Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Choosing the best online source for your legal issue

Thankfully, there are numerous FREE online legal resources, but finding the best one for your issue can be a daunting task. A colleague and I recently ran into this very problem while preparing to teach a class on this topic. Google is often the first place people go to start their research and that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Elliott pointed out in a previous post, but it doesn't take long to see that you can't find everything there.

For example, Google Scholar does a pretty good job at locating cases, but it's not the best place to start looking for state statutory research.

So, is there one resource that serves as a one stop shop for all legal issues? Not really, but there are a lot of aggregate sites out there that can serve as a launching pad because they have done all the leg work and collected relevant links to authoritative resources.

Perhaps I'm biased, but I think Law Library Research Guides are a great place to start your research.

Research guides point you to all the best resources for a particular topic. If you haven't checked one out in a while, you will be pleasantly surprised. Many of them are interactive with links to websites, full-text documents, and some even have videos. Although they are usually created with a specific class in mind, they are chock full of information that anyone would find useful.

As Renee points out in her post about the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries, trial court library websites are somewhat of a "professional secret" among law librarians. There are a variety of ways to locate state specific laws, regulations, and court rules on these sites.What's great about these sites is that they are created with the general public in mind, so you don't have to be a legal scholar to navigate through all the material.

Some of my other go-to sites include Findlaw, Findlaw for Legal Professionals, Cornell's Legal Information Institute, and Got a favorite site? I'm curious to see what other free sites people prefer and why.

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