Finding Out What the Law Is
Lawyers spend three years of school reading case after case after case to glean what the law is and how it operates. Lawyers are also taught during that time how to take a case or series of cases and synthesize it into a concise rule statement. Now, depending on what the area of the law is, that rule statement can be one sentence or several paragraphs (some things are very complicated).
However, after entering into the real world most lawyers quickly realize that how they learned the law in school is not reflective on how the profession actually conducts modern legal research. Most attorneys go to what is known as a “secondary source.” To put it into layman’s terms, a secondary source is a cheat sheet for attorneys. It synthesizes what the law is and gives citations to where the publication gleans the law from. These secondary sources can be very expensive to access.
However, one of the best secondary sources available is entirely free. California’s Judicial Counsel has created a form for a great many things to help streamline cases and to assist people without attorneys be able to adequately represent their own interests. As part of this process the Judicial Counsel created the “Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions” or the CACI.
What this is, is a series of proposed jury instructions for every cause of action you can file in California. While it does not provide you the elements to a cause of action in the technical terms, it does so in everyday language and cites to the case or statute that the CACI pulls the language from. This is an invaluable tool as it allows you to quickly identify whether you possibly have a case or not.