Pennsylvania Research: Secondary Sources


There are two legal encyclopedias covering Pennsylvania law. The encyclopedia with the broadest scope is the Pennsylvania Legal Encyclopedia originally published by West Publishing Company with a second edition recently issued by Lexis Law publishing. This tool arranges its subject matter into numerous topics which are then further broken down into section numbers. These topics and section numbers do not correspond in any way to the West topic and key number system for digesting cases or to the topic and section arrangement utilized in Corpus Juris Secundum or American Jurisprudence 2d, the national legal encyclopedias. The set contains a paperback index and is updated with annual pocket parts, a mid-year interim supplement, and tables of cases and statutes. Like most legal encyclopedias, PLE tends to oversimplify things and avoid administrative law. Nevertheless, for statutory or common law problems you can probably get a foothold from this source.
West has recently come out with a second edition of it's legal encyclopedia entitled Summary of Pennsylvania Jurisprudence 2d. The subject arrangement is very different from PLE in that it only covers twelve broad topics (torts, family law, property, municipal & local law, taxation, environmental law, criminal law, probate estates & trusts, business relationships, insurance, commercial law, and employment & labor relations ), devoting one to four volumes to each topic. Each of these topics is further broken down into chapters and sections. Besides the standard analysis and footnotes you would expect from this type of work, it also contains illustrative examples, it points out distinctions and exceptions, and reveals practical tips. All of this information is set off from the regular text so that it is easy to spot. In many respects these topics are more like individual treatises than the standard simplifications common in legal encyclopedias. The encyclopedia includes a Tables volume incorporating a table of cases and a listing of statutes and rules cited in the work. A very detailed four volume paperback index is provided. West has set a new standard for legal encyclopedias with this work.
The Pennsylvania Keystone doesn't really bill itself as an encyclopedia, but this eight volume looseleaf set certainly functions as one. It is a very practical tool covering topics that the larger encyclopedias tend to gloss over. It also contains hundreds of references to other sources that may give more detailed information. Checklists and notations about other tangential legal considerations are handy features of this set. The set is updated by a supplement found in the front of each volume.


The eight Pennsylvania law schools produce an assortment of publications (see list below). They all produce one all-purpose law review, each of which through the years has dealt with a number of Pennsylvania topics. The Villanova Law Review does an annual survey of notable Third Circuit decisions and the Temple Law Quarterly does the same for Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions. Most of these publications have annual indexes in the back of each completed volume. They are also indexed in the Index to Legal Periodicals and Legaltrac along with their spinoff products.

  • Drexel Law Review
  • Duquesne Business Law Journal
  • Duquesne Law Review
  • Journal of Catholic Social Thought (Villanova)
  • Journal of Law and Commerce (Univ. of Pgh.)
  • Journal of Technology Law and Policy (Univ. of Pgh.)
  • Penn State Environmental Law Review
  • Penn State International Law Review
  • Penn State Law Review
  • Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental and Public Health Law
  • Pittsburgh Tax Review
  • Temple International and Comparative Law Journal
  • Temple Journal of Science Technology and Environmental Law
  • Temple Law Review
  • Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review
  • University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business and Employment Law
  • University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law
  • University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law
  • University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change
  • University of Pennsylvania Law Review
  • University of Pittsburgh Law Review
  • Villanova Environmental Law Journal
  • Villanova Journal of Law and Investment Management
  • Villanova Law Review
  • Villanova Sports and Entertainment Law Journal
  • Women's Law Forum (Villanova)

The Pennsylvania Bar Association publishes two periodicals and one newspaper worthy of note. The Pennsylvania Lawyer is a monthly bar magazine filled with practical articles often of the how-to variety. One of the more useful aspects of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly is its summation of new developments in various broad areas of Pennsylvania law. This journal also contains scholarly articles of topical interest. The Pennsylvania Bar News is a biweekly newspaper that has several important features. Each issue includes a listing and brief summary of recent state and local federal court decisions. There are articles highlighting different areas of law and practice, and from time to time they publish a summary of state ethics opinions.

The Pennsylvania Law Weekly, formerly the Pennsylvania Law Journal Reporter, is a weekly newspaper that serves a couple of functions. Besides the news articles concerning people or law firms, the newspaper also publishes summations of recent decisions from the PA trial courts and the Pa and federal appellate courts, details on notable awards and settlements, a calendar of events, bar news, and classified section peppered with adds listing forensic and other types of experts. Every January and July they publish an index to the court decisions summarized over the previous six months.


In the past two decades there has been a tremendous increase in the number of treatises published about Pennsylvania law. At one time the Bisel Co. was the only serious law publisher in the state. Today there are at least half a dozen publishing companies in this market. Most of the standard subject areas are covered by at least one work, with big topics like tax and evidence claiming 4 or 5 major works. Of considerable importance are the publications of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. Frequently published in a recognizable yellow paperback format, they serve as course materials for the Institute's continuing education programs. Many of these works cover topics ignored by other publications or approach the well-traveled topics from a different angle. Not only are they packed with information, they often contain forms and sample agreements. At least thirty new titles in this series appear each year and many of these are replaced with newer versions annually. For a complete list of in-print PBI publications visit their website.

Form Books

There are several sets of form books specifically oriented to Pennsylvania law. Dunlap Hanna Pennsylvania Forms is a general purpose set of form books published both in looseleaf and CD-ROM formats. It includes forms for both procedural and substantive areas. The Pennsylvania Transaction Guide gets the best marks in the business and corporate law area. This looseleaf set also touches upon the estates and trusts area along with some family law. West Publishing has come out with its own small compilation of forms. West's Pennsylvania Forms in fifteen volumes covers the areas of civil procedure, domestic relations, business organizations, estate administration, estate planning, employment law, commercial transactions and debtor-creditor law. Most of the major banks in the state offer will and trust drafting form books that are usually quite comprehensive. These are rarely updated so it is up to the attorney to spot an outdated form. Procedural forms in the civil area can be found in both Goodrich Amram Pennsylvania Practice and Wettick's Pennsylvania Forms for the Rules of Civil Procedure 2d. A basic set of criminal procedure forms can be found in Rudovsky and Sosnov's Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure: Law Forms and Commentary. Darlington's Pennsylvania Appellate Practice is a three volume work that provides commentary, citations, and forms. Another place to check for forms are in the PBI publications and in the looseleaf treatises. Many of the Bisel Co. looseleafs contain an appendix at the end of the volume or set with forms.


At one time most law libraries subscribed to numerous sets of Shepards citators in print but it is now universally recognized that the electronic version, available online through Lexis, has the advantage over the print product in any number of areas. As a result of this it is getting increasingly difficult to find the paper versions in law libraries or anywhere. For those researchers that do not have access to the online Lexis, Shepards Pennsylvania Citations contains the standard features and functions in the same way as the other Shepards state citators. It consists of a statutory component and a case component. The statutory volumes allow you to check the history and authority of codified state statutes, session laws, constitutional sections, and court rules. One thing to note is the segregation of the consolidated and unconsolidated statues into two distinct sections.
The case component allows you to shepardize appellate decisions using either the official or Atlantic Reporter citation. This set previously included a volume that incorporated the side reports, but Shepards stopped collecting information on these decisions around 1973 or 74 with the exception of the District and County Reports which can still be shepardized. Libraries that were aware of the elimination of the side reports volume may have held on to it even though its usefulness is severely limited. One cannot shepardize Pennsylvania administrative regulations or decisions.
West Publishing has developed their own citator service called Key Cite which, while only available online through Westlaw, provides many of the same services as Shepards.