Best Resources for Legal Research

Graduating law launches you into a world where confidence and research skills are a necessity. Fortunately, research breeds the required confidence to be a successful lawyer so long as you reach the expert level quickly. If you know all there is to know, passing the bar and the game of law gets easier in the long run. However, the biggest issue is finding the right resources and doing so quickly.

To get to grips with researching like a professional, here are the best resources to familiarize yourself with.

ROSS Intelligence

Granted as a graduate already facing significant student debt, the $70/month annual billing doesn’t make for great reading but the benefits are worth it. ROSS Intelligence is one of the best user-friendly research tools on the market. It is language accessible meaning even if your legalese isn’t yet at an A+ level, it still returns exactly what you need from a search.

You simply input your questions and have a list of statutes, case summaries, case treatments and legislation in seconds. The days of walking library floors look like they belong in the silent movie era using AI tools like this.

US Code

The U.S. code is underrated as a free legal database for research purposes. Updated every 6 years, the 2018 version is adapted for searchability. It is much easier to navigate than any of its predecessors and it is free. Every bill and law passed through both houses of the chamber in the past 200 years of legislating are found with one click.

Fastcase

Fastcase boasts one of the biggest online law libraries in the world. U.S. Code, case law, statutes, regulations, constitutions, court rulings, and law review articles are all at your fingertips.

The annual fee is quite a bit more stomach-able and there is even a free trial for those considering the premium plan. Both Android and iOS mobile apps make it exceptionally accessible. In addition, Fastcase works with other tools. So many firms and graduates overlook the need for each software tool to be compatible with others but Fastcase mitigates this banana skin well.

Westlaw

Westlaw has long been considered one of the heavyweights of legal research. Operating in all 50 states, Westlaw is the legal research product of the Thomson Reuters technology firm. While previous plans were exclusive through pricing, the new Essential Plan has made the platform more competitive in recent years.

Westlaw is the industry standard for case lookup, secondary source searches, and any proprietary database information you might need.

Nolo

The mission of Nolo, as it states, is to help consumers and small businesses find answers to their legal questions. To achieve this aim, it maintains a common use vocabulary that does not deter the non-legally fluent. Despite the accessible language, Nolo is still the preferred research tool for many attorneys. It has provided a platform for over 30,000 lawyers to access clients for nearly 50 years. Furthermore, it sells legal products such as wills, corporation applications, taxation services, and more like any online store. The innovative approach proves popular as does the legal article encyclopedia freely available.

Lexis Nexis

Lexis Nexis is the main rival to Westlaw at the top of the food chain. Though it offers a free trial, it has been accused of exclusive pricing. Again, it is available to all 50 states and includes features others just don’t offer.

Along with providing statutes, US Code, Constitution and all legislation, case law, and more, it lets you subscribe to cases and receive alerts with new information. Where you might be struggling, you are welcome to avail of the practice advisor where guidance is offered from practicing lawyers. It is also compatible with Microsoft Office to augment your citation abilities. Lexis Nexis might be pricey but it is laden with features.

Conclusion

Law is a competitive field to graduate into. Even when you have earned your degree, the learning never stops, and to get ahead you need to research your socks off. However, there are those who read incessantly and there are those who learn smartly. Leveraging the right tools and absorbing the information to empower your decisions makes you the latter.

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