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

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.


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.

Alternative Legal Research Providers

SCALL's Locating the Law

  • 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: Citators
  • 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


Free 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.

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.