General U.S. Legal Resources For Students – OnlineBusinessDegree.org
With so many resources available on the internet, everyone can find the answers to their legal questions online. This guide contains the most authoritative, up-to-date and accessible legal resources to give casual and serious students at any school – American InterContinental University, Capella University, South University, Colorado Technical University, Virginia College, to name a few, easier access to research tools.
The Law Dictionary features Black’s Law Dictionary 2nd edition and has over 15,000 terms defined.
Farlex’s Free Dictionary offers a legal dictionary that draws upon reliable sources such as West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2.
LexisNexis supports the legal encyclopedia, Zimmerman’s Research Guide.
Legal writers know they have to cite authority “just so;” Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute (LII) provides a free guide to Basic Legal Citation.
The People’s Law Dictionary defines legal terms with a user-friendly guide.
U.S. Federal Law
Constitution, Statutes and Regulations
The complete text and history of the Constitution of the United States is available from the National Archives.
The United States Code contains all of the federal statutes (laws passed by Congress). Researchers can use the searchable database provided by Congress, or browse the Code at the Government Printing Office (GPO). For those masochists who do legislative and policy research, the Library of Congress’ Thomas has a variety of ways to search and browse the histories of bills and laws.
Federal administrative law (regulations) may be searched and browsed at the GPO. Large administrative agencies, such as the Social Security Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission, post their laws on their websites.
Federal case law (legal decisions written by judges) can be difficult to find for free, particularly with the lower courts. The federal courts are organized, from top to bottom: the Supreme Court, the Circuit Courts and the district courts, (with at least one district court in each state). There are also bankruptcy courts and courts of special jurisdiction. Information about recent high-profile cases and opinions may be found on their websites.
LII provides links to all recent and landmark U.S. Supreme Court opinions and most Circuit Court cases from the mid-1990’s to the present. LII also has links to district and bankruptcy court decisions, where available.
Although a bit clunky, if you have a unique search term such as the citation or a party’s name, even federal district court opinions may be gleaned from Google Scholar. This search engine throws a wide net and also picks up state case law and articles.
State statutes and administrative laws are relatively easy to find and most are available through the state legislatures. However, finding free access to state case law can be difficult. Google Scholar will return state case law, but unless the search terms are narrow, you will likely get a lot of unwanted hits, as well.
Find Law has a list of resources by state including some case law, as well as links to state statutes and administrative codes. LII, the University of Michigan and State and Local Government on the Net also have directories of state resources.
Research by Topic
Legal information on a wide range of topics may be found at Lawyers.com.
Researchers can learn the basics of a number of legal topics including estate planning and family law at Find Law.
For Lawyers and Law Students
At LexisNexis Communities, legal researchers can find blogs, news, podcasts and even some cases, broken out by topics including bankruptcy, real estate and worker’s compensation.
The American Bar Association (ABA) sponsors a search engine that produces free full-text law review and law journal articles, as well as other academic publications.