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The Best Free Legal Research Tools

January 24, 2023

Summary 


Running a law firm on a budget is challenging. If you’re a solo attorney or small law firm, it may feel impossible at times to compete against large law. However, solo attorneys and boutique law firms are uniquely positioned to serve clients well with dedicated expertise. In fact, the article “Litigating Against Goliath: How Small Firms Can Compete Against Big Law Budgets" from the American Bar Association posits, “clients are better served by a single, capable lawyer on a shoestring budget than by a team of ’good enough’ lawyers with fancy stuff.”  

How can you capitalize on your expertise and succeed without the “fancy stuff?” Free legal research tools are one way to minimize your spending. When used strategically, they can still help you win in court and delight your clients. This article lists some of the best free legal research tools available, as well as some free direct sources of primary law, before closing with additional recommended resources. As a note, while this list is compiled with attorneys in mind, it may be helpful if you’re seeking legal advice for free.  

Without further ado, here are seven of the best free legal research tools. 

8 of the Best Free Legal Research Tools

Perhaps, you left the days of free, complete access to large research software platforms behind in law school, and now you’re running your own law firm. You may be asking, now what? As costly technology improves, free legal research tools have improved, too. What does that mean for you?  You can now find a number of quality free resources. This is especially true if you have membership to a Bar association, many of which will provide access to a legal research platform as a part of your membership dues. Below, we’ve listed eight of the best free sites.  

Decisis®

  • Decisis touts a “world-class citator that’s more effective and robust than Fastcase or Casetext citators” and easy-to-use modern search technology, which quickly provides relevant results. 
  • Access: You may be able to access this speedy and reliable legal research site for free through your Bar association. 

Decisis homepage

Decisis homepage; Click to enlarge

Fastcase

  • Fastcase is a cloud-based software that provides “smarter, more efficient solutions.”  
  • Access: This is another legal research site you may receive free access to through your Bar association. 

Casetext

  • Casetext is a legal research site boasting cutting-edge technology and top-rated support. Casetext is a popular budget solution.  
  • Access: This is a third solution commonly offered for free through Bar associations.  

Oyez

  • Oyez conveniently offers easy-to-understand breakdowns of Supreme Court Cases.  
  • Access: Free to access to anyone  

Oyez homepage

Oyez homepage; Click to enlarge

Findlaw

  • Use FindLaw to search by legal issue and jurisdiction or explore legal guidance by topic for free. Access comprehensive information about state laws or browse recent legal news.  
  • Access: Free to access to anyone

Legal Information Institute

  • The Legal Information Institute is a free resource offered through Cornell Law School and publishes law online for free, as well as secondary sources to help people understand law. It operates under the belief that “everyone should be able to read and understand the laws that govern them, without cost.”  
  • Access: Free to access to anyone 

Justia

  • Justia provides a variety of legal resources for free, including legal guides, federal and state court decisions, codes, regulations, and the annotated version of the U.S. Constitution. An “ask a lawyer” feature is also included for those in need of free legal advice.  
  • Access: Free to access to anyone  

Lexis+®

  • Lexis+ is a popular paid legal research service that boasts a comprehensive case law collection, cutting-edge research tools, and exclusive data visuals. Why is it on this list? If you're looking for something specific, Lexis+ can help with free access for 7 days. 
  • Access: Click below to gain free access for 7 days 

Get Free 7-Day Lexis+ Access

 Free Sources of Primary Law

If you can’t find the primary law you need on any of the sources above, there are a number of websites that primarily function to provide free access to case law and other sources of primary law: 

Google Scholar Case Law Search 

  • Google Scholar Case Law allows you to search Google for federal and state case law for free. Easily search by topic and adjust the time range with post-search filters.  

US Office of the Law Revision Counsel 

SupremeCourt.gov 

Regulatory and Administrative Agency Websites 

While these sites give direct access to primary law, they don’t provide the same helpful features and guides as the seven research tools we initially listed. If you use them, it’s important to understand the limitations. For example, you will need a way to confirm that the law is “good” before you bring it before a judge.

Winning with Free Legal Research Tools: Is it Possible?

Now you know where to look, but you may still wonder if you can build a winning case with these tools. It’s understandable to be worried about succeeding in court without spending top dollar on a suite of legal research products. As technology improves and expands, the pressure to spend money on products that promise to increase both speed and accuracy grows with it.  

The truth is that this technology can help – paid tools offer a wealth of vetted resources and guidance from experts in the field and can streamline workflows with cutting-edge search functionalities. Even still, costly research tools are not a substitute for your own skill, expertise, and writing abilities. If you are familiar with the pros and cons of using free research tools, you can certainly find success in the courtroom, while sticking within your budget. 

Get More Free Legal Resources

Looking for more resources? There are a number of additional free legal resources you can use to stay up-to-date on legal news pertinent to your case, such as legal blogs and information portals. Check out this list of free legal resources offered through LexisNexis, including the U.S. Voting Laws & Legislation Center and the Access to Justice newsletter offered through Law360. 

Ultimately, LexisNexis is here to help you with your research needs. While we offer a range of legal research products, we are committed to helping solo attorneys and small law firms succeed. If you’re interested in free legal news, practice tips, and more, the LexisNexis Legal Insights blog is available to anyone.  

Ready to make an investment in your firm’s legal research? Contact us to build a custom legal research plan.

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