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LRAW Research Spring 2025

Legal Treatises


  • are books written on a specific legal topic, such as property law or torts
  • explain the key rules that govern an area of law, typically also tracing the history of those rules
  • may or may not provide commentary on major legislation, case law, and policy issues related to the topic
  • may provide a broad overview (nutshell) or more detailed coverage (one-volume hornbooks, or multi-volume sets published by prominent legal scholars). See Types of Legal Treatises below.

Comparison of Encyclopedias and Treatises

A section of a torts treatise, Dobbs' Law of Torts, is below. Notice how a treatise is formatted similarly to an encyclopedia:

  • section number and section heading at the top
  • table of contents at the left
  • full text with footnotes on the right.  

A difference is that the treatise provides more depth and complexity than the encyclopedia, both in the text and in the footnotes.

§ 277. Children on the land DOBBLOT § 277Dobbs' Law of Torts Immunities and Special Duties Affecting Liability for Negligence (Approx. 25 pages) Contemporary general rule. If the landowner in such cases could foresee that children might enter and be harmed because, given their age and experience, they might fail to appreciate the danger, and if the landowner could have avoided such serious risks with a relatively small expense, courts today generally recognize a duty of care to the child and liability for negligence.16 Where the landowner owes such a duty to a trespassing child, he owes no less to the child licensee or invitee.17 The child's adult rescuer is given the status of the child and comes under the same protection.18 The child trespasser rules are subject to some qualification or at least explanation, and a few courts reject them altogether, treating the child trespasser like any other.19 Origin of the special rule. The idea originated around 1875. A seven-year-old child played on a revolving turntable, a heavy piece of machinery used to rotate railroad engines. Caught between the surface and the wall, he lost a leg. The railroad asserted that it owed no duties to this trespasser.


16 See cases cited in nn. 22–24 below; Glen Weissenberger & Barbara B. McFarland, The Law of Premises Liability § 2.07 (4th ed. 2014). The liability is essentially liability for negligence. See, e.g., Gregory v. Johnson, 249 Ga. 151, 289 S.E.2d 232 (1982). But some qualifications are stated below. Massachusetts has codified this rule in its essentials. Mass Gen. Laws c. 231, § 85Q (1977). After enactment of the statute, the Massachusetts high court modified its common-law rule to harmonize it with the statute, by holding in two separate cases that “there is a common law duty of reasonable care by a landowner or occupier to prevent harm to foreseeable child trespassers,” Soule v. Massachusetts Elec. Co., 378 Mass. 177, 390 N.E.2d 716 (1979), where the child “would fail to appreciate his peril because of his youth,” McDonald v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 399 Mass. 25, 502 N.E.2d 521 (1987). A plaintiff may bring a claim either directly under the statute, or by asserting a common-law negligence claim; “either way, the elements to be proved and the available defenses will be the same.” Calderon v. Royal Park, LLC, 96 Mass. App. Ct. 49, 132 N.E.3d 1021 (2019), review denied, 483 Mass. 1105, 137 N.E.3d 1061 (2019).

Example: Your client, a relative of the boy, wants to bring a wrongful death action in federal court against the National Park Service.

The National Park Service claims that the attractive nuisance doctrine cannot apply to allow recovery because it was the sledding hill, not the wire, that attracted the child onto the property.


The treatise above discusses rules that various courts use to determine liability for injuries to children on land, and the reasoning for those rules. This discussion may be helpful when a researcher has been given one viewpoint (such as the National Park Service's viewpoint) and needs to articulate a different viewpoint (such as the client's).

Starting case law research from the footnotes in a treatise helps the researcher pinpoint cases that support a particular view.

Types of Legal Treatises

Nutshells on Torts, Toxic Torts, and Government Contracts.Nutshells are single volume paperback books that provide a quick overview of an area of law. Nutshells summarize the law and highlight key cases, statutes, and regulations, providing a bit more detail than a legal encyclopedia.

Hornbook on Torts.

Hornbooks are created for students to supplement their casebooks. They provide more in-depth information than a Nutshell to help students and practitioners expand their knowledge in a particular area of law.

The Law of Torts treatise.

Some widely respected treatises are considered definitive sources within their subject areas and are sometimes cited by courts. The name of the original author almost becomes part of the title of the treatise, even after others take over the work of updating. Examples include:

Moore's Federal Practice
Collier on Bankruptcy

Dobbs' The Law of Torts 

The South Carolina Law of Torts published by the SC Bar Association.

Bar Association Publications
State bar associations like the South Carolina Bar Association and the American Bar Association publish books and materials of interest to lawyers who practice in particular areas of law, both state and federal. Bar associations usually publish practical treatises that may include tips for law practice and example documents or forms.

For example, if you wish to research the law on attractive nuisance in South Carolina, you might consult The South Carolina Law of Torts

Remember that online treatises are not necessarily updated more often than print treatises. Information in a treatise that is online as of today might not be current as of today. 

Check the edition and publication date (or copyright date) of any treatise you consult, online or in print, because major changes in the law could make an older treatise unreliable. If the copyright date is several years old, check for a new edition or replacement for that treatise. For example, Prosser and Keeton on Torts has been been continued by The Law of Torts by Dobbs, et al. (see citation examples below). Some treatises in print are supplemented with pocket parts or separate pamphlets to add new commentary and citations to more recent primary authority.

Even if a treatise was updated recently, new cases are decided every day. Check for new cases decided after the publication date of the treatise. If you are going to rely on a case, statute, or regulation cited in a treatise, use a citator to make sure it is still good law.

Many major state and federal treatises are available online via Westlaw, Lexis, or both. Bloomberg Law also includes trusted books and treatises, especially on health law and tax law topics. Fastcase focuses on providing treatises published by the South Carolina Bar to members of the South Carolina Bar, but each treatise is an optional paid add-on to the free Fastcase subscription.

Finding Treatises using the Online Catalog

You can use the Law Library Catalog to search for treatises by keyword, title, and author.

keyword search for "tort law dobbs"

Print Treatises

If you find a treatise in print on your topic, the catalog record will include the location and call number where you can retrieve the book from the library shelves.

catalog record for Hornbook on Torts by Dobbs, Dan B., available at UofSC School of Law Library Law (KF1250.059 2016)

Additional options may be available after you sign in with your UofSC login.

Please sign in to check if there are any request options. Sign in.

Request - Material Type Book - Pickup Location UofSC School of Law Library

Electronic Treatises

Electronic versions of some treatises may be listed in the catalog.

Dobbs' law of torts. Dobbs, Dan B. Available Online >

The catalog record will include the link to the electronic platform through which you can access the treatise. In some cases, you sign in with your UofSC login to access an electronic treatise. In other cases, you can access the treatise through Lexis or Westlaw. Or it may be necessary to ask a librarian for assistance.

View Online Resource. UofSC Law Library Westlaw login required.

Searching Books & Treatises Using Westlaw

The best way to search for a treatise on Westlaw depends on whether there is a specific treatise you already know you want, or if you are looking for the most relevant treatise available.

If you know the title of a particular treatise, from the homepage, start typing the name of the treatise in the search box and select it from the drop-down that appears.

searchbar - Dobb; content page - Dobbs' Law of Torts

Once you select a title, you can browse by Part or Chapter heading, or use the search bar at the top of the page to search the full text of that treatise only.

search bar above that says "Search Dobbs' Law of Torts." Table of Contents below, highlighting Part IV, Subpart B, Chapter 24 Premises Liability, Topic B Duties to Those on the Premises, § 277 Children on the land

Click on a link to read a specific section from your results.
Then use the Previous and Next arrows or the Table of Contents to browse surrounding sections in that chapter.

screenshot showing upper left, and highlighting previous section, next section, Table of Contents, and in the lower right--the text of § 277 of Dobbs' Law of Torts

If you do not know of a specific treatise in the area of law you are researching, select Secondary Sources from the homepage.

Under Secondary Sources By Type, choose Texts & Treatises.


Now you can use the search bar to search the entire Texts & Treatises database, or you can use filters on the left to narrow your search to treatises on a particular topic or that cover the law of a particular state.

screenshot highlighting "Search Filtered Secondary Sources" in the search bar, and expanding the "Topic" and "Jurisdiction" filters on the left.

Searching Books & Treatises Using Lexis

If you’re looking for a specific treatise in Lexis, from the home page, start typing the title in the search box. Select the title when it appears as a choice.

typing in the search bar: premises lia ... in the dropdown, under Sources, select Law of Premises Liability

You can browse by Part or Chapter heading.

screenshot of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 (expanded)

Or search the table of contents for that treatise only.

radio button just below the search bar next to "Table of Contents (TOC) only" is selected, and "attractive nuisance" is typed in the search bar

Select a link to read a specific section from your results.

TOC Results - Law of Premises Liability > CHAPTER 2 LIABILITY TO TRESPASSERS FOR UNINTENDED HARMS > § 2.07 Child Trespassers search result Turntable and Attractive Nuisance Doctrines is highlighted

Then use the Table of Contents on the left, or the Previous Section or Next Section links, or links in the Heading to browse surrounding sections in that chapter.

1 Law of Premises Liability § 2.07 screenshot

If you do not know of a specific treatise in the area of law you are researching, select Treatises & Guides (below Secondary Materials) from the Content tab in the Explore section on the homepage.

From the Treatises, Guides & Jurisprudence page, you can search the entire treatises database.

"attractive nuisance" typed in the search bar, limited to Treatises, Practice Guides & Jurisprudence

You can also browse for treatises by state or by topic.

screenshot of Treatises, Practice Guides & Jurisprudence page, with South Carolina highlighted under State, and Torts highlighted under Practice Area

Searching Books & Treatises Using Bloomberg Law

The Getting Started page of this textbook provides information on troubleshooting a login to Bloomberg Law.

To find a treatise in Bloomberg Law, from the homepage under Popular Links, select Books & Treatises.

screenshot - Popular Links - SEARCHES - All Legal Content - Court Opinions Search - Dockets Search - Points of Law Search - News Search - Books & Treatises (highlighted)

You can do a keyword search of the full text of the books and treatises in Bloomberg Law's database. Another option—if you already know preferred titles or publishers—is to check the box next to particular titles or publishers in the SOURCES list below the keyword search. Checking boxes in the SOURCES list can be efficient because it limits your keyword search results to the particular sources you want, instead of searching the entire database of secondary sources.


Select a search result to read that section of a treatise.


Then use the Previous and Next links or Table of Contents link to browse surrounding sections in that publication. Or use the links above to jump to other portions of the publication.

screenshot of Chapter 13 - Liability for Condition and Use of Land - Topic 1 - Liability of Possessor of Land to Persons Thereon - Title A - Definitions - showing links to Restatement (Second) of Torts as blackletter law and Cumulative Annual Pocket Part as case summaries, organized by topic

Citing Books & Treatises

Citing treatises according to Bluebook Rules B15 and R15:  

Citations to treatises include five parts:

  1. The volume number (if the treatise is part of a multi-volume set);
  2. The full name of the author(s) as it appears on the publication (if there is one);
  3. The title of the work underlined or italicized;
  4. A pincite to the page(s) or section(s) where you found the relevant material; and
  5. A parenthetical with the editors (if there are any), the edition (if more than one), and the year.

Below are examples of citations to two torts treatises in print that have sections discussing the attractive nuisance doctrine. NOTE: Dobbs' The Law of Torts continues the no longer updated Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts

Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts 399-403 (W. Page Keeton et al. eds., 5th ed. 1984).

Dan B. Dobbs, Paul T. Hayden & Ellen M. Bublick, The Law of Torts 733-39 (2d ed. 2011).

Other examples of citations to treatises in print:

Grady L. Beard et al., The Law of Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina 102 (6th ed. 2012).

3 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure: A Treatise on the Fourth Amendment 301 (5th ed. 2012).

Citation Tips:
If a treatise has more than one volume, put the volume number before the author’s name, as shown in the example immediately above.
The edition number should never be in superscript, for example, 6th.  The “th” must be in regular Roman typeface, as seen in the above two examples.  Beware of autocorrect.
See Bluebook Rule 8(a) about capitalization.
If the treatise is organized by sections or paragraphs, for the pincite, omit “at” and replace the page number with the section or paragraph identification.  See Bluebook Rule 3.3.

Citing online treatises according to Bluebook Rule 15.9:

Use the date of the last update, as shown in the database.

Dan B. Dobbs, Paul T. Hayden & Ellen M. Bublick, The Law of Torts § 277, Westlaw (database updated July 2022).

Dobbs' Law of Torts "i" for "Scope information"