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ˆ(or, “Life after Rewards Points”)

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ˆ(or, “Life after Rewards Points”)

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  1. Free & Low-Cost Legal Research ˆ(or, “Life after Rewards Points”) Research Refresher / Jennifer L. Behrens / March 30, 2009

  2. Lexis and Westlaw, post-J.D. • After graduation (and over the summers), Lexis and Westlaw cut off free student access. • May request summer extensions in special cases (RA work, moot court, journal, non-profit) • Will receive email from representatives soon • Research charges will begin to add up – quickly.

  3. Sample charges • Retrieving a document with citation: $6.00 • Searching for a case in “all federal cases” database (incl. by party name): ~$75-$175 • Shepardizing or KeyCiting a single citation: $4.25-$6.00 • Your firm may have a “flat rate”, but an overall increase in use will affect the rate when it’s time to renegotiate!

  4. Today’s Agenda • Strategies for Cost-Effective Research • Low-cost research services • Loislaw • Versuslaw • Casemaker • FastCase • Free research sources • Cases & Briefs • Statutes, Regulations, Legislative History • Forms & Other Practice Material

  5. Cost-Effective Research Strategies • Avoid searching on Lexis/Westlaw! (It is always cheaper to retrieve known citations than to search.) • Begin with a print resource (such as AmJur/CJS) to locate leading cases, statutes and key numbers for further research. • If you must begin online, test your search terms on a free case law website or low-cost legal research service.

  6. Low-Cost Research Services • In recent years, a number of smaller competitors to Lexis/Westlaw have emerged. • These sources vary widely in their contents and costs. • Take advantage of the online tutorials and any student access you may receive during your time at Duke Law.

  7. Loislaw • Contains: federal and state case law, codes and session laws, selected treatises and bar publications. • Students can register for a free account which lasts until 6 months after graduation (see librarian for access code). • Username generated by Loislaw will be e-mailed, along with a password that you choose during registration.

  8. Primary law includes opinions from all circuits and all 50 states. Some unpublished opinions are available. New cases are posted within 24-48 hours of publication. Secondary law includes many full-text subject treatises as well as CLE publications from selected states. Student accounts have only a limited preview of the treatises and bar publications.

  9. In Loislaw, you may search across several different jurisdictions. Some other free & low-cost services do not allow you to search both federal and state cases at once.

  10. GlobalCite works similarly to Shepard’s and KeyCite, retrieving cases and secondary sources which cite the document. It’s not as comprehensive as Shepard’s or KeyCite, though.

  11. Within a single database, you can search across multiple jurisdictions by using the check boxes and clicking “Continue”. Loislaw includes “Acts” (session laws) as well as “Statutes” (codes). Folders indicate that you can browse as well as search.

  12. For search commands and other tips, view “Online Help”, linked from the bottom of every page.

  13. Casemaker • Contains: Federal case law from U.S. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals; U.S. Code; C.F.R. “State Libraries” provide case law and statutes/regs for consortium members. • State bar associations must purchase access; service is then “free and unlimited” to current members of the bar. • Currently, 28 state bar associations have subscribed to Casemaker.

  14. Casemaker Casemaker Consortium members include: • North Carolina • Georgia • Texas Notable exclusions: • California • Florida • New York

  15. Casemaker through NC Bar • Membership is free to currently-enrolled law students; includes access to Casemaker. • 2-3 business days to process membership; member # and password will be sent by e-mail. • Questions? Contact Whitney von Haam (

  16. CasemakerX • Casemaker meets social networking • Full access to the Casemaker research resources • Can create a MySpace-like profile for networking (professional and personal) • May register with your Duke e-mail address.

  17. Versuslaw • Students can register for free access to the case law databases (“Standard Plan”); trial accounts must be reactivated each year (possibly with some difficulty). • Password generated by Versuslaw will be e-mailed, along with the username you select during the registration process.

  18. More search commands are available on the “Search tips” link. The commands are very similar on all of these services, but not quite the same– always check before you search!

  19. Premium subscribers have access to a citation service called V.Cite. Trial subscribers must check their citations with a full-text search across all Federal Circuits for the official U.S. Reports citation. Remember that District Courts are not included in that search. (Separate database.)

  20. Versuslaw • Student trials can access CASE databases only. • Versuslaw also contains statutes, regulations and court rules for most jurisdictions as part of the “Premium” and “Professional” plans. • Forms are also available as separate database. • Help page includes a “Research Manual”, with tips and tricks for database searching. The various commands for field searching are published there.

  21. FastCase • 24-hour trial available through site; interactive online demo. • Includes cases from federal district and U.S. Bankruptcy courts; as well as state appellate and supreme courts. • Free front end (Public Library of Law:

  22. These non-case law resources link to free, publicly available web sites like government publishers and Newspaper search goes to a version of the Duke database “America’s Newspapers”.

  23. Fastcase’s main advantages are natural language searching and Authority Check, which searches for cases that cite to your case (but is NOT intended as a full replacement for Shepard’s/KeyCite).

  24. Freebies!

  25. Considerations • What kind of document am I looking for? • Who would normally be responsible for maintaining those documents in print? • Where does the document “live” online (i.e., official government vs. free site)? • When was the document posted and/or the site last updated?

  26. Free Mega-Sites • FindLaw ( • Justia ( • Legal Information Institute ( • PreCYdent ( • Public Library of Law ( • Public.Resource.Org ( • AltLaw (beta) ( (federal appellate cases only)

  27. Free: Cases & Briefs • Opinions and court filings are frequently posted on the website of the court which issued the opinion. Research mega-sites also have extensive archives of case law, at least at the federal level. • Briefs and opinions (at least at the federal appellate level) are also often posted on these sites.

  28. Presentation of available resources is clean and easy to read.

  29. Low-Cost: Court docs • Court documents at the lower federal court level (e.g., complaints and replies in district court) are usually available through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). • PACER charges a per-page fee for document retrieval (currently $0.08).

  30. Low-Cost: Court docs • Court documents at the state court level may be posted on the court’s web site. • You may also have to contact the court clerk or court library directly, and pay a fee for copying services. • Check out the library’s research guide at

  31. Free: Statutes • Session laws and codes are usually available on the web site of the jurisdiction’s legislature. Amount of years available will vary. • Federal : Available via FDsys, . • State: Consult links on National Conference of State Legislature site:

  32. FDSys will replace GPOAccess this summer. Not all content has migrated, although bills and public laws are here. Use “Search on GPO Access” link at left to get to U.S. Code and Statutes at Large. Statutes at Large is available (1789-2004) in PDF through HeinOnline, a low-cost database.

  33. Free: Statutes • Local (municipal) codes are sometimes posted on the county or city’s web site. • Private publishers also make them available online: • • • •

  34. Free: Legislative History • Federal legislative history material is widely available online through the Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Library of Congress. • The Law Library maintains a research guide to these and other federal legislative history resources on our web site:

  35. THOMAS • • Full-text bills and bill summaries (1973- ) • Includes links to available committee reports and Congressional Record debates (usually 1994- ).