Written by: Leigh Perkins // Nov 2, 2021
Last updated: Jan 17, 2023
Effective legal research is a process. You need to identify the legal issue, find laws to support your argument, and confirm that your primary and secondary sources are still relevant. To accomplish this as a legal professional of a high standard, you require outstanding research tools. Fortunately, you can choose from a wide range of free and subscription-based online legal research resources to enrich your legal career. Let’s explore some of the most useful ones available.
4 Tips Before You Begin Your Online Legal Research
Stuck in multiyear contracts and paying a premium for add-ons? Legal research services can price themselves out of reach. Start by pinpointing the functions you need to narrow your options. Researching pricing can help you stay within budget – often made easier because many online legal research services are completely free.
1. Know Your Firm’s Needs
Do you need to check primary and secondary sources? Will you use a legal research tool for only a particular practice area?
2. Know the Functions and Tools Available
Does the basic software package fulfill your needs, or would you have to purchase extra features?
3. Know Your Costs
Have you compared the pricing options (some premium online research platforms offer pay-as-you-go plans, others charge by the document)?
4. Know If You Can Give It a Test Run
Have you registered for free trials to see if you like what you’ll get before you sign on?
Free Legal Research Tools
Accurate and efficient legal research does not have to be expensive. In fact, it can be free. Evaluate these highly recommended, no-cost legal research resources.
This free legal research service offers unlimited, easily searchable access to federal and state case law and legal data, such as slip opinions and statutes.
Bound Volumes of the Supreme Court
The Library of Congress provides official reports of decisions from the highest court in the country, which you can search by volume, authoring justice, or major case topic.
Caselaw Access Project (CAP)
CAP is a public-access platform, making all published U.S. court decisions freely available online in a consistent format, digitized from the collection of Harvard Law School Library.
Florida Digitized Legal Collections
As a collaborative effort by the Florida Academic Law Libraries of the law schools in the state of Florida, this searchable collection includes databases such as the Laws of Florida and Florida Supreme Court briefs and opinions.
Google Scholar for Legal Documents
This is a powerful search engine for law-specific resources related to Federal and State legal opinions, case law, and journal articles, which you can filter by jurisdiction.
One of the largest online databases of legal cases, this online legal research service offers case law, codes, opinion summaries, and other basic legal texts, with additional services such as attorney webhosting for a fee.
Get a free answer to your legal question, browse legal articles, download legal forms, and use an online legal dictionary.
Offering one of the web’s largest free libraries of consumer-friendly legal documents and information, this site also provides a lawyer directory, articles, books and software.
Find legal research by area of practice, information on federal judges and courts, law libraries, law schools and law dictionaries, plus a comprehensive breakdown of opinions by city, country, industry, medical treatment, sports league and more.
In addition to law school rankings, salaries, tuition and state and federal government resources, you will find links to essential law search tools, such as U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Enter a keyword, case name, judge, or statute and this free online collection delivers results.
Research common U.S. laws, locate a federal inmate, and review topics such as employment law and disability rights.
Premium Legal Research Tools
If you need quick and accurate legal research to support your case, it might be worth it to pay for access to high-quality databases. Their prices and specializations vary, but most are available for a monthly subscription fee.
Pay an all-inclusive monthly fee for access to federal and state cases, statutes, regulations and rules with annotated codified law, advanced citator and an AI-powered analyzer tool that finds relevant cases.
Combining AI-enabled legal technology with workflow tools, comprehensive primary and secondary sources, news, and analysis, this subscription-based resource includes tools such as BCite, a citator’s tool.
Leveraging AI, this cloud-based legal research software company organizes the law with intelligent algorithms, making its data and legal content highly searchable, similar to Google.
Specializing in searchable, image-based PDFs that are an exact facsimile of the print document, this subscription database service has a massive archive of scholarly journals, case law, overseas cases and special collections, such as legal documents related to COVID-19.
With computer-assisted legal research by category or jurisdiction, analytics and practical legal guidance, this paid platform allows you to complete work with practice notes and checklists. It even provides a recommender system for specific issues and citation patterns.
Thomson Reuters WestLaw Edge
Offering accurate and up-to-date primary and secondary sources, litigation materials such as integrated briefs and dockets, the KeyCite tool for citators and document analysis, this paid platform provides news, business, public records and a useful list of sources.
Powered by AI and paid by monthly subscription, this searchable database of state trial court records allows you to see how legal issues are decided across counties and states, or how judges have ruled on similar motions.
USF Is Committed to Your Success in the Legal Professions
If you’re beginning your career as a paralegal or seeking new skills for stress management as a lawyer, USF’s self-paced online legal courses are here to help you succeed. You can even earn continuing legal education (CLE) credit. Learn more about our program options today.