This guide contains selected free online legal research tools and resources. These are related to United States federal and state materials. Moreover, they can be a great way to get started when you don’t have access to paid databases. Additionally, they can be useful to get an overview of a topic before purchasing potentially expensive searches. We’ve listed free primary and secondary resources available, online platforms and tools. Ultimately, these will provide you with detailed and relevant legal information.
Federal Law and Government Documents
The U.S. Government Publishing Office’s Govinfo website provides access to select federal court decisions. In fact, these documents cover the period from 2004 to the present day. Moreover, GovInfo provides public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government.
Federal Court Finder
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts provides a Federal Court Finder tool. Accordingly, it is used to locate the websites of individual federal courts. Hence, many of them include the text of recent decisions from that court.
American Law Sources On-line (ALSO)
Federal Data Sources
Statutes and Legislative Materials
This site offers access to a wide range of government documents and information. For example, it includes annotated constitution, legislation, committee reports, congressional records, and treaty documents. Consequently, this makes Congress.gov an excellent source for in-progress bills.
This website offers a wealth of federal government information. For instance, it includes links to the websites of departments, agencies and branches of government. Accordingly, these can be a good source for statutory and legislative materials.
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court website includes the full text of certain materials, including many opinions. In addition, it suggests resources for finding briefs and provides access to recent decisions. Also, it includes the bound volumes of the U.S. Reports from 1992 to the present.
Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases
This site from the American Bar Association provides the full text of briefs. In fact, they come from a large number of U.S. Supreme Court cases. Additionally, these include cases that have not yet been heard.
State Case Law and Court Documents
Caselaw Access Project
The Caselaw Access Project (“CAP”) expands public access to U.S. law. Moreover, it made all published U.S. court decisions freely available online, in a consistent format. Also, it offers digitized formats from the collection of the Harvard Law Library.
This is a database of federal district and bankruptcy court documents from PACER. In fact, it has been contributed to the RECAP Archives for free access. However, not all documents that are on PACER will be available here.
Congress.gov Treaty Documents
Treaty documents are available on Congress.gov for all treaties submitted to the Senate since the 94th Congress. Treaties submitted prior to the 94th Congress are included if they were pending in 1975.
Law Library of Congress Guides and Resources
The Codification of Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders is an online version of an out-of-print publication. That publication ran from April 13, 1945. to January 20, 1989. The Public Papers of the Presidents collected links to the online versions of these compilations starting with President Reagan.
The American Presidency Project
This website from the University of California Santa Barbara collects data, documents and media. Specifically, these are related to the American Presidency. Moreover, they include inaugural addresses, executive orders, proclamations and more.
Google Scholar offers access to many legal documents. For example, these include patents, legal opinions and journals. Hence, this is one of the top free online legal research tools you can use to your advantage.
American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center Journal Search
JSTOR Open Access Content
Most of the articles on JSTOR are only available to individuals at institutions with a JSTOR subscription. However, JSTOR partnered with leading presses on a project. Consequently, this led to adding open access ebooks to their collection. Thus, thousands of titles are now available from various publishers. For instance, University of California Press, Cornell University Press, NYU Press, and University of Michigan Press and more.
Google News Archive
Google’s News Archive allows users to search historical newspapers. Furthermore, you can retrieve scanned images of their pages. Although it is not specific to legal newspapers, it is worth a try. Especially if you are searching for a PDF of a newspaper article.
If you’re a solo practitioner or small firm, save these free legal research tools to get started. Accordingly, they will help you familiarize yourself with a new area of law. Moreover, they will save you the amount of time it takes to find what you need. Additionally, when you switch over to paid subscription service you will already have your search terms. To continue exploring similar topics, we recommend reading Top Legal Directories.