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Circuit Riders: Legal Encyclopedias

Basic Legal Research Training

Finding Legal Encyclopedias Using Subscription Databases

Certain legal encyclopedias are available online via subscription to databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. South Carolina colleges and universities and public libraries may provide access to popular South Carolina and national legal encyclopedias via subscription to academic and public-access versions of Westlaw and LexisNexis under the Secondary Sources or Legal Reference sections of those databases.

Legal Encyclopedias

Legal encyclopedias summarize the law by topic and are available in print and online.


The two legal encyclopedias most widely used by lawyers are American Jurisprudence (Am. Jur.) and Corpus Juris Secundum (C.J.S.). State- specific legal encyclopedias such as South Carolina Jurisprudence explain the law by topic as applied in that state. These legal encyclopedias are usually found in law libraries. They contain extensive footnotes to the law and secondary sources and are updated annually by pocket parts.



Legal encyclopedias written for non-lawyers, such as West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, Gale Encyclopedia of Everyday Law, and Nolo’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law are available in public and academic, as well as law libraries.



The legal encyclopedias mentioned above are available online through subscription databases. Legal encyclopedias available on the Internet for free include Cornell’s WEX and Zimmerman’s Online Encyclopedia for Legal Researchers.



Employment at will

West’s Encyclopedia of American Law describes in detail the employment at will doctrine and its exceptions, citing statutes and cases from various jurisdictions.


South Carolina Jurisprudence addresses the application of the employment at will doctrine in South Carolina.

Zimmerman’s Online Encyclopedia for Legal Researchers suggests print and online sources for information on state employment at will laws.