Environmental legal research is complex. It is not about one case that is going to give you the answer. In addition to the variety of legal authorities that apply to situations, there is often scientific, technical and other information to consider. The challenge is to locate and use relevant information in a timely and cost effective way.
This Guide focuses on environmental law resources, and non-legal materials as well, that are useful in the study and practice of environmental law. It includes resources to lead you to environmental news and updating services, case law, statutory and legislative history, administrative law, international and foreign environmental law, scientific and statistics sources, and specialized web sites. It includes traditional legal research resources such as books, articles, Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law, as well as the ever-expanding number of free websites.
For locating relevant free web sites, even better than Google (according to some!) is the use of a resource that focuses on carefully selected web sites organized by topic. One such source, broken down by category in the Web Sites section of this Guide, is the Vermont Law School Library’s Environmental Law Research Sources. This is a collection of more than 500 free websites, with descriptions, selected in consultation with Vermont Law School faculty, students and alumni. Categories include: Climate Change, Energy, Land Use, Endangered Species/Wildlife Biodiversity, Environmental Dispute Resolution, Water Law and Policy, Oceans/Marine Law, International Environmental Law, etc.
There are numerous ways to begin research, depending on the issue at hand, the purpose of the research, and the knowledge and skills of the researcher.
Take the time to create an effective research strategy by brainstorming search terms, making a preliminary list of which primary and secondary sources would be useful, and keeping track of your research.
A recommended approach is often to begin with secondary sources to gain background information, to put your issue into context, and to discover cites to primary sources.
In addition to books and the resources found on Westlaw, Lexis and Bloomberg Law, other secondary sources will be helpful. Among the databases most frequently used for environmental law research are: the Environmental Law Institute’s Environmental Law Reporter; Bloomberg/BNA Environment Reporter; and the Energy & Environment cluster of news sources which include E & E Daily, ClimateWire, EnergyWire, and GreenWire. These and many additional resources are listed in the Databases section of this Guide.