Secondary sources are legal research materials written to clarify, analyze, and evaluate the law on a particular topic. They are not, however, actual statements of the law. When a researcher is unfamiliar with an area of law or legal topic, it can be helpful to begin the research with secondary sources. These can help a legal researcher understand the basic black letter law about the particular legal topic and to become familiar with important applicable cases and statutes as they frequently cite to other primary and secondary sources.
Secondary sources should only be cited to a court in limited circumstances, and instead should be used to provide background information and as tool for mining citations to primary authorities. Situations in which it may be appropriate to cite to a secondary source include when there is no primary, binding authority on your legal issue or the source is well-respected in the legal community (e.g., Restatements of Law are often cited as persuasive authority and recognized by the courts).