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Where Can I Find/How Can I ?? FAQ





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A 'Lectric Law Library FAQ

Unfortunately, as much as we'd like to individually assist every Library visitor, we just don't have the time, ability or other resources - like money - to deal with our thousands of daily visitors' legal and general questions. We hope the information below will help you with finding legal information or dealing with law related problems.


Finding Legal Information.

First, the Library's many Rooms and Topic Area have lots of material - 4000+ files and growing - and we hope you check them out. Plus our Study of Law Study has a large number of guides about online & hardcopy legal research and you'll find the "'Lectric Law Looker-Upper," our search engine for Library material only, in various places.

If you're wondering about whether something is in the Library, look around. If you find it, it's there. If you don't, it's probably not -- at least yet. But be very, very careful about using any legal info - from here or elsewhere - without first confirming its accuracy. We urge you to read our FAQ on Accuracy for more info about this.

If we don't have what you're after it's liable to be elsewhere on the Internet. For example, Congress has a searchable version of the U.S. Code & more at: http://www.house.gov/Laws.html. But be aware that lots of legal material isn't available on the net - at least at no charge, though if it is you should be able to find it using our "'Lectric Legal Links" area with its links to some of the best legal index sites & most major search engines, including some great specialized legal ones. You'll find it in many Library areas including near the bottom of the Reference Room.

If you can't find what you want online you should try the nearest, or largest, hard-copy law library. The best ones are often at law schools, but most counties have adequate public ones. If you need help, ask one of the librarians - almost always an exceptionally helpful lot our Head Librarian Ralf's an exception. Also, note that even if material is available on-line, you may find serious research is easier, faster and more comfortable at a "non-virtual" library if one's available.


Help With Legal Matters & Problems

** 1st, realize none of the staff can answer legal questions -- a very broadly defined term that varies from place to place -- without being subject to prosecution for alleged violation of the horrific crime of "The Unauthorized/Unlawful/Illegal Practice of Law" which I'm sure you wouldn't want to see, and which we certainly wouldn't ever want to do - or at least get caught doing.

** If you have an actual legal problem/question you may want to contact a local legal professional, paralegal, court clerk, Bar Assn., referral service or legal aid agency, depending on the problem. You should be able to locate these in your local phone book under headings for Government, Associations, Attorneys, Legal Referral Services, Legal Organizations, etc.

** If you're into handling your civil legal problems yourself, including ones involving litigation, most people of normal intelligence can do it. However, be prepared to spend LOTS of time reading, studying, learning, thinking, writing... and being pissed-off about how unfair the system is. No matter what your opinion of lawyers, do you think they spent 3 years in law school and then lots of time afterwards learning their trade because it's more fun than sex?

This stands repeating: You don't need to be a genius to handle many, or any, civil legal matters yourself. Just be sure you understand that doing so often involves: 1. Lots of study, time & writing; 2. Strictly following seemingly stupid, confusing, incomprehensable or unfair rules, and; 3. Accepting that the law's mostly procedure -- justice's often incidental at best. If you can't deal with these, doing it yourself will probably create more problems than you already have. (Note that Small Claims Courts, although limited in their jurisdiction, are exceptions to this advice and are usually designed to be "user friendly" for lay people - often not even letting lawyers to take part.)

** If you're thinking of going pro se on a serious criminal problem you're probably better off spending your time with a shrink than a law-book. Our feeling is that people who try to handle their own criminal case without at least substantial help and advice from an experienced criminal lawyer usually have mental problems just as serious as their legal ones. But then again, how else can you get the government to give you an all-expense paid vacation?

** Finally, we sometimes assist pro se litigants and lawyers with complex federal civil cases, strategy, tactics and the like. Please contact us at for more info, rates, etc. (Note: We also do training & presentations regarding legal web sites, internet law, on-line legal marketing and related subjects.)