Free Online Legal Research: Lesser Known Links to Amaze Even the Most Experienced Researcher

Connie Crosby and I will be co-presenting with two American law library colleagues (Jane Edwards and Marlene Coir) in a few weeks at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Windsor, this year a joint conference with the Michigan Association of Law Libraries.

Our topic is “Legal Research Free and Fast!” and we will be making available a jointly-authored paper that provides an overview and analysis of “free” versus “fee” online research tools.

My personal challenge for the presentation – and I assume perhaps a challenge shared by my co-panelists – is what free Internet-based, law-related research resources do you show or discuss to a room full of mostly experienced law librarians? On the Canadian side, we will of course include the obvious primary source online content (such as CanLII, various government websites and the like) and the better online guides and other sources of free commentary.

While there will be the opportunity for the Canadians present (including me) to learn more about U.S. online legal research (and vice versa for the Americans present to learn about Canadian online legal research), the challenge remains: what lesser known but high impact web links to free legal resources would you discuss? What would be in your top 20 (or 50) list?

Although perhaps not the best examples of what I am talking about would be sites ranging from the Canadian Law List to the B.C. Law Reform Database or even things such as the freely available Table of Abbreviations for the Index to Canadian Legal Literature from Westlaw Canada.

Make SLAW proud by listing any “must include” sites in the Comments field below (and we will of course acknowledge SLAW and the suggestions posted here at our panel session).

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Comments

  1. If I’m in a subject area I’m not familiar with I tend to check out library catalogues for texts and other secondary materials: the Great Library at Osgoode Hall, the SCC Library in Ottawa, Hollis at Harvard, the Law Library at the Library of Congress, the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies in London and the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law in Lausanne.

  2. Susannah Tredwell

    The B.C. Courthouse Libraries have some very useful free databases. Their “Asked & Answered” (http://www.courthouselibrary.ca/research/AskedAndAnswered.aspx) is a “collection of some of the hard-to-find answers [they]’ve found by helping [their] users with their legal research questions.”

    They also list recent Canada Proclamations (http://www.courthouselibrary.ca/research/CanadaProclamations.aspx) and B.C. Proclamations (http://www.courthouselibrary.ca/research/BCProclamations.aspx).

    Their “BC Legal Literature Index” (http://www.courthouselibrary.ca/search.aspx) indexes The Advocate and The Verdict. This is a B.C. specific resource, but very useful for those times when a lawyer says “there was a great article in The Advocate on [subject] but I don’t remember any other details…”

  3. I would add to Simon’s list and include the “how to” guides on these sites as well as Catherine Best’s work at LegalResearch.org.

  4. I second Susannah’s vote for the Asked & Answered database from Courthouse Libraries BC. The “popular case names” table was handy, too – I can’t seem to find it on their new website, though.

    I’m also a huge fan of Duhaime’s Legal Dictionary (http://www.duhaime.org/legaldictionary.aspx.

  5. Ontario Gov’t Documents Repository

    This is a good source for gov’t documents that may have been removed from other gov’t sites (ie. intial drafts of proposed regulations):

    and I find the free searches and liberal access to the document repositories containing short legal commentary on Lexology
    and Mondaq useful.

  6. It appears I “flubbed up” the hyperlinks in my earlier comment so here, again, are 3 other sites:

    http://govdocs.ourontario.ca/search
    http://www.lexology.com/
    http://www.mondaq.com/

  7. Thanks everyone for your comments. Keep them coming! These are all great suggestions.

    I was particularly looking for Quebec / civil law free sites (but forgot to mention that in the main post).

  8. Maritime Law Book publishes RawLaw at (www.mlb.nb.ca). RawLaw includes all the cases from all Maritime Law Book reporters free.
    RawLaw is a searchable database and appears exactly as our pay per view product minus headnotes.
    This points to the company’s belief in the value of its headnotes. These headnotes include well written summarys and repeating key numbers which identify topics easily; from all courts in all jurisdictions.

  9. Hi Emma, we’re working on folding our old \popular case names\ into our Asked & Answered database – should make them more findable and less of a hidden gem only used by the most intrepid of researchers!

  10. Also – it doesn’t always help but it’s always very gratifying when you can dig up old govt policies and forms that have been retired from current websites using the Internet Archive

  11. Ted, if you’re looking for lesser-known and free, I definitely have to put in a plug for Nomus (www.nomus.ca), a legal research engine I’ve only recently created and opened. There was an article here about in on Slaw last month if you’d like to know a little more and I’d also encourage you to check out the documentation on the site. The search engine offers some new and unique features, such as the ability to automatically retrieve all cases listed in a factum or any other document.

  12. Andrea Davidson

    Depending on the topic being researched, the research papers produced by the Parliamentary Information and Research Service or PIRS at the Library of Parliament that are available on the Virtual Library site might be helpful: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Sites/LOP/VirtualLibrary/ResearchPublications-e.asp

    While the research papers posted on the Virtual Library are often heavy in Canadian content and are often a blend of economic, social and legal research, this may be the very type of contextual information being sought by some clients or at the very least, a place to start.

  13. Michel D. Bellemare

    One of the most relevant sources of free legal documentation for the Quebec jurisdiction is provided by the Quebec professional corporation of lawyers: CAIJ

    Main sources provided are:

    Current development yearly publications
    Which are compilations of commentaries by practice area.

    There you can have access to the annual publication of the Bar school, which provides an overview of the main areas of law in Quebec.

    Papers of the annual association conference


    The Bar Journal

    Which often contains doctrinal articles

    The legal collection of the Bar School
    This collection is a good introduction to the major fields of law of Quebec and should not be underestimated

    There are may other sources, perhaps in time I’ll elaborate.