Section 1.3: Electronic Legal Research

Fundamentals of Procedural Law by Adam J. McKee

Legal research, the process lawyers use to find the laws and cases that apply to their work, has transformed since the dawn of the Information Age. Before the 21st century, attorneys would go to libraries filled with volumes of law books to do their research. Each book was a treasury of legal knowledge, containing years of case law, statutes, and regulations. These books were the bedrock of the legal profession, standing tall as a symbol of authority and knowledge.  That all changed with the rise of electronic legal research.

The coming of the Information Age has dramatically changed the landscape of legal research. More than ever, attorneys and students alike are turning to electronic resources to help them find the legal information they need. This shift has marked a new era for the legal profession, significantly increasing the efficiency and accuracy of legal research.

Lexis and Westlaw: Pioneers of Electronic Legal Research

At the forefront of this transformation are two companies that have revolutionized legal research: Lexis and Westlaw. These pioneers in the field developed databases that allow legal professionals to easily search for and retrieve legal materials electronically. One such tool, LexisNexis Academic, is widely used by universities that do not have law schools, while law schools typically opt for the more comprehensive Law School version.

The Advantages of Electronic Legal Research

Modern electronic databases for legal research come with many advantages. In the past, legal researchers had to manually search through indexes and digests to find relevant case law or statutes. This was a tedious and time-consuming process. However, electronic legal research tools have eliminated these constraints, making the process of legal research quicker and easier than ever before.

Moreover, electronic databases have made it possible to include professional editorial content that was once only found in bound volumes. This content provides essential context and interpretation for legal materials, helping researchers better understand the complexities of the law.

Legal Research Free Online

The author created the document Legal Research Free Online to provide a comprehensive resource for anyone who needs to conduct legal research online. The document lists a variety of freely available online legal research tools, including legal dictionaries, encyclopedias, treatises, citation/writing guides, case law databases, and other legal research tools. The author has tried to find the highest quality resources possible with the least amount of “spam” advertising.

Each resource is described in detail, including any limitations or restrictions that may apply. The document is divided into four sections: Legal Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Treatises; Citation / Writing Guides; Case Law Databases; and Other Legal Research Tools. The intent of the document is to provide a valuable starting point for anyone who is new to legal research or who is looking for a way to save money on legal research costs.

The Future of Legal Research

Despite the benefits of electronic databases, some might argue that the bound volumes of law books remain important due to their tradition and prestige. While it’s true that they carry a certain charm, their practical use has diminished significantly. In a world where legal information is just a few keystrokes away, the bound volumes seem to be headed toward obsolescence. Nonetheless, as we move further into the Information Age, they will continue to serve as a reminder of the historical roots of the legal profession.


The legal profession has witnessed a profound transformation in legal research from traditional book-based research to electronic databases. This shift was led by pioneers like Lexis and Westlaw, who made it possible to access and retrieve legal materials easily. The advantages of electronic legal research include greater efficiency, ease of use, and the inclusion of professional editorial content. Despite their dwindling practicality, bound volumes remain symbolically important, reflecting the legal profession’s historical roots.


Modification History

File Created:  08/04/2018

Last Modified:  06/29/2023

[ Back | Content | Next]

This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.