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There are a daunting number of free or low cost legal research sites available on the Internet. Which ones to choose and where to start?

Many of the free sites are large comprehensive sites with information such as overviews of legal topics, cases, statutes, legal news and directories of legal professionals and experts. In addition to these resources there are government sites which are also valuable legal research tools at both the state and federal level. Government agency and court websites are particularly useful

JUSTIA offers comprehensive coverage of a wide variety of legal materials. Their mission is to “advance the availability of legal resources for the benefit of society.” This site focuses on primary legal materials. From the home page, you can search the entire site by using the keyword search box, or you can select a legal practice area to research. When you have selected a specific area, you will then be presented with a brief overview of that area of law and related information such as useful Web resources, relevant laws, recent legislation, regulations, important cases, articles and news. Justia also maintains a legal research section on the home page where you can access information regarding cases and codes, federal and state court opinions, blogs, podcasts, forms and experts.

FINDLAW is the site for legal professionals. Findlaw is one of the most frequently consulted sites which claims to be the “world’s leading provider of online legal information.” There are two versions of the site, one for public use and one for legal professionals. The above site is the one for legal professionals.

From the main search box on the home page, you can search across the entire site which is helpful when seeking the broadest of results. If you need a more precise search, use the “research the law” section that allows you to search for a case, a specific type of contract, or an article. You can also browse various research materials by type, jurisdiction or practice area.

There are a number of options in the professional version. From the home page, you can search or browse cases and codes, practice management topics, or jobs and careers, as well as legal news, blogs and service providers. Findlaw is great for locating both federal and state cases and codes. By selecting the “cases and codes” tab, you can search a legal topic in a particular court. If you know the case you are seeking, you can search for it by party name or docket number, but if you don’t have a case in mind, you can use the “free text search” option and create a keyword query.

LEGAL INFORMATION INSTITUTE is one of the most comprehensive sites provided by a non-profit organization. The site is produced by Cornell University Law School. Their stated mission is that “everyone should be able to read and understand the laws that govern them, without cost.” To that end, LII publishes laws, creates materials that help assist in understanding the law and explores technologies that allow you to find the law more easily. This site is less cluttered and easier to navigate. From the home page, you can use the keyword box to search across the entire site. Within the “read the law” section, you can access federal and state constitutions, laws, codes, statutes and cases. There is a portal nature to this site and therefore you will often select a link and be redirected to another site for the actual information. In the “learn more” section, you can access the online legal dictionary called Wex, the Supreme Court Bulletin, the annotated US Constitution and the LII blog. The “popular topics” section allows you to explore specific legal topics and in many cases will provide a narrative overview of the topic with a list of relevant resources, including applicable statutes, recent court decisions and other key Internet resources.

GOVERNMENT the official site for the US Government where you would select the agency or agencies covering your particular areas.

Other useful government sites are those for particular courts. At the federal level, there is the US Courts site ( From here you can access links to all the federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals, District Courts Bankruptcy Courts and Courts of Special Jurisdiction. Under the “court records” tab there is a link to PACER (, the system that provides law-cost access to federal case files and dockets.

Some other frequently used sites are:

Google Scholar –

Lexis Nexis Infopro- Zimmerman’s Research Guides (

HG –

The Public Library of Law

MegaLaw –

Free web resources are a good place to start your research, but they should be supplemented and updated. You are not likely to find all the answers or information through a free website.

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