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Treatises and Hornbooks Guide

Introduction to Treatises/Hornbooks

Adapted for California Western School of Law’s Library holdings from Kent C. Olson, Principles of Legal Research (West 2009).

A legal treatise is a scholarly publication containing a lengthy, in-depth, analysis and explanation of the law relating to a particular area, such as criminal law, trusts and estates, contract law, etc. They are considered secondary authority and serve as a useful starting point for legal research, particularly when the researcher lacks familiarity with an area of law. This is because treatises contain an in-depth explanation of a legal topic as well as numerous citations to case law, statutes, law review articles, and other relevant sources. Some treatises are supplemented yearly, others (particular those in loose-leaf or electronic format) may be updated more frequently.

Treatises contain more detailed discussions of specific legal topics than legal encyclopedias. In law schools, treatises are commonly used as supplemental study materials, covering legal subjects at a higher level of detail than most casebooks. Hornbooks are generally briefer versions of longer, multi-volume treatises and are directed toward law students. Lawyers commonly use legal treatises to review the law and update their knowledge of pertinent primary authority such as case law, statutes, and administrative regulations.

This research guide contains selected legal treatises available through the CWSL library in print or online. It is organized by subject, with a focus on California materials. It is not intended to be a comprehensive listing. Please consult a reference librarian with any questions or for additional resources.

Note : Any edition information shown is current as of this writing. Links to the KIM catalog or the electronic resource (if listed) may contain information on possible later editions or updates. Treatises available in a more current edition, but not available at CWSL, are also noted. Furthermore, call number ranges shown for each category are generally accurate although individually listed treatises may fall outside of the listed range for various reasons. In addition, check the electronic resource (if listed) for possible later editions or updates.


Adapted for California Western School of Law’s Library holdings from Kent C. Olson, Principles of Legal Research (West 2009).

This guide was created by Lisa Foster and updated by Ian Kipnes.


Ian Kipnes

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