Navigating the law, especially for the non-lawyer, can be daunting, confusing, and frustrating. We at the Harris County Law Library provide resources and information that, we hope, make the law less intimidating and more accessible to the general public. One of the best, most indispensable tools for those who need to get acquainted with a new area of the law is a collection of books from Nolo Press, a publisher of legal materials, written in plain English, on a wide variety of legal topics. Designed to assist self-represented parties in learning about the law, Nolo Press is a company that seeks to “make the law accessible to everyone."
In addition to the Nolo Press publications, the Harris County Law Library's self-help collection contains a number of accessible, user-friendly resources including the Nutshell series from West publishing and the Texas Young Lawyers Association Research Guides for the general public. Nutshells are concise, one-volume treatises that address a particular area of the law, and the TYLA guides provide very practical information for handling specific legal matters in Texas, including probate, CPS cases, guardianship, and divorce.
The Nolo collection is a bit more expansive, as it covers all of the following topics and more: bankruptcy, criminal law, immigration, family law, labor and employment, landlord-tenant, estate planning, and social security. Other titles address how to start a small business, file a suit in small claims court, repair your credit, dispute a traffic ticket, survive foreclosure, and win a personal injury claim.
If you are unable to visit the Law Library in person, there are several options for accessing self-help legal resources online. The Nolo books, in particular, are available through several channels, including the Harris County Public Library, the Houston Public Library, and the Texas State Law Library online. As members of the TexShare Libraries Consortium, these institutions offer access to the Ebsco Legal Information Reference Center, which provides full-text digital versions of all titles published by Nolo Press, including some titles not included in the Harris County Law Library print collection. (The Texas State Law Library also provides access to the West Nutshell series.) To gain access to this online database, you must have a valid library card for one of the institutions named above. All residents of Texas are eligible to receive a library card, simply by filling out an application in person or by requesting a library card from the Texas State Law Library via the library's web portal.