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Free and Low Cost Online Legal Research: Beyond Westlaw, Lexis & Bloomberg: Introduction

This Guide describes a wide range of online legal research resources. It covers primary law, government resources, research guides, reference sources, forms, and legal news.

Guide Outline

  1. U.S. Constitution
    1. Annotated U.S. Constitution
    2. U.S. Constitution as a Historical Document
    3. Other Helpful Sources
  2. Federal Legislative Branch Resources
    1. Bills & Resolutions
    2. U.S. Code
    3. Catalog of U.S. Government Publications
    4. GPO's MetaLib
    5. Helpful Links
    6. Links to Related Guides
    7. Other Resources
    8. Legislative History Research Guides
    9. Legislative History Sources
  3. Federal Courts & Case Law
    1. U.S. Supreme Court
    2. History & Statistics
    3. Judicial Nominiations
    4. Federal Court Dockets
    5. Quick Links
    6. FDsys's United States Courts Opinions - BETA
    7. Other Federal Court Opinions
    8. Links to Related Guides
  4. Federal Administrative Law
    1. Regulations
    2. Presidential Materials
    3. Presidential Materials: Subscription Databases
    4. Regulations: More Sources
    5. Link to Related Guide
    6. Other GPO Resources
    7. Related Resources
    8. GPO's MetaLib
  5. California Law
    1. California Bills & Legislation
    2. California Courts & Case Law
    3. California Regulations
    4. California Ballot Measures
    5. Local Government Research
    6. California Public Records
    7. Links to Related Guides
    8. Directories
    9. State Court Materials
  6. Local Government Law
    1. Municipal Codes Online
    2. California Resources
    3. Other Resources
  7. Free Legal Forms
  8. Legal Research Guides
    1. Law Library Research Guides
    2. Legislative History Research Guides
    3. Other Research Guides
  9. Dictionaries, Acronyms & Directories
    1. Legal Dictionaries & Glossaries
    2. Acronyms & Abbreviations
    3. Directories
    4. LexisNexis Academic's Legal Reference Sources
  10. Attorney Directories
  11. Legal News & Blogs
    1. News
    2. Legal Blogs
  12. Law Reviews & Journals
    1. Searching Full-text & Tables of Contents of Law Reviews and Journals
    2. Links to Law Reviews & Journals
    3. UCLA Databases
    4. Link to Related Guide
    5. Other Full-text Resources
    6. Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports
  13. Self-Help
    1. California Courts Self-Help Centers
    2. State Bar of California
    3. California Self-Help Guides
    4. Public Counsel's Appellate Law Program
    5. Other California Sources
    6. Law School Clinics
    7. County Law Library Classes & Clinics
    8. Self-Help Online Resources
  14. Summer Info on MyLaw: UCLA Law Students & Recent Grads (login required)


As the title indicates, the primary focus of this guide is to spotlight free and low-cost online legal resources. Sources available through Westlaw or Lexis are not included. However, please note that I have included subscription databases available to the UCLA and UCLAW community. Lastly, except for the short selected bibliography on this page, print resources are not covered.

As the length of this guide suggests, there is no shortage of law-related materials available on the Internet. The challenge is to locate accurate and authoritative sources of legal information. Please keep in mind that you won't find everything you need for free on the Internet. For example, West's annotated codes and most legal treatises/practice guides (e.g. Rutter Group and Matthew Bender publications) are not freely available on the Web.

Also keep in mind that it may be easier to start your research using print sources. This is especially true if you are having difficulty identifying search terms. Using a print source allows you to flip through pages and scan the index and table of contents. Hence, when applicable, there will be links to other libguides that describe the use of print resources.

SCALL's Locating the Law

The latest edition of Locating the Law: A Handbook for Non-Law Librarians is freely available for download in its entirety or one may view individual chapters and appendices. Below is the table of contents.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: How to Read a Legal Citation

Chapter 3: Basic Legal Research Techniques

Chapter 4: Legal Reference vs. Legal Advice

Chapter 5: California Law

Chapter 6: Bibliography of California Resources

Chapter 7: Federal Law

Chapter 8: Bibliography of Federal Law Resources

Chapter 9: Assisting Self-Represented Litigants

Chapter 10: Bibliography of Self-Help Resources

Chapter 11: Availability, Accessibility and Maintenance of Legal Collections

Chapter 12: Major Law Publishers

Appendix A: Glossary of Legal Terms

Appendix B: Common Abbreviations in the Law

Appendix C: California County Law Libraries

Appendix D: California Law Schools

Other Legal Research Sites

These "one stop shopping" sites provide users with a myraid of links to law-related materials on the Internet. They provide users with a catalog of Web sites, a search engine or both.

None of the following sites are featured extensively in this guide but are worth a mention. Their aim is to expand public access to legal information.

Selected Bibliography

Carole A. Levitt & Judy K. Davis, Internet Legal Research on a Budget: Free and Low-Cost Resources for Lawyers (2014). 

Tobin A. Sparling, Strategic Legal Research: Finding the Information You Need Efficiently and Cost-Effectively (2014). 

Moore, Wendy E. "Fantastic Facts about the 50 States: Websites for State Legal Research," University of Georgia School of Law, Continuing Legal Education Presentations (Mar. 28, 2011). [26-page PDF]

Pike, George H. "Evaluating Free Online Legal Information," Online (Sept/Oct. 2008), 32(5): 20-23.

Chandler, Yvonne J. "Accessing Legal and Regulatory Information in Internet Resources and Documents," Journal of Library Administration (2006), 44 (1/2): 263-324.

________. "The People's Law: Free Legal Help and Legal Research on the Web," Searcher (April 2006), 14(4): 38-44.

Important Note About Access to Databases

Be sure to read the Access to Databases Guide carefully before beginning your research.

Other Guides

Free Government Information (FGI) Blog

Initiated by Jim A. Jacobs, James R. Jacobs, Shinjoung Yeo, three librarians at UC San Diego, along with Daniel Cornwall, librarian at the Alaska State Library, and James Staub, librarian at the Tennessee State Library, in order to raise public awareness of the importance of government information and create a community with various stakeholders to facilitate an open and critical dialogue.