The easiest way to learn about a legal topic is to locate a current book on that topic— preferably one written for the layperson. Law school libraries carry books with varying levels of difficulty and coverage, from short paperback "nutshell" books to multi-volume treatises.
A treatise is a reference book that provides in-depth coverage of a particular legal topic, often written by the leading scholar in that area of law.
The USC Law Library’s catalog is searchable online as are those of academic and public libraries across the state. For example, if you search in the USC Law Library's online catalog for "South Carolina Employment Law," you will find Labor and Employment Law for South Carolina Lawyers, which covers South Carolina's employment at-will doctrine and its exceptions.
Although most books on South Carolina law are published for lawyers by the SC Bar, they are often the best resource available for comprehensive coverage of a particular legal topic. The SC Bar maintains an online database on its website of the books that it publishes. The USC Law Library's South Carolina Legal Resources guide includes books, treatises, and other legal resources specific to South Carolina.
Subscription databases like Westlaw and Lexis Advance provide online access to books on legal topics, including many published by the SC Bar. The particular books included varies by database. Public and academic law libraries also offer access to e-books to their patrons on the law and the U.S. legal system.
Law schools across the country publish law reviews and legal journals that include articles written by law professors, attorneys, and law students. Law reviews, such as the South Carolina Law Review, address a wide range of topics, while journals tend to focus on specific areas of law, e.g., the Journal of Law and Education.
Law school libraries carry print versions of law reviews and journals from across the country. Law library catalogs provide library locations for individual print journals as well as links to available online databases like Westlaw and Lexis Advance (available to law students and faculty only).
The USC Law Library and some academic libraries in South Carolina subscribe to online databases that contain the full text of law review and journal articles. Examples are NexisUni and Hein Online. Public patrons must use the library computers to access these databases. A few public library systems in South Carolina subscribe to Westlaw for their patrons, which includes a Law Reviews & Journals database.
Although law review and journal articles may provide more in-depth analysis and commentary than a non-lawyer researcher typically needs, these articles often provide an excellent background or history of a legal topic and include footnotes to relevant statutes, regulations, and cases.
State bar journals and magazines, published by state bar associations, are not as comprehensive as law review and journal articles, but address a wide range of state and federal legal issues. Articles in bar journals are often written by attorneys and law professors. Bar journals are published in the same subscription databases as law review and journal articles.
Some academic and public libraries in South Carolina subscribe to Gale LegalTrac, which is is an online index to legal periodicals that allows you to search for law review and journal articles by author or keyword and to limit searches to individual journals. LegalTrac includes limited full-text articles in its database; however, you can check library catalogs and e-journals databases to locate particular articles in print or online.
Law schools across the country are beginning to support open access by making their law reviews and journals available via the Internet. Free online databases that allow you to search online journals include the ABA’s Free Full-Text Online Law Review/Journal Search and Google Scholar.
Bar associations, like the SC Bar, may provide free access to their bar journals. For example, the SC bar offers access to several issues of the SC Lawyer along with browse-able subject and author indexes on its website.