Your goal as a legal researcher is to find primary legal authority (constitutions, cases, statutes, and regulations) relevant to your legal issues. Where you start your research will depend upon what information you are starting with. When searching for cases, your goal is to find a case in a relevant jurisdiction which is factually similar to your client’s situation.
Cases are published in case reporters chronologically, and are organized by jurisdiction and level of court. Since cases are published chronologically, you will most likely need to use a research tool to find citations to relevant cases. If you already have a case citation, it provides three pieces of information: the reporter in which the case is published, the volume of the reporter in which the case appears, and the page number where the case may be found. For example, 238 F.3d 68 refers to the Federal Reporter (Third Series), volume 238, page 68.
This research guide will outline the federal and New York state jurisdictions. You will find the same cases available in a number of different publications (both official and unofficial) and formats (print, Lexis, Westlaw, government web sites).