Current Awareness Techniques for Legal Researchers

A question arose today among colleagues how best to stay “current” with law-related information without becoming overwhelmed.

Certainly, technology has a role to play but I also suspect there is no “one size fits all” solution for every person. For example, I find my information-seeking habits and needs now (as an academic law librarian) are quite different from when I was a practicing research lawyer. Set out below are some of the various techniques I have used, along with a list of some of the standard websites I would ordinarily visit on a regular basis.

Having said this, I have just recently “purged” myself of most of these techniques while on sabbatical in a short-term effort to reduce the number of emails I receive.


One obvious way is to subscribe to listservs. Advantages: they are free and fast. Disadvantages: unmoderated lists can produce a lot of irrelevant information.

At various times, I have subscribed to the following listservs (I realize this list is likely embarrassingly inadequate; I tend to be choosy though):

Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL-L)

Toronto Association of Law Libraries (T-LAWLIB-L)

American Association of Law Libraries (various) (various)

Eugene Meehan’s SCC Law Letter

CanLII (and links to SCC, FC and TCC lists)

Tarlton Law Library Table of Contents to Law Journals Service


There are literally hundreds if not thousands more listservs that will depend on individual needs and preferences (e.g., US Supreme Court decisions, KM, etc.).

Unfortunately, Lyonette Louis-Jacques no longer maintains her Law Lists pages, which were useful ways of finding law-related listservs on particular topics.


If receiving emails is too disruptive or annoying, it is very simple to customize a home page for your web browser with often-visited links to various law-related websites, including sites for case law, legislation, journals, online catalogues, news/media and government websites.

Some of the sites related to current awareness that I regularly visit (not including sites already listed above) include:

CBA Practice Link


Jurist Canada


Newspapers/magazine/TOCs in print

There are of course the two major Canadian law-related newspapers: The Lawyers Weekly (Butterworths) and Law Times (Canada Law Book) and various law society newsletters and magazines.

When at law firms, I also would take advantage of “table of contents” services at the firms for case law reporters and journals. As a law librarian, I also get all of the “glossy brochures” from the legal publishers, which makes it easy to be aware of new publications.

I realize my suggestions above may be inadequate for other researchers; there are likely many other sites I visit without realizing it (many on copyright and privacy law, etc.). It would be interesting to find out other ways that researchers stay current and to find out other “favourite” websites.

Of all my suggestions above, what I find to be most useful (and what I receive the most favourable reaction on) is the idea of a customized home page for legal research. It saves a lot of time.



  1. Legal blogs & RSS are as important a technology today as the web was in 1994. We’re just at the beginning stages, but the sooner Librarians & Researchers tap into RSS, the better!

    All of the websites & listservs above can be piped into a Bloglines account, and the time required to view the newly published materials on the sources Ted mentions above is a fraction of the surfing time normally required. I currently skim 100+ RSS feeds each morning in about 15 minutes! … it would take all day to surf those same sites.

    Legal & Librarian bloggers are also important time savers – think of them as ‘quality filters’ which limit your reading time. If you trust the blogger on the other end, and their blogging topics are only partially of interest, you can let them guide your reading. … if it’s an important area of interest, you shouldn’t trust anyone :-)

    I know I’m evangelizing here, but I don’t think I truly took my own current awareness seriously until I added RSS into my daily routine.

  2. I meant to mention RSS feeds in my piece as an option (an option that I have not currently taken advantage of, but will shortly). Thanks Steve.