Restatements of the Law

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Busy writing a paper that covers law of the United States? Did you know we have access to the Restatements of the Law through Westlaw?

What are the Restatements of the Law?
The 'Restatements' are highly regarded distillations of common law. They are prepared by the American Law Institute (ALI), a prestigious organization comprising judges, professors, and lawyers. The ALI's aim is to distill the 'black letter law' from cases to indicate trends in common law, and occasionally to recommend what a rule of law should be. In essence, they restate existing common law into a series of principles or rules.

Restatements cover broad topics, such as e.g. Contracts, Torts, Property, Unfair Competition or Agency. They are organized into chapters, titles, and sections. Sections contain a concisely stated rule of law, comments to clarify the rule, hypothetical examples, explanation of purpose, as well as exceptions to the rule.

Secondary sources of law
Restatements are not primary law. Due to the prestige of the ALI and its drafting process, however, they are considered persuasive authority by many courts.

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.

Access through Westlaw
All series (which include the titles currently in effect, earlier versions of the titles, as well as tentative drafts) of the Restatements are available on Westlaw in the Secondary Sources. Browse tables of contents, or search by keyword or citation (e.g. Restatement (First) of Conflict of Laws Β§ 74 (1934) ).