As school was coming to an end I blogged about student access to Westlaw/Lexis/Bloomberg for the summer. While the access to Lexis and Bloomberg is wide open, some of you may not have access to Westlaw this summer. Some of you may also be in firms that don’t use any of the more expensive legal research systems. If you’re looking to go back to those firms, it would be a good idea to get familiar with the types of legal research systems that they’re using.
Free and low-cost legal research systems have been around for a while, but there seems to have been an uptick in their use over the past few years. I think there are two main reasons for that. First, the recession caused law firms to look for ways to cut costs and many firms were forced to look at alternatives to Westlaw/Lexis. From that time until now, many of the free/low-cost alternatives have improved and some, like Google Scholar, were created. All of this has led to more firms using these sources more often. I know of one firm, for example, that has cut their Westlaw contract and uses Google Scholar for its case law research. Many others use the resources, like Casemaker or Fastcase, that are offered by their Bar Association.
With all that said, it’s important to be familiar with free and low-cost resources and what they can offer (as well as what they lack). Here’s a guide we’ve created that has links to a number of free and low-cost sources, as well as some additional information on using these sources. We hope it will help you get familiar with some of these sources this summer.