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Five More Must-Have Tips to Keep Your “Internet Legal Research on a Budget”

Adapted from her book “Internet Legal Research on a Budget” co-authored with Judy K. Davis, ABA LPD 2014

By Carole Levitt JD, MLS 

 

Non-US and International Law Resources

The Law Library of Congress’ Guide to Law Online is a well-known and frequently used website for legal research generally. But it’s not just U.S. law. Within this guide are some specific sections that are helpful for researching foreign and international law, too. From the guide’s homepage, you can link to specific sections for foreign law, international law, and multinational law, as well as several how-to guides for researching law in specific countries.

State, Local, Territorial and Tribal Law

In a similar “Did you know?” vein: Several directory sites link to each state, local, territorial, and tribal government’s homepage, but here’s one that might surprise you. Although USA.gov sounds like it would provide a searchable database of federal documents and links to federal sites only, it also allows you to keyword search state, territorial, local and tribal government documents and provides links to those governments’ websites. These links will help you determine if the jurisdiction you are researching makes its statutes, ordinances, court materials, opinions, and other resources available on the Internet. Note, that the USA.gov keyword search is “powered by Bing” – and like Bing, USA.gov has recently disabled its Advanced Search page.

Background Information on Legal Professionals

To find background information about attorneys, judges and other legal professionals, you can turn to the free “traditional” lawyer directories, of course: LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the FindLaw Lawyer Directory, and the Justia Lawyer Directory. But there are also “non-traditional” lawyer directories, such as the ones from Avvo and Nolo to name just a few. Avvo includes a rating system for lawyers that employs “a mathematical model that considers elements such as years of experience, board certification, education, disciplinary history, professional achievement and industry recognition.” Users can also leave reviews for attorneys with whom they have worked. Nolo’s Lawyer Directory allows users to browse by location or practice area. Results include attorney and firm profiles and may also include licensing and disciplinary history information. 

It is also useful to know how to find articles, blogs and tweets by or about judges or attorneys. Speaking of which...

Social Media Content

A nearly effortless way to keep up to date with your area of law is by subscribing to free blogs and Twitter accounts that provide useful and current content. For help locating sources on the topics that interest you, try an annotated, topically arranged index of legal blogs, like Justia’s BlawgSearch. And for a directory of legal “tweeters,” arranged by category/practice area, see Justia’s LegalBirds page. Both can also be keyword searched to find a blog or tweet on a specific topic.

Dockets

A last tip: For docket searching and reviewing the case documents, we have the perennial go-to, PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), the government’s pay federal docket database. However, there is also the docket site RECAP, which offers access to millions of federal case dockets (some include the case documents) for the U.S. District Courts (civil and criminal) and the Bankruptcy Courts — and it’s free.

 


Reprinted with Permission. 2014© by the American Bar Association.  All rights reserved.  This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association