If you have not tried Google Scholar for your legal research needs, you should. Google Scholar has seven primary benefits.
- It is free. We all like free research, right?
- Google Scholar has an extensive database of reported cases from state and federal courts. Its database covers cases from the United States Supreme Court (since 1791), the United States Courts of Appeals and United States District Courts (since 1923), and supreme court and intermediate appellate courts from all states (since 1950). It also has some federal and state cases that have been designated “not for publication.”
- You can find federal and state cases with Google Scholar’s powerful search algorithm (similar to WestlawNext and Lexis Advance), and it will likely return relevant results even if you do not use the proper search terms. Its algorithm works best for issues that are commonly litigated.
- You can limit your search results by keyword, date, and court (e.g., just the Seventh Circuit or just the Ohio Supreme Court).
- It has a citator to find subsequent judicial opinions that have cited your case. And the results can be organized based on the depth of discussion in that the first listed results have discussed your case in more detail than later results. Thus, you will immediately know which opinions did more than merely cite your case.
- You can create citation alerts and have them delivered to your email.
- Although Google Scholar has no database for legal articles, you can keyword search to find articles, and it will provide links to articles hosted on other websites (e.g., the Social Science Research Network).
If Google Scholar is so wonderful, why is it free? Google Scholar has five main limitations; as a result, it will not put Westlaw or LexisNexis out of business any time soon. [Read more…]