Affordable Online Resources for Legal Research

images of resources used by a ny divorce attorney

Legal research is about as pleasant a task as it sounds. Time consuming and expensive, legal research has always been left to attorneys and paralegals. Now, you can save both time and money by doing some preliminary reading and fact-finding online.

Big law firms use resources by Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis. In the early days of the internet, they were the only resources available when it came to doing legal research. Then along came the internet and changed the environment and now fast, easy and (often free) access to information is demanded.

Whether you’re a layman trying to figure out the best way to write a new lease, a law student just starting your career or an experienced and grumpy old barrister, there are a variety of options when it comes to low-cost research services and websites. The resources listed in this article are not meant to replace the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney. This list is meant to let you know a few of options available. If you’re a layman doing some research, remember, always consult an experienced attorney!

Google Scholar

Here’s an easy, free way to find and read published opinions of the US Supreme Court. Going all the way back to 1791, you can also find rulings by other US courts since 1923. State appellate and supreme court cases from 1950 onwards are available as well. You can also do a search in legal journals and patent information.

FastCase

This service allows the user to gain access to federal and state laws, decision and statutes. Including visualization tools to show how different cases are related, you can also click on the “bad law bot” to find cases which haven’t been treated so positively. FastCase is affiliated with HeinOnline and has great integration with the technology possibly already on your computer such as Word, Outlook and various Adobe products.

LoisLawConnect

Providing pay as you go choices for access to legal content, you can get a pass good for up to 31 days with no contracts. The prices range from almost $30 to over $180, depending on the amount of access desired. One you’ve subscribed, there are not hidden charges for printing or downloading.

FindLaw

A complete resource for both members of the legal profession as well as consumers. Broad searches can be conducted with no charge on cases or contracts. Materials can be researched by type, jurisdiction or area of practice. Opinion summaries by the US Supreme Court as well as all US Circuit Courts of Appeals, are available going back to 2000.

Justia

Based in Silicon Valley, Justia’s goal is to increase the availability of legal resources for the betterment of society. Providing free access to case law, legal articles and codes, you can also get daily opinion summaries of all Federal Appellate and State Supreme Courts.

These resources should help you out if you ever find that you need to talk to an attorney. They’re not meant to replace a legal advisor, just supplement your knowledge so that you and the attorney you choose can spend valuable time talking about your case and you can take a knowledgable part in the discussion.