Free and Low Cost Legal Research Guide

Think beyond Lexis, Westlaw & Bloomberg Law. This guides identifies resources for free or low cost legal research.

Free Sources of Secondary Sources

While most of the free legal material available online is primary law, there are a few sources of secondary materials, and we have identified and described some of the best sites we have found. While these sources may not be authoritative, they can be useful in providing analysis, opinion, or explanation of the law, as well as covering recent legal developments.

  • ABA Journal
    The ABA has made this legal news magazine available for free online. Site contains the current issue and archived issues since 2004.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals
    DOAJ collects open access journals on all topics including a  legal sub-category.
  • Google Scholar
    This search engine employs the Google algorithm to find relevant scholarly articles using keyword searches. Google Scholar searches both full text articles and abstracts that are available for free online, so users should be aware that not all results will lead to full articles.
  • Dictionary
    While neither as extensive nor authoritative as Black's Law Dictionary, this site offers a legal dictionary that is both searchable and browsable by major legal topics.
  • Dictionary
    While neither as extensive nor authoritative as Black's Law Dictionary, this site does provide basic definitions to thousands of legal terms and concepts. Users can search for terms or browse alphabetically.
  • Legal Information Institute (Cornell University Law School)
    In addition to a wealth of primary sources, the Legal Information Institute (LII) also contains some useful secondary materials, especially the Wex Legal Dictionary/Encyclopedia. Wex provides brief overviews of dozens of legal topics, arranged alphabetically. While not as extensive as a traditional legal encyclopedia, these overviews do offer introductions to some of the most important concepts in these areas of law, along with citations to principal sources of primary law.
  • NOLO
    One of the few free legal encyclopedias, NOLO provides articles on a wide range of practice areas including Accidents & Injury, DUI, Bankruptcy, Disability law, Family Law, IP, Real Estate, Employment Law, Finance, Immigration, Wills, Renter's & Tenant's Rights, and Taxes.
    This site collects information related to the U.S. Supreme Court. While it includes some information about past and present justices and the Court's cases, its most notable content is a collection of audio recordings of oral arguments. All arguments from 1981 to the present are included, as well as those from selected earlier cases.