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Restatements of the Law: A How to Guide: How do I use the Restatements?

A research guide on how to use the American Law Institute's Restatements of the Law.

How do I use the Restatements?

You can use the Restatements:

  • To support a legal argument which has not been addressed by the courts in a particular jurisdiction
  • To identify relevant key cases in a particular jurisdiction
  • To gain an understanding of the policies which underline the rule of law

*Not all Restatements are the same.  Some are cited more frequently than others.  Similarly, not all courts treat the Restatements in the same way.  Make sure you understand how the courts in your jurisdiction as well as others have received and interpreted the Restatement volume upon which you are relying. 

Tip:  To see how a particular jurisdiction treats a volume of the Restatements, run a "Terms and Connectors" search, in Westlaw or Lexis, within a state or federal case law database with your key words.  For example, use these key words "Restatement w/4 contracts" to determine how courts assess the Restatement of Contracts.

How do I research within the Restatements?

Print

Each Restatement volume has its own index and there is a comprehensive index covering the complete set of the Restatement of the Law (First).  Once the Restatement of the Law (Second) is completed, ALI is planning to create a comprehensive index for that set as well. To use the index, identify which restated subject is relevant for your issue and then identify key words that describe your legal issue. Look up those key words in the index to locate the appropriate section. Each restated subject also contains a table of contents through which you can browse to identify relevant sections to your legal query.

To identify pertinent cases, ALI publishes case summaries or annotations.  These annotations can be found in the main volume, its pocket part, separate appendix volumes, their pocket parts, and supplementary pamphlets.  Identifying cases in your jurisdiction is fairly easy, because the case summaries are arranged in alphabetical order by state.

Online

Using the Restatements through Westlaw and Hein is fairly straightforward.  You can either do a key word search in all of the Restatement volumes or you can run a key word search within an individual restated subject.  You can also browse the Restatements' table of contents if you are unsure of what key words to search. On Lexis, you need to select the specific Restatement set you wish to search.  Once a set is selected, you can browse the Restatement's table of contents.

Also, on Westlaw and Lexis, identifying relevant cases is much quicker online than in print, as you can Shepardize or KeyCite a section or rule of law.