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Free Legal Research Resources

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How to use this guide

This guide contains selected free online legal research resources. These resources can be a great way to get started with your research when you don't have access to paid databases or if you want to get an overview of a topic before getting started with potentially expensive searches. For in-depth help with your research, please set up a research appointment through our Ask a Librarian! page, chat with a librarian in the chat box to the left or refer to the Getting Help tab.

Guide Contents:

1. Primary Federal Law : Selected resources for free access to U.S. federal cases, statutes, regulations and more.

2. Primary State Law : Selected resources for free access to state cases, statutes and regulations with advice on how to find free resources for other state and local materials.

3. Treaties : Find the text of U.S. and International treaties online.

4. Foreign & International Law : Find resources for getting started with foreign and international legal research, including primary documents and secondary sources.

5. Secondary Sources : Find a range of secondary sources and legal periodicals for free online.

6. Empirical Sources: Find freely available data sets with data on the U.S. and the rest of the world.

7. Getting Help : If you get stuck with your research, chap with a librarian in the chat box to the left or refer to the Getting Help tab.

Federal Law & Gov't Docs

Case Law and Court Documents

Federal case law and court documents are often available online for free, particularly if the case was decided recently. Generally, check the website of the deciding court to see if they provide digital copies of their cases. In addition, the following resources provide free case law.

Legal Opinions & Journals Search - Google Scholar

Google Scholar offers access to many legal documents including patents, legal opinions and journals. Use the search box below and select the appropriate options from the dropdown menu at the top left of your screen.

Statutes and Legislative Materials

Many statutes and legislative materials are available for free online and this is only increasing over time. While you should always be careful to ensure that you confirm your findings with an authoritative version of the law, free resources can be a great starting place for statutory research.

Executive Documents

The Constitution

State Law

State Case Law and Court Documents

Courts are increasingly making their materials freely available online, frequently via the court website. At the state level, this is particularly true for state Supreme Courts. When looking for state case law, it is often best to start at the website of the deciding court if you have a citation. The sources below provide alterantives for hard-to-find cases.

State Statutes and Regulations

Many states and localities publish some or all of their legislative materials on their website, so your first stop this type of research should generally be the website of the the state or locality in question. Remember, even if these materials are on official government websites, that does not mean that these are official copies of the materials in question.

Treaties

U.S. Treaties

Several government-sponsored websites provide the full-text of U.S. treaties on the web. Refer to the list below for date ranges for each sources.

International Treaties

The U.S. is not party to every treaty and it can be particularly difficult to find treaties between other nations. The resources below provide free access to a range of international treaties.

Foreign & International Law

African Legal Materials

While not all African nations provide online access to their legal materials, an increasing number of these materials are available either on government websites or from non-governmental organizations. However, it is important to remember that these copies of the laws are not always official and you should always confirm the accuracy of any information in an official sources.

Asian Legal Materials

Increasingly, countries throughout Asia are posting their legal materials on government run website, sometimes even in translation. In addition, many organizations have created websites to provide free online access to legal materials for the region. However, it is important to remember that these copies of the laws are not always official and you should always confirm the accuracy of any information in an official sources.

Australasian Legal Materials

These resources offer access to the laws of the sovereign nations in Australasia. Note: it is important to remember that these copies of the laws are not always official and you should always confirm the accuracy of any information in an official sources.

European Legal Materials

Many European countries make their legal materials available for free online, sometimes even in translation. However, it is important to remember that these copies of the laws are not always official and you should always confirm the accuracy of any information in an official sources.

North American Legal Materials

Legal materials for the countries of North America are frequently available online, in multiple languages. Always remember that these copies of the laws are not always official and you should always confirm the accuracy of any information in an official sources.

South American Legal Materials

Note: it is important to remember that these copies of the laws are not always official and you should always confirm the accuracy of any information in an official sources.

International Law

Historical Foreign Law Research

Many sites also offer access to historical foreign laws from various periods. Included below is a small selection of available resources.

International Citator

Secondary Sources

Journals

While many journals are only available on paid databases, open access journals and other freely avaiablle articles are increasingly available. The following sources collect freely available journal articles.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar offers access to academic journals including legal articles. While full text of all articles is not available, Google Scholar does provide valuable citation information.

Books, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Treatises, Dissertations, Etc.

Secondary sources are also increasingly available online for free. 

Google Books

Google Books is a great source for all manner of books and can be a source of free legal secondary sources.

Data Sources

U.S. Data Sources

Many government data sources are made available to the public for free online. Check the websites of any relevant agencies or organizations to see if you can find additional data beyond that found in the databases below.

International Data Sources

These sources provide access to data sets that include foreign and international statistics.

Getting Help

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