Skip to Main Content

Classic Legal Theory


This is a guide to classic legal theory, also called jurisprudence or the philosophy of law. It can be used in combination with the critical theory research guide to understand the history and legacy of differing approaches to legal theory.

For researchers  new to legal theory the introductions to legal theory section of this guide includes encyclopedias that can be used to find brief overviews of specific theories, concepts, and authors as well as books that give broad overviews of legal theory. For legal research methodology, see the critical legal theory guide section on methodology. Situating classic legal texts includes information on how to discern what is a "classic" and specific tools to do so, such as a philosopher mapping tool and citation resources.

Classic texts includes books and articles that are foundational, influential in law and other disciplines, and written in the early 20th century at the latest. Theoretical perspectives are broken out into separate pages, including: legal realism, legal positivism, natural law, law and economics, and law and interpretation. On these pages short overviews of theory are included along with classic texts and works intended to provide context to the authors and theories.

Finding articles includes search tips and database links. When searching for journal articles in databases it is important to review multiple locations, as there is no single law database that indexes all scholarly journals. While it is common for law journals of all types to include theory-driven articles, it is possible to narrow research on this topic by searching through the list of journals that focus on legal theory.

Legal citation provides resources for accessing the McGill guide and understanding how to properly use this citation format.

More Guides

Book a Research Help Appointment

Research help is available for students, faculty, and staff of TMU with legal research questions.

For one-on-one assistance in refining a legal research topic, finding legal information, and using databases and other resources, book a research appointment. Currently, all Law Library research help appointments are being conducted virtually through Zoom. Email the law librarians or book a time directly in their calendars during office hours:

John Papadopoulos is available at, with bookable office hours
Lisa Levesque is available at, with bookable office hours
Sara Klein is available at, with bookable office hours

Email: for general inquiries, please email for assistance with accessing or using legal information resources and one of the Law Library staff will respond to you.

For the most recent service information during COVID-19, see the updates for students, instructors, and researchers.

Creative Commons License

This guide has been created by the Toronto Metropolitan University Library and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 License unless otherwise marked.

Creative Commons Attribution License

Guide Last Updated

Date: Aug 14, 2023