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Statutes Research Guide: 50 State Surveys

Comparing laws on the same subject across many jurisdictions

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Why Use a 50 State Survey?

Writing or cite-checking a law review article on (for example) exotic animal laws in multiple or all 50 states? Before researching every state individually, use the following strategies to determine if a survey already exists or can be easily created.

Sources and Strategies for 50 State Surveys

Locating Existing Surveys

The best source for finding an existing 50 state survey is to search HeinOnline's database, Subject Compilations of State Laws. The surveys are culled from articles, books, cases, court briefs, government documents, LexisNexis and Westlaw 50-state surveys, looseleaf services, and websites that list or compare state laws on hundreds of topics.

While the Subject Compilations of State Laws identifies the existence and location of 50-state topical surveys, the actual surveys are often contained in the following sources.

LexisNexis 50 State Surveys, Legislation and Regulations. Contains 200 surveys by topic with direct links to state laws and regulations within LexisNexis. Path: Type "LexisNexis 50 State Surveys" into the main search bar and click on the Table of Contents to view the surveys listed alphabetically by topic.

Westlaw. Contains surveys by topic with direct links to state laws and regulations within WestlawEdge. Path: Type "50 state surveys" into main search bar for list of major and sub-topics.

National Conference of State Legislatures. An excellent source for free surveys of state laws by topic. Path: Browse by Topic, or try typing "survey" and topic keywords into the main search bar.
:: Don't miss the NCSL 50-State Searchable Bill Tracking Databases

Creating Your Own Surveys

Bloomberg Law offers a tool that allows you to build your own comparison chart across jurisdictions.

Bloomberg Law's "State Law Chart Builders" also creates a custom comparison chart in limited subject areas. Path: From the Home page, click on Browse All Content, select Practice Centers, select topic, then locate the Practice Tools box. In some topics, the category "state law chart builders" will appear.

Use Bloomberg Law (easiest, using Search and Browse, Legislative feature), Westlaw or Lexis to create your own statutory search across multiple jurisdictions. Caveat: when creating such a search, remember that different states may use different terms and keywords to refer to the same topic ("divorce" "dissolution of marriage"). Search using multiple synonyms or search the statutes' Table of Contents or Index for the appropriate terminology.

Updating the Survey

Although finding an existing survey of state laws can be an excellent time saver, the careful researcher must then locate the current version of each state statute to be compared: state laws change frequently. Use KeyCite, Shepard's, or the most current official code to update your research.

Quick Links to Surveys in Databases

Quick Links to Free State Surveys

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