Legal research: it’s the bane of every lawyer’s existence. While it used to be that there were relatively few choices when it came to online legal research, times have changed. The Internet age has ushered in a new era in legal research.
One of the first online legal research databases was the Cornell Legal Information Institute , which made legal information free and easily accessible to lawyers and legal consumers alike. It was the first step toward leveling the playing field and providing solos and small firm attorneys with access to an incredible depth of materials that were once only available in academic or government law libraries or in the law libraries of large law firms. Now, solo and small firm lawyers have more options than ever and can choose from wide range of affordable, intuitive, and powerful legal research tools. The trick is sorting through all of the available tools available and finding the right fit for your firm’s needs at the best price.
One example of a unique 21st century legal research platform is Casetext. Casetext is a web-based legal research platform that provides cutting-edge search technology with a twist. It combines their database with the collective knowledge and expertise of the legal community in the form of annotations and insights from other attorneys. A new feature that was recently released that further enhances the platform is Case Analysis Research Assistant (CARA), which allows lawyers to drag-and-drop a brief or memo into a secure webpage in order to obtain a list of suggestions for cases that are relevant to the issues addressed in the document. , and within seconds CARA will suggest a list of cases that may be relevant to the issues in the brief, but that are not yet cited in the brief.
Then, there’s Google Scholar. Scholar’s fully searchable legal case database was first launched in November of 2009 and revolutionized legal research. While it doesn’t provide the in-depth analysis and community annotations that Casetext does, it offers basic, free access to a wide range of legal materials, all of which are accessible and searchable using Scholar’s user-friendly interface. Because of Scholar, lawyers everyone can now search vast case law databases for free. In recent years, its research capabilities have greatly improved, making it easier than ever for solo and small firm lawyers to conduct online legal research. Scholar also includes built-in features that make it easy for lawyers to check the citations of relevant cases.
For even more tips on searching for information online, check out the latest edition of “The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet,” written by Carole Levitt and Mark E. Rosch. This book is perfect for lawyers who are seeking to conduct research a dime and take advantage of all the information that the Internet has to offer. It provides a vast array of information and guidance for lawyers seeking to use the Internet for both investigative and legal research.
For many lawyers, web-based computing has truly been the great leveler for legal research, making it easier than ever to obtain affordable access to vast amounts of legal information and analysis. If you’ve been stuck in a legal research rut and are looking for affordable and powerful alternatives to your current legal research arsenal, the tools and resources listed above are a great place to start.