Introducing the Law Student Guide to Free Legal Research

Here’s a couple things I believe:

  1. There are several providers of free legal information out there that are reliable enough to recommend to my patrons to use.
  2. Librarians need to collaborate and communicate more with information vendors – all information vendors…Wexis, ILS providers, independents and non-profits.
  3. Most legal research educational materials suck.  They’re dry and the publisher bias contained within some is almost laughable.
  4. Legal information vendors use tactics to get law students hooked on their products that would make a drug dealer blush.

So, when Tom Bruce emailed me a few weeks ago and asked if I’d be interested in creating a Free Law Research Guide aimed at law students, I jumped at the chance.  Without further ado, I present to you The Law Student Guide to Free Legal Research.

Although sponsored by Justia and the LII, I had total editorial control over what resources got selected.  (I also didn’t get paid anything, so I have no real conflicts of interest to declare. Tom has promised to buy me the beverage of my choice upon our next meeting, though.) My only real direction was that I should only recommend sources that I – as a librarian – would use but that I should make it fun and interesting for the average law student.   As for that…well, if you’re reading this, you’re probably a librarian.  I just want to warn you that you may feel the need to do some pearl clutching at what you read in the guide.  I make statements like  “Legal research is boring and  tedious and nothing can change that.”

Listen…legal research is boring and  tedious.

You know, for normal people.

Librarians love it, but that’s why we became librarians.  If it makes me a bad librarian to admit that publicly and I’m gonna go to Librarian Hell for doing so, well….I’ll be sure to pack marshmallows.

ANYWAY, the project evolved over the course of the past few weeks from the initially planned 3 page PDF that they could post on their social media outreach sites to the website linked above.  (A great big thank you to CALI for hosting it on their Classcaster site!)  There is still a PDF available that contains the basics of the site, but there’s much more available.  For instance, there is a blog that will allow us to highlight developments in the #lawgov movement, new resources that are available or just general thoughts on legal research.  I really love Austin Groothuis’ inaugural post.  Guest bloggers are invited and welcome!

Although the site is primarily aimed at law students, there is also a section for law librarians and legal writing instructors. Just as one goal of the site was mirror the student-aimed Wexis offerings, we wanted to offer a similar assortment of teaching aids in the hope that it would encourage the introduction of free legal resources in the classroom.  If you have a handout or powerpoint show that you’d like to share, please contact me and I’ll happily load it and give you full credit. Check back often for more updates.

Speaking of teaching free legal resources, there’s currently a short (~30 seconds) poll on the law librarian resources page.  Aside from my anecdotal evidence, it occurred to all of us during our planning that we had no idea how, when or if free legal resources were being taught in law schools and firms.  We would really appreciate it if you could share your experiences.  Thanks!

One benefit of the website is that I can constantly add or make changes.  The next section that seems obvious to add is a foreign and international law one.  But I’m always open to suggestions.  Similarly, if you find something that you think should be changed, drop me an email or tweet and I’ll look into it.  I’m generally pretty low ego when it comes to things like this and am open to constructive criticism.   So, look around and let me know what you think!


  8 comments for “Introducing the Law Student Guide to Free Legal Research

  1. August 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Thank you so much for going through all that trouble. I help a lot of pro se and SRL’s
    in our library, so we really needed some free info!

  2. Lee Ryan
    August 25, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Even some of us who are law librarians would not argue with your premise that “Legal research is boring and tedious and nothing can change that.” In fact, what better gig than to be law librarians and spend more time teaching others how to do legal research, and creating tools to take some of pain out of the process than, um, actually doing legal research!

  3. val
    August 25, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! I’ve been working on a libguide for a public policy/pre-law class, and this is perfect!

  4. Suzanne
    August 26, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    We will add a link to our recently created “Subject Guides” area of our Web site.
    Thanks for the information!

  5. Brittany Persson
    November 4, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Great resource! Thanks for sharing!

  6. E
    December 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I don’t see a “contact us” option on the site, to report broken links. The first ppt link on, “Performing Legal Research on the Internet pt 1,” directs you to a page that reads “Sorry, no attachments matched your criteria.”

  7. Sarah
    December 6, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Oh, thanks for letting me know. I’ll fix that tonight.

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