Google Scholar Now Includes Federal and State Caselaw and Legal Journals

Google recently announced that the company was entering into the legal research field. Google Scholar will now allow users to search full-text legal opinions from U.S. federal courts, state appellate and trial courts and legal journals. That’s right – now students, attorneys, clients, and – most importantly – average citizens, can access a free, easy-to-use, online database of federal and state caselaw and legal journals through Google.

There are limitations. The U.S. federal case law database includes pre – 1776 U.S. Supreme Court opinions, federal appellate court opinions from 1924, some federal district court opinions and opinions from all 50 state courts since 1950. However, most of the state opinions are from a state’s Supreme Court; there are limited state trial and appellate court opinions available. Within each case, there are hyperlinks to cited cases. Subsequent history of a case can be accessed. Cases can be searched by case name, lawyer name, citation and other terms.

However, Google Scholar will probably not replace Westlaw and Lexis (at least not yet) due to the inadequate coverage of the legal research database. That impresssion was confirmed to some extent in the 2009 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, which found that “respondents are significantly more satisfied with the characteristics of fee-based online legal research resources than they are with those of free online legal research resources.”

Sources: Social Media Law Student; Legal Blog Watch; Law, Technology & Legal Marketing Blog; Resource Shelf; Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog; 3 Geeks and a Law Blog; WisBlawgErnie the Attorney; and, The Volokh Conspiracy.