of treatises going back to the nineteenth century are Wigmore on Evidence, Scott on Trusts, and Williston on Contracts or Sales. In the twentieth century, Bogert wrote on trusts, Couch wrote on insurance law, and LaFave continues to write on search and seizure.

All these secondary sources and more are available at your local Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library.

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