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November 20th, 2001
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LegalTrac, a Legal Periodical Index

(Update: As of 11/1/01 LegalTrac is no longer available at the UW Law Library. Please consult another index such as Index to Legal Periodicals and Books)

Last month, we reviewed several of the legal periodical indexes available at the Law Library. Remember that with an index, you can compile a list of citations to articles in your subject area.

What is LegalTrac?

One of the most often used legal periodical indexes is LegalTrac, which indexes more than 800 English language legal periodicals and newspapers from 1980 to the present, as well as selected law-related articles from other periodicals. Full-text and abstracts are included for some articles.

Why Should I Use LegalTrac?

You may ask, why should I use a legal periodical index such as LegalTrac when I have access to full-text articles in Westlaw and Lexis? One reason is coverage. LegalTrac indexes legal periodicals from 1980 to the present, whereas coverage for most journals in Westlaw and Lexis doesn't begin until the late 80's or 90's. Also, LegalTrac indexes many journals and newspapers not carried by Westlaw or Lexis. For a thorough search, you may want to try all of these databases.

Another important reason to use LegalTrac is cost. While Lexis and Westlaw may be "free" while you are in law school, remember that the cost of searching these databases is quite high for practicing attorneys (and summer clerks!). Indexes such as LegalTrac, while paid for by the library, are freely available to patrons who wish to use them at the library. While Lexis and Westlaw are wonderful legal research tools, you could save your firm a great deal of money by becoming familiar with alternative resources.

How Do I Use LegalTrac?

To open LegalTrac, point your Internet browser to From the left menu bar, select a type of search. Choose "Keyword search" to find citations in which your keywords appear. Choose "Subject guide" to locate articles using a controlled subject vocabulary

After selecting a type of search, enter search term(s) and connector(s) in the box provided. The following connectors may be used:

And All terms must be present
Or Any term must be present
Not Excludes term following connector
* Truncation - Searches various word endings
" " Phrase - Retrieves terms appearing together

You can also restrict your search to a specific journal or date range.

On the results page, LegalTrac displays brief citations including author, article title, journal title, date, and page. For more information, click on "extended citation and retrieval choices." Search results can be printed or emailed.

For additional instructions on using LegalTrac, see the InfoTrac Quick Guide at


Written by: Bonnie Shucha
Reference & Electronic Services Librarian

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