"Legal periodicals" is another way of saying "legal magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals." Legal periodicals are a secondary source which can give you excellent background information on a topic. The MLIC does not keep an exhaustive collection of legal periodicals, since so many are now available online. The box below will guide you through the process of searching legal periodicals online.
Every law school in the country produces at least one law review or journal (the terms are interchangeble), some up to three or four. Some legal periodicals are general and contain articles on any legal subject ("The Harvard Law Review") and some are specialized ("The Albany Law Journal of Science and Technology").
These journals are usually edited by law students and are published one to four times per year. Most articles are written by professors but there is usually at least one student written work in each issue. Note - if you are citing to an article written by a student there is a special A.L.W.D. rule for indicating to the reader that it was a student author (see A.L.W.D. 23.1(a)(2)).
Legal periodicals are also published by independent publishers and also groups of attorneys who are members of various subsections of the American Bar Association. See the list in Appendix 5 of your A.L.W.D. to get a sense of the number and variety of legal periodicals which are published.
Every state has its own bar association, and each bar association publishes a bar journal. These journals are usually written with practicing attorneys in mind as opposed to more theoretical, scholarly articles. Look at a recent issue of the Oklahoma Bar Journal to get a sense.
Many independent publishers publish legal newspapers on a variety of subjects. For example, "U.S. Law Week" is a weekly publication by the Bureau of National Affairs (B.N.A.) which covers mainly the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal courts.
The MLIC subscribes to LegalTrac, which is an online index to several hundred legal periodicals, indexing articles back to the early 1980s. We have written a page with detailed directions for using LegalTrac. LegalTrac is an outgrowth of an older print product and serves as sort of a search engine for finding articles in law reviews. LegalTrac does not contain the articles themselves (usually). Instead, you search by author, title, subject, etc., and find references to articles in which you're interested, then check the MLIC catalog to see whether we subscribe to that particular journal.
Common mistake: After searching for thirty minutes in LegalTrac you find a reference to an article you would like to read: James R. Barney and Charles T. Collins-Chase, An Empirical Analysis of District Court Claim Construction Decisions, January to December 2009, 2011 Stan. Tech L. Rev. 2 (2011).
To find the article itself however you have to search the MLIC's catalog to see whether we carry the publication in which it appeared. You do not search for "An Empirical Analysis. . .". You search for "Stanford Technology Law Review". Library catalogs don't contain references to articles within journals. Instead you can find out whether or not we carry the journal itself, and the record in the catalog tells you how to access it (print or online).
Problem with indexes to legal periodicals:
Be aware that LegalTrac does not index every legal periodical, no source does. It also only indexes articles back to the early 1980s. Westlaw and LEXIS have similar date restrictions. If you need to find an article written before 1980 you need to use the Index to Legal Periodicals and Books near the Reference Desk in the MLIC.
HeinOnline is an online repository of many hundreds of law reviews covering more than a hundred years. One great feature of HeinOnline is that it gives you actual page scans of the journals themselves, instead of just the article text (law reviews notoriously make heavy use of footnotes, and scans of the actual page make reading footnotes much easier).
A common strategy for finding law review articles is to first use LegalTrac to identify a potentially useful article, then search HeinOnline to see if it is available there.