Skip to Main Content

Circuit Riders: Basic Legal Research

A guide for non-law librarians


Access to justice begins with access to information.


Welcome to the refreshed and updated Circuit Riders Guide. 

To promote access to legal information for all South Carolinians, the reference librarians at the USC School of Law’s Law Library created the Circuit Riders Outreach Program.

The Circuit Riders Outreach Program began in 2007 as a series of workshops entitled Legal Research for Non-Law Librarians to teach basic legal research skills to public and academic librarians who would then share their new expertise with their fellow librarians. The desired result would be librarians across South Carolina who are better equipped and more confident when assisting their patrons with legal research.

The program expanded in order to reach the largest possible audience with an online guide that includes resources and research tips for both non-law librarians and members of the public. The Circuit Riders training materials and videos are still available on this page. We hope this makes it more convenient for busy librarians to access our materials.  We encourage libraries to use these materials to assist their patrons and for their own in-house gudance on legal research.

This guide is openly available to anyone who has questions about the law and legal research.


Today, the USC Law Library regularly refers public patrons to this guide to assist them in conducting their own legal research.

You will find resources in the next pages on this guide to help you find answers for your legal questions, and to help you conduct your own legal research.  But remember, we can not provide legal advice.

How and Where to Get Started

There are a great many legal resources available for free in local libraries, at the USC Law Library at the USC Law School, and on the internet,

This Guide provides in-depth information about conducting legal research, as well as resources on specific areas of the law.

When searching for legal information on the internet, it is important to understand that not everything on the internet is true or reliable.  In conducting any legal research, but particularly on the internet, you must make sure you are using reliable and accurate sources and obtaining up-to-date verifiable information.

It is important to know and remember that search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo all have algorithms (sets of rules and processes) used to answer what you type into the search bar, processes over which you have no control and which may insert some bias or presumption. By being able to identify and answer these questions, you will know if the source you are using is a good source:

  1. Who created the message?
  2. What are the author’s credentials?
  3. Why was the message created?
  4. Is the message trying to get me to act or think in a certain way?
  5. Is someone making money for creating this message?
  6. Who is the intended audience?
  7. How do I know this information is accurate?
Finding information from state legislature websites, courts, law school and law library websites, bar associations or legal services entities, will likely be more accurate than someone's blog post, Reddit, YouTube, Twitter, or other social media site.

You will also want to know what terms mean, so finding a legal dictionary either in print or online will be very beneficial. 

We have some links to free online law dictionaries as well as some definitions on this page of this Guide.


Another How-To resource:

You may also refer to our LRAW Research online textbook to understand how to conduct legal research.  The LRAW Research text is written for law students, but it is meant for those just beginning their legal education. The text is divided between Fall and Spring volumes; the Fall volume focuses on researching state law, and the Spring volume focuses on researching federal law, as well as state and federal regulations.

This site does not provide legal advice.

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - we cannot apply the law to your individual circumstances, tell which form you need to use, or how to fill out the form.

For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.