Treatises, Hornbooks, & Nutshells
A legal treatise is a scholarly publication containing lengthy, in-depth explanations and analysis of the law relating to a particular area such as criminal law, trusts and estates, contract law, etc. Treatises contain more detailed discussions of specific legal topics than legal encyclopedias. In law schools treatises are used as supplemental study materials because they cover legal subjects with more detail than most casebooks.
Hornbooks are generally briefer versions of treatises, and are they directed toward law students.
Nutshells attempt to cover an area of law completely in one very short volume. They can miss some complexity, but they are small enough to read in one sitting.
Practice guides assist attorneys in the practical application of the law, and some include forms. They do not have in-depth explanations and analysis of the law, and then generally do not seek to explain the development of the law as a treatise might.
This guide contains selected treatises and practice guides available through the CWSL Law Library with a focus on those dealing with California law. It is organized by subject, and it is not comprehensive. Please contact a reference librarian for research assistance.
The parts of this guide that focus on treatises started as an adaption of Kent C. Olson, Principles of Legal Research (West 2009).
Several publishers specialize in practice guides. These include a state’s continuing education of the bar entity, such as CEB in California. Other publishers include Matthew Bender and the Rutter Group. In addition, Nolo Press publishes practice guides for non-attorneys. An attorney unfamiliar with an area of the law may want to visit these publishers’ web sites to locate practice guides. Below are three access points to many practice guides.
Guide Created March 2021.
This guide was created by combining a former guide on Treatises with another former guide on Practice Guides. The previous Treatises guide was adapted for the Library's holdings from Kent C. Olson's Principles of Legal Research (West 2009) by Lisa Foster, and later it was updated by Ian Kipnes, Erin Grimes, and Robert O'Leary. The previous Practice Guides guide was created by Bill Bookheim & Ian Kipnes, and later it was updated by Barbara Glennan, Ricsie Hernandez, and Robert O'Leary.