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Finding Topics for Papers: Home

A Few Tips


  • Don't rely only on Westlaw and Lexis. They have limited coverage. Explore other Legal Article Databases.
  • For interdisciplinary topics, probe Nonlegal Databases.
  • Don't forget books. Though slow to publish, they will impact some topics. Use Worldcat.org.
  • Stay alert after the initial preemption check. Great minds think alike: another author may get the scoop on your idea before your article sees the light of day. Continue checking CILP and the other current awareness resources until your article is accepted. If you chose to rely on a circuit split that made its way to the docket of the highest court for the jurisdiction, you run the risk that the case will be decided before your article is published. Monitor case status with local court docket, Pacer (ask librarian for access), SCOTUS docket or United States Law Week.

Targeted Resources

Recent/Pending Cases & Legislation

United States Law Week

Weekly analysis of current federal and state cases of significance, along with leading legislative and regulatory developments. Found in BNA, LexisNexis & Westlaw. Sample searches:

  • To find circuit splits in the BNA version, use a date restriction and queries such as the following:

circuit* near split*

(circuit* near split*) and abortion

  • To find recent stories about civil rights in the BNA version, use a date restriction, choose "within headings only" from the pulldown menu, and use a query such as the following (including quotation marks):

    "civil rights"

Westlaw and Lexis - A Few Examples

  • Westlaw All Federal Cases (ALLFEDS): sy,di((split or conflict) /s (circuit or authority) ) & da(>2007)
  • Westlaw Minnesota Cases (MN-CS): co(low) & "first impression" & da(>2007)
  • Lexis Federal Court Cases Within 2 Years, Combined - (GENFED;CURRNT): circuit /5 (split! or disagree! or divided)

Petitions for Cert

Westlaw Supreme Court Petitions (SCT-PETITION)

  • Includes denied as well as granted petitions. Example of subject-specific search: "employment discrimination" & (split /p (circuit or authority) )

Hot Bills and Topics from Lexis/CIS Congressional Universe

Congressional Universe (LexisNexis) Law Access

Lexis/Westlaw Automatic Search Updates

A "clip" or an "alert" is an automatic periodic search, on a particular subject, maintained on your Westlaw or Lexis account. You can choose for the results to be e-mailed to you automatically, or you can choose to be notified of new results when you sign on to your Lexis or Westlaw account. Clips or alerts can be used, for example, to keep abreast of congressional activity, cases decided recently, coverage in the popular press, status of proposed regulations, and current journal articles of interest. If you wish to be alerted to law review articles that cite a particular author or address your topic, or if you would like a list of the articles in a particular journal when the journal is first published, you may wish to set up a search using the database "Legal Resources Index." In setting up alerts, you may refer to simple instructions for setting up Lexis Alerts, Shepard's Alerts, WestClip Alerts, and KeyCite Alerts.

Latest Scholarship

Legal News

ABA Journal (online):  Breaking legal happenings.

ABA's Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases

FindLaw's Writ: Opinion pieces from regular columnists, including legal scholars.

Jurist's Forum: More opinion pieces from law professors.

National Law Journal

Legal Times

Legal News Databases


Bulletins & Briefings

Westlaw Highlights databases

"Westlaw Highlights databases include both Westlaw Topical Highlights databases and Westlaw Bulletin databases. Westlaw Highlights databases provide a quick, convenient way to stay informed of legal developments and trends in the judicial, legislative, and administrative arenas, and are updated daily to provide current information in the topical and jurisdictional areas listed below. To access a Westlaw Highlights database, type its identifier in the Search for a database text box at the tabbed Law School page and click Go. A result list of documents added to the database in the last two weeks is automatically displayed. To view a summary of a listed document, click its number. The result list is then displayed in the left frame and the document is displayed in the right frame. The summary may indicate that the full text of the document is available on Westlaw. To retrieve the full text of the document, click its hypertext link. To run a search in a Westlaw Highlights database, click Edit Search in the left frame or at the top of a result list. Delete the current query in the text box, type your Terms and Connectors query or Natural Language description, and click Search Westlaw." (from publisher description)










Business Organizations


Intellectual Property


Commercial Law


Labor & Employment






Criminal Justice


Maritime Law








Products Liability


Energy & Utilities


Real Property


Environmental Law


Securities Regulation


Estate Planning & Probates




Family Law




Finance & Banking





Westlaw Bulletin databases

Westlaw Bulletin: WLB
Westlaw Bulletin-U.S. Supreme Court: WLB-SCT
Bulletins for various states

LexisNexis Practice Pages

"Each practice page or area has information and features tailored to that area of law. To access a particular practice page, click Practice Pages on the LexisNexis service's home page or top navigation bar. Then select a practice page or area from the choices on the right side of the screen." Watch for the current awareness resources (often a link in the top right corner of the main Practice Page). Simply click on the "Current Awareness" or "Recent News & Legal Developments" link, and a search runs automatically.

Mealey's Newsletters (LexisNexis)

From the main LexisNexis page, follow the path: Legal > Legal News > Mealey's Legal News.
Pick a relevant newsletter -- for example, ERISA: Mealey's Litigation Report. Try a date-restricted search using a term in the name of the newsletter -- for example, ERISA

Andrews Publications Newsletters (Westlaw)

In Westlaw, follow the path: Legal Periodicals & Current Awareness > Andrews Publications Newsletters
Pick a relevant newsletter -- for example, Andrews Asbestos Litigation Reporter. To retrieve tables of contents for recent issues, try a date-restricted search including the phrase "what's inside" and a key word from the newsletter's name -- for example, asbestos and "what's inside" and date(after 12/2007).

Other Publishers' Newsletters (Westlaw)

Follow the path: Legal Periodicals & Current Awareness > Legal Newsletters Listed by Title
Pick a relevant newsletter. Try a date-restricted search using a key word from the name of the newsletter.

BNA News and Reference Alerts

BNA provides weekly or biweekly e-mail alerts on United States law in the areas indicated below. Alerts often contain links to the full text of legal analysis or primary law. News Alerts and Reference Alerts have separate registration pages. These alerts are available to the Hamline Law community only. If you are accessing this page from off campus, you may need to log in to the proxy server before going to BNA's registration site.

1. BNA News Alerts

ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual: Current Reports (biweekly)
Antitrust & Trade Regulation Report (weekly)
Criminal Law Reporter (weekly)
Family Law Reporter® (weekly)
Product Safety & Liability Reporter (weekly)
Securities Regulation & Law Report (weekly)
U.S. Law Week: Supreme Court Today
U.S. Law Week® (weekly)

2. BNA "Reference" Alerts

Benefits Practice Center: Pensions, benefits, and compensation weekly summary
Benefits Practice Center: Employee Benefits Cases - weekly summary
Labor & Employment Law Library: Individual Employment Rights Cases weekly summary
Labor & Employment Law Library: Analysis/News & Background
Labor & Employment Law Library: Arbitration Decisions weekly summary
Labor & Employment Law Library: ADA Disabilities Cases weekly summary
Labor & Employment Law Library: Fair Employment Cases weekly summary
Labor & Employment Law Library: Labor Cases weekly summary
Labor & Employment Law Library: NLRB Decisions weekly summary
Labor & Employment Law Library: Wages, Hours, & Leave Cases weekly summary

CCH E-Mail Alerts

Hamline Law users may set up customized "Tracker Searches" and control personal Tracker e-mail options from the home page of the CCH electronic library or database. In addition to customized alerts matching specific interests, you may subscribe to newsletters covering legal subfields of interest. CCH databases available at Hamline include CCH Health and Human Resources Research Network and CCH Tax Research Network, available through the CCH platform Intelliconnect.

Blogs & Forums

In-Depth Guidance

A Few Books

Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, and Seminar Papers, 2005. Call Number: KF250 .V6 2005. On reserve at the Circulation Desk. (Find copies of the 2003 edition among the general treatises at Call Number KF250 .V65 2003.) Covers choice of topic, among other steps.

Elizabeth Fajans & Mary R. Falk, Scholarly Writing for Law Students: Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes, and Law Review Competition Papers, 2d ed. Call Number: KF250 .F35 2000. On Reserve at the Circulation Desk.

Publisher Guides

BNA, Finding a Topic/Case on Which to Write. (PowerPoint - BNA publications)

BNA, Locating Paper Topics. (Pamphlet - BNA Newsletters/Alerts)

LexisNexis, Finding a Topic for Your Student Note.
Tutorial on Search Advisor, preemption checking, Mealey's topical newsletters, and updating research.

LexisNexis for Law Reviews and Journals
Includes topic selection, preemption checking.

Westlaw Guide to Law Review Research (including topic selection)

Human Resources

Last, but far from least ....

Professors, attorneys, judges, cause advocates

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