2 June 2008.
Below are the top 10 Web sites I would
recommend as essential research tools for
My reasons, of
course, stem from my own experiences. YMMV.*
U.S. Party/Case Index
Legal Dockets Online
Cornell Legal Information Institute
Full-text State Statutes and Legislation
Electronic Discovery Law
wonder why Lexis and Westlaw aren't on the list. Or, why well known legal information sites,
such as FindLaw and Law.com, are missing. Or, for that
matter, why Google doesn't appear on the list.
excluded them because they do not comprise the type of
resources lawyers have in mind when they ask for suggestions.
They mean, What do I not already know about that's
highly relevant to my work and
Of course, some
litigators already know about some or all of the
resources on this list. But if you scan the rest of this
article, I'm willing to bet you'll pick up a couple of
The Essential 10
U.S. Party/Case Index: While not free, this
index to the federal court docket system is an
indispensable tool for any litigator. Use it to search
past and pending federal case information for all but 4
courts (2d, 5th, 11th, and Federal Circuit Courts of
Appeals) as of this writing. Dockets for the U.S.
Supreme Court also do not appear in the index.
In addition to discovering the
status or docket activity of cases, the
Index serves as a useful investigative tool.
You may discover a research subject's involvement in
federal civil cases, bankruptcies or criminal matters. Reviewing
certain filed documents, such as the service
of process, may help you determine where to find someone.
Access requires registration
with the PACER Service Center. There is a small per page
charge for displaying documents.
Relatively new to the legal Web scene, Justia deserves
mention for several reasons. It stands alone in offering
a free keyword-searchable
database of federal district court filings. You will
find court opinions from 2004 to present as well as other filings. (See also:
Free Case Law
Other offerings worthy of
special mention include a
database of federal appellate court opinions,
RSS feeds for monitoring civil court filings by the
type of lawsuit (Select any available topic and go to
the bottom of the page to find the
RSS feeds for tracking federal regulations, and a blog
search engine for law-related blogs.
Legal Dockets Online: Want to know whether a
certain court has its decisions or docket sheets online, or whether
online criminal records exist for a particular
jurisdiction? Then bookmark LDO. Access requires a
reasonable annual subscription fee.
As an aside, the
LDO Blog is free. It helps you stay current with
changes that affect online court access.
Cornell Legal Information Institute: This
long-standing free legal information Web site offers
much to interest a litigator. Find a searchable version
of the U.S. Code. Its content comes from the official
version made available by the U.S. House of
Representatives. But Cornell LII makes the publication easier to use. It
also provides an RSS feed for each title so that you may
In addition, you will find other
primary documents, such as federal rules, the Uniform
Commercial Code and U.S. Supreme Court opinions, as well
as links to important state primary legal materials.
Access: This free service provides access to
several essential government documents, including
the Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations,
Congressional Record, Congressional bills, and more.
Full-text State Statutes and Legislation:
One of the oldest legal information resources online,
this single page provides briefly annotated links to
state statutes, constitutions, administrative codes,
regulations and city ordinances, where available. It is
Electronic Discovery Law: Lawyers at K&L Gates
regularly post case summaries, and other commentary,
related to electronic data discovery (EDD). It provides
an RSS feed for tracking site updates as well as a
database of EDD case summaries.
The Bluebook: Even if you prefer to have the
little blue book in print, you'll find this site
invaluable. In addition to giving you an online source
for searching or accessing the Bluebook from any
computer, it provides tips on citation style and rules,
Bluebook updates and archived copies of older editions.
Publications Inc.: At one time or another,
litigators need information about companies or people.
BRB Publications Inc. publishes books, databases and
other materials on finding information through public
The Public Record Research
System is a low-cost subscription database for
discovering what is public record in specific
jurisdictions and how to obtain it, either on-site or
online. BRB's collection of
free resources is extensive; it is comprised entirely
of authentic sources. A
blog keeps you up to date with changes in public
records law, policy or procedure.
ZoomInfo is a special search engine that helps you find
information about companies or people. It contains
profiles built with the help of computer algorithms from sources available on the Web.
Therefore, verification is important. But the site is a
great source for leads, or for discovering information
that searching elsewhere didn't find.
Your mileage may vary.