Featured Database of the Month: National Survey of State Laws

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National Survey of State Laws (NSSL) is a print and online resource that provides an overall view of some of the most-asked-about and controversial legal topics in the United States. The database is derived from Richard Leiter’s National Survey of State Laws print editions. Presented in an interactive chart format, NSSL allows users to make basic state-by-state comparisons of current state laws. The database is updated regularly as new laws are passed or updated.

The current 8th edition, along with the 7th, 6th, and 5th editions are available in HeinOnline. Users can use the database to compare the same laws as they existed in 2005, 2008, 2015, and 2018, and to make more current comparisons with laws added or updated in the database since 2018.

Keep reading to learn more about this indispensable reference work, or watch this short tutorial.

From the database homepage, users can browse laws by category or topic. The topics featured in NSSL fall into eight general legal categories: Business and Consumer Laws; Criminal Laws; Education Laws; Employment Laws; Family Laws; General Civil Laws; Real Estate Laws; and Tax Laws. Select any category to view a list of topics.

Screenshot of NSSL categories and topics

Select the More Information icon next to any topic to see a general overview of the law.

NSSL more information icon next to topics

Select a topic to view an interactive chart for the specified law. For example, let’s open the topic of Adoption.

The top column includes important points for each law. Beneath, brief statements provide the core points for each state’s statute. References to state statutes and code sections are provided, helping researchers further their research.

Chart view of topic search for adoption in National Survey of State Laws

From this chart, users can compare this law across specific states. For example, let’s compare Arizona and Arkansas. Check the boxes next to each state and select Show only checked states.

Chart view of adoption in NSSL showing how to show only checked states

This provides a new chart showing only the two selected states.

Adoption chart in NSSL showing specific states

Users can also view the law as it appeared in previous version of this title by selecting View previous editions.

NSSL Chart showing to view previous editions

View and link to related Subject Compilations of State Laws Subjects, an award-winning resource that identifies and describes fifty-state law surveys on hundreds of subjects in hundreds of sources.

NSSL Chart showing how to link to related Subject Compilations of State Laws topics

NOTE: The Subject Compilations of State Laws (SCSL) hyperlinks are only accessible to customers that also subscribe to the SCSL database.

To learn more about navigating and searching with National Survey of State Laws, check out our dedicated LibGuide!


The 8th Edition Updates

The latest 8th edition of NSSL covers the dramatic changes that have happened in many areas of law since 2015. It covers topics including abortion, the right to die, gun control, prayer in public schools, marijuana, marriage, personal income tax, drunk driving, capital punishment, right to work, lemon laws, leases and other agreements, child custody, legal ages, and many other areas. New chapters since the last edition cover: bullying; child support guidelines; civil shoplifting; domestic violence; food laws; interest rates; medical records; restrictive covenants in employment; and seat belt laws.


About the Editor

Richard Leiter is the Director of the Schmid Law Library and Professor of Law at Nebraska College of Law. He got his start in law libraries in 1977 at Irell & Manella, a prominent Los Angeles law firm. After graduating from Southwestern University Law School in 1981, he moved to Texas where he worked at the University of Texas Tarlton Law Library and earned his Masters in Library and Information Science in 1985. Over time, he became the head of public services at the University of Nebraska, managed the library at Littler Mendelson Fastiff & Tichy in San Francisco, and managed academic law libraries at Regent University and Howard University before returning to Lincoln in 2000. Professor Leiter has written widely on law library, legal research, and legal information technology issues. He is an active scholar and has contributed to books, the Law Library Journal, and numerous other law library publications.

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