Introduction to the use of the Legal Classification

This Introduction explains the basic principles and structure of the
LEGAL CLASSIFICATION system. The Introduction is intended to be used in conjunction with the Glossary and the other resources. The Glossary defines terms used in the Introduction

Overview of the Legal Classification

Conceptual Framework

The LEGAL CLASSIFICATION is built on sound principles that make it ideal as a general knowledge organization tool: well-defined categories, well-developed hierarchies, and a rich network of relationships among topics. In the LEGAL CLASSIFICATION, basic classes are organized by disciplines or fields of study. The main structure of the LEGAL CLASSIFICATION is presented here.

Classifying with the LEGAL CLASSIFICATION

Classifying a work with the LEGAL CLASSIFICATION requires determining the subject, the disciplinary focus, and, if applicable, the approach or form.

Determining the Subject of a Work

Classifying a work properly depends first upon determining the subject of the work in hand. A key element in determining the subject is the author’s intent.

  • The title is often a clue to the subject, but should never be the sole source of analysis. Likewise, a title with specific terms that are subdivisions of a field may in fact use such terms symbolically to represent the broader topic.
  • The table of contents may list the main topics discussed. Headings may substitute for the absence of a table of contents. Subheadings often prove useful.
  • The preface or introduction usually states the author’s purpose. If a foreword is provided, it often indicates the subject of the work and suggests the place of the work in the development of thought on the subject. Accompanying material may include a summary of the subject content.
  • A scan of the text itself may provide further guidance or confirm preliminary subject analysis.
  • Bibliographical references and index entries are sources of subject information.
  • Cataloging copy from centralized cataloging services is often helpful by providing subject headings, classification numbers, and notes. Such copy appears in online services.
  • Occasionally, consultation of outside sources such as reviews, reference works, and subject experts may be required to determine the subject of the work.

Determining the Discipline of a Work

After determining the subject, the classifier must then select the proper discipline, or field
of study, of the work.

The guiding principle of the LEGAL CLASSIFICATION is that a work is classed in the discipline for which it is intended, rather than the discipline from which the work derives. This enables works that are used together to be found together.

Once the subject has been determined, and information on the discipline has been found,
the classifier will turn to the schedules. The levels are a good means of mental
navigation. The headings and notes in the schedules themselves and the Manual provide
much guidance. The Legal Index may help by suggesting the disciplines in which a
subject is normally treated.

If the Legal Index is used, the classifier must still rely on the structure of the Classification and various aids throughout to arrive at the proper place to classify a work.

Even the most promising Legal Index citations must be verified in the schedules; the
schedules are the only place where all the information about coverage and use of the
numbers may be found.

More Than One Subject in the Same Discipline

A work may include multiple subjects treated separately or in relation to one another
from the viewpoint of a single discipline. Class a work on three or more subjects that are all subdivisions of a broader subject in the first higher number that includes them all (unless one subject is treated more fully than the others). This is called the rule of three. For example, the legal systems of Spain, France, and Germany is classed with Europe legal systems.

More Than One Discipline

Treating a subject from the point of view of more than one discipline is different from
treating several subjects in one discipline, as one of the guidelines in determining
the best placement is the use the Legal Index, if one referece is given.

Legal Index

The Legal Index (available here) is so named because it relates subjects to disciplines. In the schedules, subjects are distributed among disciplines; in the Legal Index, subjects are arranged
alphabetically, with terms identifying the disciplines in which they are treated subarranged alphabetically under them In some cases the term implies rather than states the discipline.

The Legal Index may works also as an index to the LEGAL CLASSIFICATION as a system. It includes most terms found in the schedules and tables, and terms with literary warrant for concepts represented by the schedules and tables. The Legal Index is not exhaustive. If the term sought is not found, the classifier should try a broader term, or consult the schedules and
tables directly. The schedules and tables should always be consulted before a topic found in the Legal Index is applied.

See-also references are used for synonyms and for references to broader terms (but only
when three or more new numbers will be found at the synonym or broader term), and for
references to related terms (which may provide only one or two new numbers).

More information about the use and application of the Legal Index, plus training materials, can
be found on the Index Portal site.

Close and Broad Classification

The Legal Classification provides the basic option of close versus broad classification. Close classification means that the content of a work is specified by notation to the fullest extent possible. Broad classification means that the work is placed in a broad class by use of notation that has been logically abridged.

A library or website should base its decision on close versus broad classification on the size of its collection and the needs of its users. A small legal resource might prefer to class the same work in the broader subject without including the geographic facet in the notation. A family law site might prefer close classification for works in family law, but broad classification for disciplines in private law.


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