Best Free Legal Research Tools for Lawyers 2022

Where does one start a difficult legal research project? How is one to find relevant case law? How do lawyers make sure to use “good” law? Are the free legal tools or platforms reliable? Every legal professional faces these questions on a daily basis while doing legal research.

Legal research can be quite stressful. However, it is an inevitable part of crafting a winning argument. Luckily, in a profession swamped with legal technology, you don’t need to rely on old-school legal research. There are free legal research tools that can not only save expensive hours of work but also help to ensure that attorneys work only with reliable legal resources.

8+ Best Free Legal Research Tools

The following tools can significantly streamline your legal research and help you delve deeper into legal news, legal journals, and other industry knowledge:

  • Legal Citation Generator;
  • CourtListener;
  • Fastcase;
  • Legal Information Institute;
  • United States Code;
  • FindLaw;
  • Pacer; and
  • Westlaw Edge

Legal Citation Generator

Anyone who is writing and citing legal material knows how tedious it can be to spend hours searching for reliable references. Legal Citation Generator is the leading tool that can handle this part of legal research with a high degree of professionalism. You can gain access to the information you need to support your legal research in just a few clicks. Consequently, you have more time to work on your case. All you need to do is enter the citation of the source you want to find, and the legal citation generator will create a list of reliable links to peer-reviewed websites within seconds. With this tool, you can quickly gain access to the requested legal document and save time for other tasks.

CourtListener

CourtListener is an online legal research platform with millions of legal opinions from federal and state courts. You can research an important case from the comfort of your office, stay up to date on new legal opinions, and use the website’s raw data for a deeper analysis. All you need to do is enter your keywords or citation information into the search box on the main page. One of the most helpful aspects of CourtListener is the Cited By feature, which allows users to find links to other opinions available on CourtListener that cite the opinion they are currently viewing. This feature can significantly streamline a lawyer’s research.

Fastcase

Fastcase is another tool that gives attorneys a chance to perform smarter legal research. There are several options for researching on this site, including: 

  • Keywords; 
  • Natural language search; or 
  • Citation lookup. 

Some unique features of Fastcase can significantly assist attorneys with legal research. The Forecite feature identifies relevant legal state cases that do not include all search terms. The Interactive Timeline will help to trace the chronology of cases in search results.

Legal Information Institute

The non-profit services of Cornell Law School provide free access to current American and international legal research sources online. The organization was among the first pioneers to contribute to the online delivery of legal information. You can find free access to primary full-text legal materials of Supreme Court decisions, decisions of the Court of Appeals and other federal courts, and acts of the legislature, including links to worldwide jurisdictions. There are also many secondary materials — a browsable legal dictionary and legal encyclopedia.

United States Code

Today, you can find the codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States online at http://uscode.house.gov/. Thanks to the navigation system, you can conduct fielded searches by the popular name of the law, the public law number, or a specific word or phrase. It is an easily accessible compilation of most public laws that are in force to date. 

FindLaw

Probably one of the best jumping-off points for legal research and one of the most popular free legal research resources is FindLaw. Unlike the tools mentioned above, FindLaw does not have a comprehensive base. However, it will provide a general overview of a wide range of legal topics that can contribute to your further legal research.

Pacer

This public access site provides docket information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. You can browse for free, just by entering your login credentials. However, if you find a useful source, you may want to pay a minimal fee to download it for further use.

Westlaw Edge

Westlaw Edge is more than just a legal research tool. It is an AI-driven search that also includes smart document analysis, litigation analytics, and beyond. Westlaw Edge can even identify issues and case gaps to make sure your legal research is impeccable. You can try it for free to learn whether this tool can meet your research needs and possibly more.

Other Free Online Legal Research Tools

In addition to the cutting-edge tools above, there are other ways to find the required legal information online by using the following legal research websites:

  • Primary sources;
  • Google scholar;
  • Legal blogs;
  • Court websites; and
  • Bar associations.

Primary Sources

As most people are aware, primary sources provide the best evidence. Primary legal sources include books and websites that comprise the formal, written law statements issued by government entities. These sources provide the actual law being used for legal research that is presented in the form of constitutions, court cases, statutes, and official rules and regulations. Fortunately, there is no longer a need to go to a physical legal library because all primary sources are now available online.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar’s fully searchable case law revolutionized legal research in 2009. After the appearance of this legal search engine, lawyers could search vast case law databases from their offices for free. Now, in 2022, the legal research capabilities of Google Scholar have improved significantly. It has become very easy to conduct legal research and double-check citations.

Legal Blogs

Legal blogs are admittedly not 100 percent reliable tools for legal research. However, with critical thinking and analytical skills, lawyers can double-check whether the information in legal blogs is credible. These resources provide a basic understanding of any legal topic before committing to deeper research.

Court Websites

Almost every state court has a website now. The system of search on these websites is sometimes extensive, but some of these sites are still very limited. However, you can rely on law websites for research to, at least, get basic information about parties, judges, and court rules

Bar Associations

By joining bar associations, lawyers can find free access to different legal research tools. There is no one set of tools used by every association, so you may want to check whether the offered tools will work for you and can help you streamline your research. The offered tools that initially require a subscription are free of charge for bar association members.

Bottom Line

With these best free legal software tools and best free search engines and databases, you can stop associating legal research with stress. It’s not the time spent on legal research that matters but the quality and efficiency. Try any of the mentioned tools yourself to decide which one or one will be your perfect match. Some may require paid subscriptions, but they may become a smart financial investment

Additionally, be careful with other free legal research sites and always double-check the credibility of the information provided. Sometimes, you can find valuable information for your research even by listening to legal podcasts. Curiosity is often the key to success. It is always wiser to find out than to speculate, especially when it comes to legal research. 

Article by Sofi Ostymchuk

Sofi Ostymchuk is a Content Lead and Legal Writer at Lawrina. Sofi manages the content on the blog, communicates with contributors, looks for interesting topics, and creates articles in cooperation with lawyers and law experts. If you would like to be a blogger for Lawrina, you can contact Sofi for all the details via email at s.ostymchuk@lawrina.com.

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