Thursday, July 23, 2015

Do-It-Yourself Legal Aid

With money today stretched as tight as many can bear, do-it-yourself services are on the rise. One lawsuit, divorce, or contract can cost a lot if dealt with through a lawyer. For some simple court matters or legal questions, the library can help with books and online resources!

The library reference department has many resources available to help patrons in the building. These sources include primary and secondary legal materials. Primary materials are items containing the law, such as Louisiana Statutes, Civil Code, and U.S. Constitution. Secondary sources are all the resources used to define or interpret primary materials, like Black's Law Dictionary and Gale's Encyclopedia of Law.

Many resources exist online to give legal aid, but which one's can you trust? If you go to the library's page for "Databases by Subject," several resources are listed under Legal Reference, such as the Louisiana State Legislature's searchable laws and The United States Code.

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Other resources that provide context and examples of law include Cornell's Legal Information Institute and Google Scholar. Google Scholar has access to most state and federal court documents published in the last 50 years.

Because of Louisiana's use of the Napoleonic Code in civil cases, statutes and forms for court can be different from district to district or even parish to parish. The Louisiana State Bar Association has set up community resources to help the public find the right documents or representation they need. By visiting the Legal Education & Assistance Program (LEAP) for the public, many resources found in the community can be located. These resources include numbers for lawyer referrals, legal services corporations such as Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, general resources, and court contacts. Documents known as "libguides" contain information about driver's licenses, divorces, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, and several other general topics.

The reference staff are not legal professionals and cannot interpret, recommend, or proofread any legal term or document, but we are happy to help as much as we can to find you the help you need.

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