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Free Online Legal Research

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.


The internet contains no shortage of free law-related materials. The challenge is to locate accurate and authoritative sources of legal information. This guide attempts to aid you in that challenge. 

This guide covers both federal and California law sources as well as sources for locating the laws of local jurisdictions. As you consult some of the sources listed in this guide, keep in mind the following limitations with respect to free online legal research sources: 

  • You will often not find everything you need for free online. For example, you will not find most legal treatises and practice guides available for free on the internet.
  • It is often more cost-effective to use a subscription database for your legal research. For example, while you can find the federal and California statutory code compilations for free on the internet, the free versions do not include case annotations, which can provide an efficient way of locating cases that interpret the statutes. 
  • It may be easier to start your research using print sources. Many print sources include subject indexes, which can often assist with identifying relevant search terms. It is also often easier to browse legal sources in print since you can more readily go back and forth between pages and sections. 

Links to other UCLA Law Library research guides containing information about print and/or subscription databases are included in other parts of this guide. There are a variety of subscription databases and plans available for researching the law, some of which are more affordable than others. In recent years, several lower cost legal research databases have become available, including FastCase, CaseText, and CEB.  For more information about these databases, consult the UCLA Law Library's Workshop series guide "Beyond the Big Two: Alternative Legal Research Tools." 

Additionally, even with respect to full-service legal databases like Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law, which can be expensive, individuals and small firms may be able to subscribe to more limited versions of these databases at a lower cost. Further, limited use of one or more of these databases may be available for free at a local public law library, and a limited version (e.g., Nexis Uni and Westlaw Campus Research) may be available at a local college or university. 



Reliable Free Primary Law Sources

The federal government and most of the states post copies of their statutes, regulations, and cases online. Additionally, some third-parties (such as the Cornell Legal Information Institute or CLII) gather freely available information and make it easier to browse and search. The following are reliable sources of primary law for the U.S. federal government and California. Note that California's online regulations and online case law are made available through portals provided by Westlaw and Lexis, respectively. This is a common practice for states, but these portals are missing many of the features of paid Westlaw and Lexis databases.

For a list of online primary resources from other states, please see the excellent State Online Legal Information, provided by the Digital Access to Legal Information committee of AALL.  There, you can browse government sources of opinions, session laws, statutory codes, administrative registers, and administrative codes.

  U.S. Federal California Other States

Statutory Codes

Current: U.S. Legislature

Historical: GovInfo

Unofficial: CLII

California legislature AALL Map
Regulatory Codes

Current: eCFR (new version)

Historical: GovInfo

Unofficial: CLII

Westlaw (free access) AALL Map

Official: GovInfo

Unofficial: Google Scholar (select "Case law" option)

Unofficial: Court Listener

Lexis (free access) AALL Map



Starting with Print Sources

To start your research in print, check out our list of Secondary & Practice Guides, which lists resources available at the UCLA Law Library.

If you're not able to visit the UCLA Law Library, find another law library in your state using the below links.