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Unlocking Legal Knowledge: Your Guide to Finding the Law


Legal research might seem daunting, especially for non-lawyers. But finding the law doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Whether you’re representing yourself in court or simply curious about a legal topic, this guide will help you navigate the process with ease.

Here’s a quick rundown to get you started:

  1. Understand legal terminology: Knowing the basics helps.
  2. Use the right resources: Many are free and accessible.
  3. Follow guides and tools: They can simplify your research.

For those representing themselves, states like Indiana offer Self-Service Legal Centers with forms and instructions online. This guide will also point you to various resources, many of which are free to use, to help streamline your legal research journey.

Key Tips:
Legal resources: Free and accessible.
Legal advice: Not provided here; use a lawyer if needed.
Self-representation resources: Available online in many states.

Start with the essentials and build your knowledge step by step.

Infographic on legal research steps: Understand terms, use right resources, follow guides - finding the law infographic infographic-line-3-steps

Understanding Legal Terminology

When diving into legal research, grasp some basic terms. This section will help you understand key concepts like finding of law, conclusion of law, finding of fact, and trier of fact.

Finding of Law

A finding of law is a determination made by a judge about the legal principles that apply to a case. It’s based on statutes, regulations, and prior court decisions. Judges “find” the law by interpreting these sources. For instance, in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts must apply state law in certain types of cases, emphasizing the role of judges in finding and applying existing laws, not creating new ones.

Conclusion of Law

A conclusion of law is the judge’s application of the law to the facts of the case. Once the judge has found the relevant law, they apply it to the facts to reach a legal conclusion. For example, if a judge finds that a contract was breached based on the facts and relevant statutes, the conclusion of law would be that the defendant is liable for breach of contract.

Finding of Fact

A finding of fact involves determining what actually happened in a case. This is typically the job of the jury in a jury trial or the judge in a bench trial. They evaluate the evidence presented, like witness testimony and physical evidence, to decide the facts of the case. For instance, in the case of Eugene C. Treaster vs. Law Offices of Eugene C. Treaster, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board had to determine the facts surrounding the applicant’s injuries and the extent of his disability.

Trier of Fact

The trier of fact is the person or group responsible for evaluating the facts in a case. In a jury trial, the jury acts as the trier of fact. In a bench trial, the judge assumes this role. The trier of fact’s job is to assess the credibility of evidence and witness testimony to establish what actually occurred.

Understanding these terms is crucial as they form the foundation of legal reasoning and decision-making. Knowing the difference between findings of law and fact, and the roles of the trier of fact, helps you navigate legal documents and court decisions more effectively.

Legal terminology explained - finding the law

Next, we’ll explore how to find the law using various resources like public laws, private laws, and more.

How to Find the Law

Finding the law might seem daunting, but with the right resources, it becomes manageable. Let’s break down the key places where you can find public laws, private laws, statutes, and acts.

Public and Private Laws

Public laws affect society as a whole and are enacted by Congress. They are published in the United States Statutes at Large and included in the United States Code. For example, the Fair Credit Reporting Act is a public law that regulates how consumer information is handled.

Private laws, on the other hand, apply to specific individuals or entities. They are less common and often address individual claims against the government or immigration issues.

Senate and House Document Rooms

If you need a specific law, the Senate and House Document Rooms can be invaluable. These rooms provide copies of slip laws, which are the first printed versions of a law after it is enacted. Contact them directly to see if they have the document you need.


Libraries are treasure troves for legal research. Many large public libraries and college libraries participate in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), offering access to government documents, including laws. The United States Statutes at Large and U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (U.S.C.C.A.N.) are often available in these libraries.

Tip: Call ahead to check the library hours and availability of the documents you need.

Online Resources

For the most up-to-date laws, the internet is your friend. Two excellent websites to use are:

  • GPO govinfo: Provides the full text of public and private laws from the 104th Congress (1995-1996) to the current Congress.
  • Offers the full text of laws from the 103rd Congress (1993-1994) to the present, along with summaries from the 93rd Congress to the current Congress.

Statutes and Acts

A statute is a written law passed by a legislative body. An act is another term for a statute. Over time, statutes may be amended, so it’s crucial to look at the most current version. The United States Code compiles all general and permanent federal statutes in force.

Example: The Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark civil rights and labor law, is an act that has been amended several times to expand its protections.


To sum up, finding the law involves using various resources like public and private laws, Senate and House Document Rooms, libraries, and online databases. By leveraging these tools, you can access the legal information you need.

Next, let’s delve into the fact-finding process in law, which is crucial for understanding how legal decisions are made.

Fact Finding in Law

What is Fact-Finding?

Fact-finding is the process of determining the facts relevant to a legal case. This step is crucial because facts form the foundation upon which legal decisions are made. Without accurate facts, the application of the law can be flawed.

Determining Facts

To determine the facts, courts rely on evidence presented by the parties involved. Evidence can come in many forms:

  • Witness Testimonies: People who have direct knowledge about the case.
  • Documents: Contracts, emails, or other written records.
  • Physical Evidence: Objects or materials connected to the incident.

Issues in a Case

In every legal case, there are specific issues or points of contention that need to be resolved. These issues are often framed as questions that the court must answer. For example:

  • Did the defendant breach the contract?
  • Was the plaintiff injured due to the defendant’s negligence?

The Legal Process

The legal process of fact-finding involves several steps:

  1. Pleading: Both parties file documents stating their claims and defenses.
  2. Discovery: Each party gathers evidence from the other side. This can include depositions, interrogatories, and requests for documents.
  3. Trial: During the trial, both parties present their evidence to the judge or jury.
  4. Decision: The judge or jury evaluates the evidence and makes findings of fact.

Importance of Fact-Finding

Accurate fact-finding is essential for justice. It ensures that legal decisions are based on what actually happened, not on assumptions or incomplete information.

In the landmark case Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, the U.S. Supreme Court emphasized the importance of distinguishing between fact and law. The Court ruled that federal courts must apply state law in diversity cases, underscoring the need for precise fact-finding to apply the correct legal principles.

Next, let’s explore essential legal research resources that can help you find the law and conduct effective legal research.

Essential Legal Research Resources

Conducting legal research can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not a lawyer. But don’t worry! There are several resources available to help you navigate the legal landscape.

Free Resources

Online Databases: Websites like Google Scholar offer access to a vast repository of legal documents, including case law, statutes, and regulations. This can be a good starting point for basic research.

Government Websites: Many government websites provide free access to legal information. For instance, the Indiana judiciary’s Self-Service Legal Center offers guides to self-representation, court forms, and instructions on how to fill them out.

Law School Computers

If you need more specialized resources, many law schools allow public access to their computers. These computers often have subscriptions to premium legal research databases like Westlaw or LexisNexis, which offer comprehensive legal information.

Self-Service Legal Center

If you’re representing yourself in court, the Self-Service Legal Center is invaluable. It provides:

  • Court Forms: Download and fill out necessary forms for your case.
  • Instructions: Step-by-step guides on how to complete and file these forms.
  • Guides to Self-Representation: Tips and advice on how to effectively represent yourself in court.

Court Forms

Court forms are essential for any legal proceeding. You can usually find these forms on your state’s judiciary website. Make sure to read the instructions carefully to fill them out correctly.


Representing yourself in court, also known as “pro se” representation, can be challenging but manageable with the right resources. Always ensure you:

  • Understand the Law: Use the resources mentioned to get a good grasp of the laws relevant to your case.
  • Stay Organized: Keep all your documents and evidence well-organized.
  • Ask for Help: While law library staff can’t give legal advice, they can help you find resources and information.

By utilizing these resources, you can better navigate the complexities of legal research and representation.

Next, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about finding the law.

Frequently Asked Questions about Finding the Law

What is a finding of law?

A finding of law is a judge’s determination of how the law applies to the facts of a case. Unlike findings of fact, which are about what actually happened, findings of law are about interpreting and applying legal rules. For example, deciding whether a contract is legally enforceable based on the facts presented.

How do you determine law?

Determining the law involves several steps:

  1. Public Laws: These are laws that apply to the general public. You can find them on websites like GPO govinfo and

  2. Private Laws: These apply to specific individuals or entities. They are less common but also available on the same websites.

  3. Libraries: Many large public libraries and college libraries participate in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). They provide access to government documents like the United States Code and Statutes at Large.

  4. Senate and House Document Rooms: These rooms can provide copies of slip laws. It’s a good idea to check their availability before visiting.

  5. Statutes and Acts: These are laws passed by legislative bodies. Over time, they may get amended, so always look for the most current version in the United States Code.

What is fact finding in law?

Fact-finding is the process of determining the facts relevant to a legal issue. This involves:

  1. Determining Facts: Gathering evidence, such as witness testimony, documents, and physical evidence, to establish what happened.

  2. Issues: Identifying the key issues that need to be resolved based on the facts.

  3. Legal Process: Following procedures to ensure the facts are accurately and fairly determined. This might involve hearings, depositions, and trials.

Next, we will explore some essential legal research resources you can use to find the law.


Unlocking legal knowledge can be a daunting task, but with the right tools, it becomes much more manageable. This is where CompFox comes into play. For California workers’ compensation attorneys, CompFox offers an AI-powered legal research tool that revolutionizes the way we find the law.

CompFox: Your AI-Powered Legal Research Assistant

CompFox is built on advanced AI technology designed to streamline legal research. It understands the unique queries posed by attorneys and uses machine learning to sift through vast amounts of data. This ensures that you get the most relevant cases quickly, saving you precious time and reducing stress.

Comprehensive and Searchable Database

One of the standout features of CompFox is its comprehensive, searchable database of all prior Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) decisions. This includes en banc decisions, significant panel decisions, and regular decisions. With word-for-word searchable PDFs, you can easily find and present precedents that support your case.

AI-Powered Quick Response

Imagine having an AI tool that not only helps you find relevant cases but also provides quick responses to specific questions during your research. CompFox offers this capability, making your work smoother and more efficient. The smart, intuitive search engine understands the nuances of your legal research needs, ensuring you get accurate and timely information.

Time-Saving Benefits

Most attorneys spend about one-third of their work life on research. With CompFox, you can reclaim hundreds of hours each year. This tool not only makes your research more efficient but also elevates your work by providing elite research capabilities.

Embrace the Future of Legal Research

By embracing the power of AI with CompFox, you can make the most out of your valuable time. This tool is not just an upgrade; it’s a game-changer for legal research in the field of California workers’ compensation law.

For more information and to start leveraging AI-powered legal research, visit CompFox.

With CompFox, finding the law becomes a seamless and efficient process, empowering you to focus on what truly matters—winning your cases.


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