Handout for Bridge the Gap, June 19, 2003

Prepared by Kelly Kunsch



There already is an excellent resource guide on Washington Practice Materials that was prepared by Nancy McMurrer for the 2002 Bridge the Gap program located at: http://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/waprac.html. This handout is intended to complement that work and is not nearly as comprehensive. Another research guide worth mentioning is "Sources of Free Legal Information on Washington State Law" prepared by Mary Whisner at the Gallagher Law Library (UW Law) at: http://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/leglinfo.html.

This handout addresses several topics that come up repeatedly during the "salad days" of legal research and parallels the accompanying presentation.

One item that certainly bears repeating, however, is that the most important reference source for legal research in this state is Washington Legal Researcher’s Deskbook 3d published by the Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library and compiled by its Librarians.

Major Washington Law Libraries (I-5 Corridor)

King County Law Library; Room 807 Administration Building; 500 4th Avenue; Seattle; (206) 296-0940. http://www.kcll.org/

Seattle University Law Library; 900 Broadway (Sullivan Hall is on 12th & Columbia); Seattle; (206) 398-4220. http://www.law.seattleu.edu/library

University of Washington Law Library (Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library); closed Summer 2003. http://lib.law.washington.edu/

Washington State Law Library; Temple of Justice (northwest corner of Capitol Campus); Olympia; (360) 357-2136. http://www.courts.wa.gov/library/


Finding Books (Treatises) on Washington Law

Probably the best way to find important works covering Washington Law on a particular subject is to ask a person who knows the available resources. Attorneys practicing in the area are excellent resources but, for any number of reasons, you might not want to tap those resources. Don’t forget, law librarians also know what is available in their jurisdiction. Ask the librarian where you work (if there is one) or call a Reference Librarian at any of the libraries listed above.

For a fairly comprehensive listing of Subject Specific Resources, see pages 95-133 in Chapter 4 of Washington Legal Researcher’s Deskbook 3d.

In the alternative, all of the above libraries have online catalogs. It is probably best not to try a subject search initially (Library of Congress subject headings may not be obvious). Instead, do a keyword search to find a relevant work and see what subject headings are used for it.

Major Sets:

Washington Practice (West). Also available on Westlaw (database: WAPRAC).

Washington Lawyers Practice Manual (Seattle-King County Bar Association).

Washington State Bar Deskbooks (Washington State Bar Association). Also available on Loislaw (www.loislaw.com or www.loislawschool.com).

Lexis Law Publishing books (formerly Butterworths). Not available via Lexis online service.

City and County Codes

Washington is fortunate to have The Municipal Research & Services Center of Washington that provides digitized copies of virtually every major city and county code. The codes are located on MRSC’s website is at: http://www.mrsc.org/codes.aspx.

Because the codes have become available from different publishers, the searching capabilities and layout can vary from code to code. A few city and county codes are also available on Lexis and Westlaw.


Administrative Agency Information

Administrative regulations are published in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). You can hard copy versions in most libraries. The indexing is cursory, at best. The WAC is also available online from the State itself at: http://www.leg.wa.gov/wac/.

The WAC is also available online via Lexis, Westlaw, and numerous other commercial (and free) legal research sites. Pay attention to the currency of the version of the WAC that you are looking at (as you should with any code you use).

Administrative agency decisions vary with each agency. Many are not available. Some are only available in summary form, others in full. Some are only available in print, some only in electronic format, and some in both. A valuable table of availability of agency decisions is located on page 154 of Washington Legal Researchers Deskbook 3d. Of course, the availability of information is constantly changing so a visit to the agency’s website is usually worthwhile. You can also contact the agency itself from its website and inquire about the availability of its decisions. You can locate each agencies website from the state’s homepage: http://www.access.wa.gov/government/awstate.asp.

Information about administrative agencies themselves is also available at the agency’s website. In addition, Washington State Yearbook contains basic contact information and authorizing legislation for the state’s administrative agencies. (It contains contact information for all branches of the government and cities and counties, as well.)



There is no single comprehensive set of forms for Washington. However, there are a couple major volumes that contain topical forms. Volumes 9, 9A, 10 and 10A of the Washington Practice set contain Civil Procedure forms (arranged by Civil Rule number). Other volumes of Washington Practice and most chapters of the Washington Lawyers Practice Manual and the WSBA Deskbooks also contain some forms. Washington Corporate Forms and Trial Lawyer Form Books (published by the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association) are examples of topical formbooks specific to the state. A keyword search in a library catalog including the word "form" and the word "Washington" (and possibly adding the desired topic) will display Washington formbooks held by the particular library. Note, however, there may be forms in books that are not necessarily cataloged as "formbooks."

There are also a number of locations where you might look for forms online. The Washington State Courts site has a listing of forms at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/.

These forms cover areas such as Domestic Relations and Garnishment. Individual state agencies also provide forms on their website. For example, the Secretary of State’s Office has registration forms at: http://www.secstate.wa.gov/corps/registration_forms.aspx

and the Department of Licensing has forms at: http://www.dol.wa.gov/forms/forms.htm.

Court clerks may also have forms (particularly in more populated counties such as King): http://www.metrokc.gov/kcscc/forms.htm.

Northwest Justice Project has forms for certain criminal and civil actions too: http://www.nwjustice.org/law_center/courtforms.html.

Finally, your office may have its own template form commonly used forms. You might ask friendly folks around your office to see if this is the case where you work. At the very least, it could save you time.


Legislative History in Washington

This is probably the most common reference request in legal research. Describing how to do a legislative history is far, far beyond the scope of this handout. But in case you don’t go to the session on it, Peggy Jarrett and Cheryl Nyberg’s guide at the University of Washington Law Library is the source to consult: http://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/washleghis.html.


Many law firms and government legal offices maintain their own "brief banks." This is because certain types of legal issues recur and it is useful to have not only the applicable law, but also the arguments previously made on the issue. You might ask your employer if it has a brief bank that you can utilize. Always remember that there may be new statutes, regulations, or cases that require the arguments to be updated or modified.

All of the law libraries listed above maintain copies of appellate briefs for Washington state. That includes not only Supreme Court briefs, but briefs from all three divisions of the Court of Appeals. The briefs are usually arranged by citation, but occasionally, a library may shelve the briefs by docket number so you might want to obtain that information as well (it is usually listed after the case name in the reporters).

Another Useful Website

The Washington State Bar Association website at: www.wsba.org has numerous valuable links. The Lawyer Directory lists members of the bar, their status (active versus inactive, not marital), addresses, phone numbers, and often e-mail and fax contact points. The site also has Washington State Bar News articles online back to 1999. There are many articles on ethics issues written the WSBA’s Chief Disciplinary Counsel. Ethics opinions (both published and unpublished) are available and searchable on the WSBA’s site.