While Westlaw, LexisNexis and Bloomberg Law are the best known legal research databases, there are several other alternatives with more emerging all the time. This guide will introduce you to some of these alternatives.
Casemaker is another database that is focused on offering a low cost option for legal research. It offers access to cases and statutes from a wide range of U.S. jurisdictions and focuses on updating materials quickly as new statutes and cases emerge. In addition, many bar associations offer free access to Casemaker for all of their members.
You can take a tour of Casemaker and learn about its features in the video below.
Casetext allows users to not only search through a database of millions of cases, but also to review annotations about specific points in those cases that are created by legal scholars and practitioners. After registering for the service, any user has the ability to not only review the case and existing annotations, but also to add their own annotations and tags to the case. This content is then visible to other users, eventually creating a collection of helpful analysis that adds to the case in much the same way that notes and other analytical materials add to the cases found in LexisNexis and Westlaw.
The video below gives an overview of how Casetext works.
Fastcase is another alternative to the big three legal research databases. It offers access a variety of state and federal materials, including all federal case law and state cases going back to at least 1950 in all jurisdictions (see full coverage information on their website). Through a recent partnership with HeinOnline, Fastcase now provides access to both law reviews and historical materials from the HeinOnline collection. In addition, Fastcase offers mobile apps to allow users to seamlessly continue their research while they are away from their computer. You can request a 24-hour trial of the service on their website.
The video below will give you an overview of how to use Fastcase.
The National Law Library offers access to a wide range of federal resources as well as state resources generally for the last fifty years (see full access information on their website). Their goal is to be fast and affordable and to that end they offer several subscription options and 24/7 support. Check out the demo below to see how it works.
Originally started in the UK, Practical Law Company (PLC) is now owned by Thompson Reuters and has entered the U.S. market. It offers a collection of resources that are particularly geared towards law firm and, specifically corporate practice. In addition to primary legal materials, it also offers access to model documents and information on current market conditions. Law students can sign up for free access and anyone can request a free trial.
Ravel is a startup that is focused on making case law research more user friendly. While it does not currently cover the same range of cases that you would find in LexisNexis or Westlaw, its coverage continues to grow and it does offer comprehensive coverage of Supreme Court cases. The website offers additional information about the current case coverage.
What differentiates Ravel from other legal research tools is their focus on using visualizations to make legal research faster and easier. They offer visual representations of the frequency with which cases are cited as well as connections between cases, to help users navigate between cases and identify the most influential cases in a practice area. Their single search box supports both Boolean and natural language searching as well as allowing you to limit your search by jurisdiction. You can also save annotations on cases to your own personal profile.
You can learn more about Ravel by taking the tour available on their homepage or by watching the video below.
CourtListener contains over three-million legal opinions from federal and state courts, for free. For more informaiton about case law coverage check out their available jurisdictions. For court documents CourtListener hosts a RECAP archive. CourtListener also provides oral argument audio recordings from the Supreme Court, many federal courts, and an increasing number of state courts With the Judges feature, you can find information on "thousands of judges from federal and state courts, including their biographical and educational background, judicial and non-judicial positions held, political affiliations, American Bar Association ratings, campaign finance data, and opinions authored." With acces to CourtListener's bulk data and API you create data visualizations, or explore those that CourtListener has created.
Versus Law is another alternative for those who want to access primary law materials. It offers a variety of plans ranging from 13.95 a month to $39.95 a month for access to various combinations of its primary and secondary legal materials. One area of focus for Versus Law is its Native American Tribal Courts collection, which is the product of an agreement with the National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA). You can read more about their library of materials on their site.