Treatises are works written by legal scholars that provide exhaustive coverage of a legal topic. Treatises may be a single volume, but more often they are multi-volume sets of five, ten, or even more volumes. Treatises provide description, analysis and commentary with extensive references to primary sources including cases, statutes and other authorities. Often, the name of the author is included in the title, such as Scott on Trusts or Corbin on Contracts.
Hornbooks are legal texts written for law students by law professors. They explain the law, and are similar to traditional textbooks in other fields. Hornbooks are one-volume works that provide an overview of a legal topic and a discussion of major cases in the evolution of the legal area. Hornbooks are popular with students because they condense the law into the essentials, presenting the “black letter law.” Several publishers publish hornbooks. The West hornbooks are published in an official “hornbook series.” Aspen’s “Examples and Explanations” series and Lexis’ “Understanding the Law” legal text series, are similar to hornbooks. As a general rule, a hornbook is a basic one volume text written for law students, while a treatise is a larger work that provides more detailed coverage, analysis and citation.
There are two ways to find a subject:
Links to treatises on Bloomberg Law, Lexis and Westlaw take you directly to those services. You’ll need your login credentials to access them.
LexisNexis Digital Library – These may be accessed via your NYLS network login or by signing in as a campus guest.
Adapted for New York Law School, Mendik Library, from Kent C. Olson, Principles of Legal Research (West 2009).