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Google Scholar: Useful Tool for Legal Research

Legal research is a very important aspect of the practice of law.  Google Scholar is an online, freely accessible search engine that provides a simple way to broadly search for professional articles, journals and conference papers, theses and dissertations, academic books, pre-prints, abstracts and legal documents.  Its database includes full-text copies of nearly every court opinion published on state and federal circuits. 

Google Scholar allows you to search and read published opinions of US state appellate and supreme court cases since 1950, US federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923 and US Supreme Court cases since 1791. It includes citations for cases cited by indexed opinions or journal articles which allows you to find influential cases which are not yet online or publicly available.  Cases are cited in Bluebook format, including internal page numbers, and are cross-lined within the database.  Google Scholar provides links to secondary sources such as law reviews and journals.

On Google Scholar, legal documents can be searched for by keywords, title, or the name of a legal institution.  You can also search and filter case law based on the jurisdiction and/or year in which it was published.

If you are seeking ways to reduce research costs, Google Scholar is a good option.  Goggle Scholar is a great place to conduct preliminary research, or to review new cases that have not yet been affected by precedent and is extremely effective when used in combination with free and fee based primary law sources. 

Some Advantages of Using Google Scholar

  • Easy search capabilities
  • Provides some basic and advanced search options like a database
  • Provides direct access to full text of articles if they are available for free online.
  • Better Citation System – wherever a document cites other case law a hyperlink will instantly retrieve the cited document for you. Google Scholar also indexes cited sources in order of importance alongside every legal document.
  • Frequent Updates – Google Scholar normally adds new papers several times a week.
  • Alerts – Google Scholar will periodically email you newly published papers that match your search criteria.
  • Google Scholar unlike Westlaw or LexisNexis uses natural language instead of Boolean language for searches.

Some Disadvantages to Using Google Scholar

  • Google Scholar has a limited library so older legal documents might not be available.
  • Google Scholar does not have Headnotes, Shepardizing, or secondary sources like LexisNexis and Westlaw.
  • Google Scholar ranks a document’s relevance based on a search engine algorithm so the order in which cases appear in your search may not accurately reflect the relative legal importance of the case.

Google Scholar makes it free and easy to locate a vast number of legal documents giving you the opportunity to save money because you use a paid research service a lot less frequently. Google Scholar can’t replace Westlaw of LexisNexis but it certainly provides an advantage to any lawyer or law firm when combined with them.

Want to learn more about Google Scholar https://scholar.google.com

PS – If you appreciate these tools, please join our mailing list to receive monthly insight on tools like Google Scholar. You’re the best!

 

 

 

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