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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.


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. 

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.

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, statutes, administrative registers, and administrative codes.

  U.S. Federal California Other States


Current: U.S. Legislature

Historical: GovInfo

Unofficial: CLII

California legislature AALL Map

Current: eCFR (new version)

Historical: GovInfo

Unofficial: CLII

Westlaw (free access) AALL Map

Official: GovInfo

Unofficial: Google Scholar

Unofficial: Court Listener

Lexis (free access) AALL Map



Alternative Legal Research Providers

Other Guides