Friday, April 30, 2010

Google Scholar

As most of you know, Westlaw is expensive. Really expensive. I suspect that most firms only maintain subscriptions to certain local databases, as my firm does.

Thankfully, Westlaw alerts you when you are about to be charged for accessing documents outside of your plan. You are then given the option to click through and incur the charge or exit. Last year, I was up against a deadline and I needed some information relating to a UCC Article 9 sale, my client authorized the charges and I wound up spending close to $200 in about 15 minutes.

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been two or three occasions where I needed to access bankruptcy cases and other federal cases outside of our subscription. I found everything I needed on Google Scholar for free in about 30 seconds.

To find caselaw on Google, go to Google Scholar. There will be two choices directly beneath the search box. One is for articles and the other is for legal opinions and journals. Click legal opinions and journals and search away.

I haven't tried any searches just based on search terms, so I don't know how well that works. I always have the citation. This is a really convenient service when a case has been cited to you, and you want to grab a copy of it for free.

I don't think I would rely on Google for all of my research, however, because it doesn't Shepardize cases.


Matthew Kooperman said...


Through my attorney professional liability insurance policy I have complimentary access to one of the "second tier" online legal search databases. I will not provide names on here, but if anybody wants information on my insurance broker or the insurance provider I'd be happy to share that information. I'll qualify "complimentary". I suppose I do pay for it indirectly since I purchased the insurance policy. Anyway, I frequently do my research on the research platform that I have access to through my insurance provider, and then whenever I want to print something in the format that me and every single other attorney is familiar with from "that other" company, I go to the law library at my courthouse and email myself PDF files containing the cases from "that other" company. Then I print them at home. Its a lot of running around, but at least I can do legal research at home. Also, I save money because I haven't had to pay for access to an online legal database. Its saved me money and I haven't had to bill my clients for research and printing. Its worthwhile since I'm just starting out with my new practice. Feel free to email me for details.

Michael D. Wong said...

For all ISBA members there is free access to Fastcase which provides a lot of the same case law you can find on Lexis and Westlaw, but with a slightly different search proxy. Also as a general source of information IICLE smartbooks are a great investment.

Michael W. Huseman said...

Mike, I absolutely agree about IICLE smartbooks. I use that account a couple of times per week. That is one of the other places that I sometimes come across cases outside my westlaw subscription. I should use fastcase more...I don't know too much about it.

Michael D. Wong said...

Another great source that many attorneys do not think about or use are the ISBA bulletin boards. With an ISBA membership you can share knowledge and get answers on various legal questions. They are a great source of information and way to network with other attorneys.