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Legal Research Process

What Is "Current Awareness"?

In a legal context, "current awareness" resources are a type of secondary source that help lawyers stay abreast of substantive legal developments and changes in the professionm, filling in the gap left by other secondary sources. For instance, although secondary sources like treatises are often updated on a regular basis, it may take a while for them to incorporate the latest legal developments. And while law review articles can be more current than other secondary sources, there is a delay before they see the light of day. 

There is a huge range of offerings; the selected resources highlighted here are among the most well known and generally applicable:

If you are interested in a particular area of law or jurisdiction, explore what else is available. Different law libraries also may have developed their own tools tailored to the needs of their patrons, so ask what else may be on offer at your workplace.

When to Use Current Awareness Resources

You will always have a need for current awareness resources, as the need to know the latest legal developments is a constantYou should follow current awareness resources throughout your career. Besides this general, ongoing need for legal news is the specific need for news dictated by any given research project. It is good to discover what current awareness resources are best for you over the long haul professionally and then consider what additional resources would also be helpful whenever a new project comes along.

How to Find Current Awareness Resources

How to find current awareness resources varies based on type. Some, like blogs, are freely available on the web and then it becomes a matter of the best way to search the web. Whether you have access to others that require a subscription, like BNA, depends on the institution where you work. Seek out the recommendations of your colleagues, ask a law librarian, or look for a research guide.

Strengths & Weaknesses of Different Kinds of Current Awareness Resources

Each resource fills its own particular niche.

Current awareness resources all have to perform a balancing act between bringing you the latest news as quickly as possible and providing useful analysis of that news. Some resources that deliver new content (e.g., daily) are more cryptic as they err on the side of speed, whereas others deliver content at slower intervals (e.g., weekly) to give you the benefit of closer scruntiny.

There is always the consideration of cost. Blogs and certain news sources are freely available online, whereas others require payment of some kind, whether through print subscription or licensed online access. 

When evaluating the utility of any given resource, besides assessing quality, cost, and frequency of its original content, there is also the factor of how easily it facilitates bringing content to you--for instance via email or RSS--rather than you having to seek out the same source repeatedly for the latest update.