So I’ve discussed the basic areas of legal research… there are just a few! Now what? How do you start finding the information that you need for your novel?
One great place to start is national organizations. Here are a few to get you started:
- American Bar Association is a great resource for research on a host of legal issues. It won’t necessarily go into a ton of detail, but it will give you a great overview or background on just about any legal issue. I could get lost on its website, there’s so much great information!
- American Civil Liberties Union… if you are interested in getting the liberal perspective on an issue – often needed to make our stories balanced – or if you are looking for experts on prisoners’ rights issues, this can be a great organization to start with. Most states also have a chapter of the national organization. The website has links to issues ranging from prisoners rights to disability rights to religion and reproductive rights.
- American Center for Law & Justice is a counter to the ACLU. The ACLJ was started in the late 1980s early 1990s by Jay Sekulow. He’s an attorney who was involved in many of the ground-breaking Supreme Court cases during that era, particularly in religious freedom cases. The website also contains many issue papers here: http://www.aclj.org/Issues/. The ACLJ is affiliated with the Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, VA, and can be a good starting place for the conservative position on issues like national security, prayer, and education rights.
- Center for Education Reform is an organization based in Washington, DC, that is focused on helping parents get more rights in education. It’s focus is charter schools and other forms of bringing choice in education to all children, but has expertise in other areas as well.
- Institute for Justice is a more libertarian organization that focuses on eminent domain and entrepreneurial rights, think shipping wine across state lines and other areas where government is restricting the access of individuals to a business area. The website contains information on cases and media information. I attended a law student training program and plan to interface with them on one of my books that involves eminent domain issues.
- Alliance Defense Fund is another organization that focuses on the conservative position to many cases. I have found them extremely helpful in my role as an attorney, both being trained and calling on them for help with cases, and would expect the same for help with plot-lines. There are trained allies in all 50 states, so if you need an expert in an area, this could be another great place to start.
- Home School Legal Defense Association is an organization that is driven by a mission to protect homeschooling families that are members. Their expertise spills over into other areas that states use to harass homeschooling families like CPS checks, etc. Again, they have trained attorneys available in most states, so you could call and ask to be connected to someone in a state your book is set in, and if your issue falls in line with theirs, may have found yourself an automatic expert.
- The State Policy Network is an umbrella organization for state think-tanks that focus on free-market issues. It has a blog that focuses on what’s happening in the various states (http://blog.spn.org/) and contains a link to member organizations – another great resource to access experts.
- CATO is a libertarian think-tank based in Washington, DC. It has an extensive list of experts you can email, publications you can review online, and many other resources readily available at your fingertips. I interfaced with one of their experts when needing some information on ethanol research, but there are a host of experts on many, many topics.
- The Heritage Foundation is the grand-daddy of the conservative think-tanks in Washington, DC. You want an expert? They have one. Education, energy, entitlements, congressional reform, etc. The list is almost endless, and you can identify the expert you need online.
These organizations are literally just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what is available as easily as clicking on internet explorer.