Legal Research Free Online

Fundamentals of Legal Research by Adam J. McKee

This resource provides links to freely available online legal research tools.   I’ve tried to find the highest quality resources possible with the least amount of “spam” advertising.  


Legal Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Treatises

Georgetown Law Library’s Treatise Finder.  This resource lists recent treatises by area of practice.  Most of these will not be available for free, but you may get them through a university library, or through an interlibrary loan.

Justia Legal Dictionary.  This is a good resource but doesn’t have a good search feature.  You’ll have to browse a list for your topic.

Law.com Legal Dictionary.  Very good search tools.

Merriam-Webster Law Dictionary.  This resource does a good job of translating legal jargon into plain English, so it’s often a good starting point for researching a new term.  The search features work well, but they aren’t law specific, so you’ll have to take care to focus on legal definitions.

Nolo’s Legal Encyclopedia.  These articles are mostly written in plain English, so they are a good “jumping-off point” for exploring a new area of law.  They are often written from a consumer perspective, and they are browsable but not searchable.  You can, however, search the entire site.

Wex.  LII’s community-built, freely available legal dictionary and legal encyclopedia.   This resource has good search features.


Citation / Writing Guides

Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (online ed. 2020) By Peter W. Martin.  Legal Information Institute.   This guide covers the Blue Book style of legal citations.

APA Formatting And Style Guide (7th Edition): Legal References.  This guide from Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) covers the basics of citing legal materials in an APA Style paper.

First-Year Legal Research Guide: Getting Started.  This legal research tutorial from Loyola University Chicago provides an excellent overview of the legal research process.  Pay close attention to the Research Strategy section as this critical information is often overlooked elsewhere.


Citators

Unfortunately, no authoritative citators are available for free.  The best free alternative is Google Scholar.

Google Scholar offers an extensive database of state and federal cases, including:

      • U.S. Supreme Court Opinions –1791 to present
      • U.S. Federal District, Appellate, Tax, and Bankruptcy Court Opinions –1923 to present
      • U.S. State Appellate and Supreme Court Opinions –1950 to present
      • Scholarly articles, papers, and reports
      • Patents: U.S. Patents –1790 to present

To get started, navigate to Google Scholar, select the “case law” radio button, and choose your search terms. You may click on the menu button at the top left-hand side of the screen (that resembles three stacked horizontal lines) to pull up an advanced search feature that will let you search for a phrase, exclude results with certain terms, etc. You may also search by entering a citation to a case in the search box. After you execute your search, you may use the facets on the left-hand side to narrow your results. One of the most useful facets allows you to narrow by jurisdiction. Select a jurisdiction by clicking “select courts” and then place a checkmark next to the courts you would like to search.

If you look to the top of any opinion page, you will see a link to the “How Cited” feature. This feature lists other cases in the Google Scholar database that either cite your case or are related to your case. The How Cited feature also provides examples of how these other cases have dealt with your case. While this citator-like feature is a good place to begin your research and gives an overview of how the case has been treated by other courts, it is not considered to be as authoritative as citators produced by other publishers/subscription resources, such as Shepard’s Citations, KeyCite, BCite, and Bad Law Bot.


Statutory Law Resources

Legislative History Research Guide.  Georgetown Law Library.


Law Reviews

The Law Review Commons.  This site links to many law reviews as part of a consortium of law schools that provide open (free) access.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review.  The UALR Law Review publishes timely, scholarly materials on significant legal questions pertinent to the practice of law in Arkansas, the nation, & the world.


Free Online Books(Classics)


Jurisdiction Specific Research

Guides on this site:

Modification History

File Created:  06/15/2021

Last Modified:  06/15/2021

[Federal Legal Research | Arkansas Legal Research ]

 

 

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