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Exploring free online legal sources


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A tutorial of free online legal resources and their usefulness.

A tutorial of free online legal resources and their usefulness.

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  • Please note that I focused on free online legal resources that are dedicated to being free or at low cost and that would be more pertinent to a law students or a higher education environment.
  • Wex is authored and edited collaboratively, but only by legal experts approved by members of LII at Cornell Law School to ensure quality and guard against vandalism of any kind. They are considering making Wex a part of Wikipedia but this is still under discussion. And some of their definitions and content is limited and might just be a definition of a concept or term from Nolo or another site.
  • LII Supreme Court Bulletin orLII Bulletin offers previews of arguments presented as well as docket information, and the ability to subscribe via RSS feed.
  • VoxPopuLII, Cornell’s blog offers a diversity of authors and topics concerning all things where information and law intersect as well as links to similar blogs.
  • Jureeka is currently available for Mozilla and Chrome.
  • Thousands of papers from law schools around the country, including University Of Akron Law School!
  • Although the site states that there are 26 References and 7 Citations, it also notes thatthe citation data presented in these tables is highly incomplete, especially for law papers where many references are included in footnotes rather than in a Reference section. This incompleteness means that citations from law papers are currently dramatically undercounted in SSRN citation statistics. They are currently working out their algorithm for extracting references from footnotes to allow for greater precision and accuracy.
  • Can also “View Recently Purchased and Downloaded Papers”, but true to SSRN’s purpose, everything I selected and downloaded was free. And when you sign up for an account, which is necessary for download, it does not ask for method of payment information.
  • SSRN also classifies their papers and research according to the Journal of Economic Literature system as well as provides a suggested citation and the ability to export the citation to your local citation tool.
  • The differences in publishers also account for a variety of metadata since it is also publisher supplied, so the indexes can be more or less effective depending on whether that information has been provided or not. From searches I attempted, it does not appear that all fields are required for submission to the DOAJ.
  • Do you have any other favorite free sites for secondary source research?
  • Contains around 50 collections and have a number of indexes to search in and can even retrieve by citation – popular name and statute searches and statute classification tables for US Code can be accomplished at the House of Representative’s website beginning with the 105th Congress (1997).
  • Need to visit the House of Representative’s US Code website to access the Revised Titles tables to update and then go back to Fdsys to look at List of Sections Affected as well as Current List of CFR Parts Affected to update or validate statutes – this process can be time intensive but necessary
  • Many States also have their own statutory information available on their own website – LII contains links to these websites.
  • Only free citator as seen by how case or document has been cited section as well as the cited by section – related documents is a product of Google’s own algorithm and not necessarily helpful.
  • Under “Scholar Preferences” in Google Scholar, you can choose to show links to import citations to your chosen citation tool.
  • Can you think of other sites or tools you have enjoyed using or that are particularly helpful?
  • Transcript

    • 1. Exploring Free OnlineLegal Resources Presented by Amy S. McCoy Candidate for Associate Law Librarian @University of Akron Law Library
    • 2. Purpose • Introduce legal resources available online at no cost • Discuss benefits and limitations of free online legal research and sources • Encourage sustainable research through use of open access resources
    • 3. Secondary SourcesLegal Information Institute• Wex - free legal dictionary and encyclopedia• LII Supreme Court Bulletin - electronic journal covering cases currently before the US Supreme Court (since 2004-2005)• Blogs (VoxPopuLII and Announce) – information about current decisions and voices in the legal information field, including links to other blogs• Jureeka – download to browser and turn plain text citations into hyperlinks to source documents
    • 4. Secondary SourcesLegal Information Institute
    • 5. Secondary SourcesLegal Information Institute
    • 6. Secondary SourcesLegal Information Institute
    • 7. Secondary SourcesLegal Information Institute
    • 8. Secondary SourcesSSRN Legal Scholarship Network • Provides access to thousands of papers and ejournals • CiteReader supplies both References and Citations of viewed/downloaded publications • Save or track downloaded articles to Briefcase • Export citations to BibTex, EndNote, RefMan, or RefWorks • Share and update your own research online and track how it is cited
    • 9. Secondary SourcesSSRN Legal Scholarship Network
    • 10. Secondary SourcesSSRN Legal Scholarship Network
    • 11. Secondary SourcesSSRN Legal Scholarship Network
    • 12. Secondary SourcesSSRN Legal Scholarship Network
    • 13. Secondary SourcesDirectory of Open Access Journals(DOAJ) • “A one stop shop” for full-text, peer reviewed and quality controlled open access journals • Searchable by various indexes or browse titles alphabetically by the “Law and Political Science” • Many of the titles are hosted at an individual institutional site so they appear, are organized and use different tools to present and organize the information
    • 14. Secondary SourcesDirectory of Open Access Journals(DOAJ)
    • 15. Secondary SourcesBenefits & Limitations • Great place to begin and perhaps reduce money and time spent on commercial databases • Limited to no annotated or added interpretive information for free online secondary sources • Sites in this presentation are all high quality and peer-reviewed, but have limited content when compared to commercial databases
    • 16. Secondary SourcesOther Resources • Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) –offers a limited number of books in a variety of languages and topics, including legal areas of inquiry • Google Scholar – allows users to limit search “Legal articles and opinions” • – provides links to legal blogs, journal articles, etc.
    • 17. Primary LawFDsys – GPO’s Federal Digital System • “Provides free online access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government” • Offers a great amount of granularity for searching and browsing • Updating information available online • No need to authenticate documents as they are digitally signed
    • 18. Primary LawFDsys – GPO’s Federal Digital System
    • 19. Primary LawFDsys – GPO’s Federal Digital System
    • 20. Primary LawFDsys – GPO’s Federal Digital System
    • 21. Primary LawGoogle Scholar • Full-text US Supreme Court Cases (1923- present), Federal District, Appellate, Tax and Bankruptcy Court Cases (1923-present), US State Appellate and Supreme Court Cases (1950- present) and only truly free citator • Tool to export citations to BibTex, EndNote, RefMan, or RefWorks • May contain errors in documents so may need to validate primary law documents before citing
    • 22. Primary LawGoogle Scholar
    • 23. Primary LawGoogle Scholar
    • 24. Primary LawBenefits & Limitations • Full free-text sources are available for many primary sources • Many digitally signed primary law resources are available so no need to authenticate • Limited ability to validate or update primary law sources and what is available can be labor and time intensive
    • 25. Primary LawOther Resources • Justia – case law as well as federal and state legislative documents • Legal Information Institute –federal case, statutory and regulatory law as well as provides links to state websites for statutory information • Library of Congress Thomas and American Memory –current and early American federal legislative material • WorldLII – primary law and secondary sources from around the globe
    • 26. ConclusionsConclusions • Free online research can be useful when beginning a search or accessing a primary law document • Free online research also has many limits with regard to added interpretive information and updating, so commercial tools will still be necessary and useful
    • 27. Web Sites Referenced • Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • FDsys, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • Google Scholar, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • Justia, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • Legal Information Institute, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • Library of Congress, American Memory, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012)
    • 28. Web Sites Referenced • Library of Congress, Thomas, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • SSRN Legal Scholarship Network, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • Carli Spina, Free Legal Research Resources, 632 • United States Code, Popular Names Tool, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • Todd Venie, Free and Low Cost Legal Research, (last visited Apr. 25, 2012) • World Legal Information Institute, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2012)
    • 29. Questions or Suggestions Thank you for your time and participation. Presentation available at -free-online-legal-sources C0ntact information: Amy S. McCoy