Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Legal Research Tip 14

Welcome to the next issue of the DCLRC E-Newsletter "Legal Research Tips"! You can view back issues of these tips through other posts in this blawg. Enjoy!

Overview of Free Legal Research on the Internet
Many primary sources of law, such as recent court opinions, statutes, and current legislation can easily be retrieved for free on the Internet. However, secondary resources, such as treatises or practice aids, are not readily available on the Internet. Some important reminders when performing legal research on the Internet:

*Internet sources, e.g. decisions, generally are not retrospective. Most jurisdictions have been putting decisions online since 1996. The date range of available materials varies from court to court.

*Internet research does not provide the validating and updating benefits of fee based services, such as Keycite online, or Shepards, to track subsequent history or treatment of cases in the courts.

*The Internet is an uncontrolled environment for research purposes, such as many providers and different search engines. Web sites vary in quality, accuracy and currentness.

Principles to follow while performing legal research on the Internet:

*Analyze your research issue as if you were doing book research.

*Clearly define what the issue is and what type of information you are seeking.

*Build a list of favorite sites with which you have become familiar. A good place start is a comprehensive site such as the WI State Law Library website or UW-Law School Library website. Be aware that sites change their look frequently. Learn how the site works. Does it have search templates that permit keyword searching? What is the date range of the material? How often is it updated? Who maintains the site?

[Some information from this tip courtesy Oakland County Law Library, Oakland County, MI]