UPDATE: A Guide to Fee-Based U. S. Legal Research Databases
By Mary Rumsey
(Previously updated by Mary Rumsey on March 2010)
Update by Jootaek (Juice) Lee and Neel Kant Agrawal
Jootaek (Juice) Lee is a senior law librarian (the Research Librarian for Foreign, Comparative & International Law) at the Northeastern University School of Law. He received a B.A. from Korea University where he also received an LL.M. in international law. Jootaek completed his J.D. at Florida State University, where he was also awarded M.L.S. He has published articles relating to legal informatics and legal pedagogy in a law review, International Journal of Legal Information, SSRN, and a Globalex research guide and bibliography for Korean legal resources in English, as well as presented at national conferences several times. Additionally, he actively participates in the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the American Society of International Law (ASIL). Currently, he is the president-elect of Asian American Law Librarians Caucus and the Co-Chair of International Legal Research Interest Group of ASIL.
Neel Kant Agrawal is a student in the law librarianship program at the University of Washington Information School. He is a graduate of Michigan State University (B.A. & J.D.) in East Lansing, MI. Neel’s research interests are in the areas of civil and human rights and ethnomusicology.
Published July/August 2012
See the archive version!
Table of Contents
This guide is designed primarily for non-U.S. legal researchers. It describes several providers of legal research databases, focusing on fee-based sources, both high-cost and low-cost. For an excellent guide to free sources of federal legal materials, see the GlobaLex guide authored by Gretchen Feltes, Update: A Guide to the U. S. Federal Legal System: Web-based Public Accessible Sources, October 2010.
CAUTION: Because database providers frequently change their coverage and functionality, researchers should make sure that a provider still offers the desired sources before signing a contract or otherwise incurring any fees.
Much of the information available on commercial legal databases is also available from free internet sources. However, commercial database providers (LexisNexis and Westlaw in particular), offer a large amount of information that is not available for free. This includes older state and federal cases, legal forms, court dockets, public records, certain state and federal administrative materials, and secondary sources such as online versions of treatises, journal articles, and legal newspapers. Also, commercial databases often contain a great deal of valuable staff-added information. For example, LexisNexis and Westlaw have databases that contain the U.S. Code (federal statutory laws). The U.S. Code is also available online, for free. But unlike the free internet version of the U.S. Code, the LexisNexis and Westlaw “annotated codes” cite to additional information such as relevant cases, legal encyclopedias, law journal articles, federal regulations, and more.
In addition to providing more information, commercial databases are often more searchable than free databases. First, they offer much more sophisticated search engines. For example, Westlaw and LexisNexis support the following useful tools:
Providers of low-cost databases – often considered to be research alternatives to Westlaw and Lexis – such as Loislaw, Versuslaw, Fastcase, Casemaker, etc., also provide sophisticated searching options.
Secondly, commercial databases often contain staff-added enhancements to search results: a function to search again within search results; a function to filter search results by various types of sources, subjects, time, and jurisdiction; better integrated search results in a document containing hyperlinks to related sources including history, briefs, forms, jury instruction, legal encyclopedia, treatise, journal articles, etc.; and a function to save research to allow users to revisit the search results. For example, in the text of a court case, many vendors add hyperlinks to any cases cited within the case. A researcher can use these links to look quickly at any case the court mentions in its decision. Commercial providers of U.S. court cases also provide built-in ways for a researcher to check the current validity of a case, in addition to the list of cases citing to the case.
In a common law system, checking the validity of a case is an important step in legal research. The researcher must find out whether the case is still “good law,” or whether a later court decision has changed the law. If a case is not too old, it is possible to check a case’s validity using free databases of court cases. The researcher enters the case name as a search term, and reviews any cases that contain the name. However, this process is cumbersome and vulnerable to errors, so most U.S. researchers prefer to use online “citators.” Westlaw’s online citator is called KeyCite; LexisNexis offers Shepard’s ; Loislaw offers GlobalCite ; FastCase offers AuthorityCheck ; Casemaker offers CaseCheck+ ; and Bloomberg Law provides the Bloomberg Citator (BCiting or BCIT).
Additionally, commercial databases are sometimes more current than free databases. This difference is most apparent in databases consisting of statutes and regulations. Commercial database providers usually incorporate new statutory language, or at least provide links to it from the old statute section, much faster than government websites. Researchers who rely upon free websites must be particularly careful to check for new laws and regulations, which are often located on a different webpage from the older ones.
Moreover, commercial databases usually offer superior technical support to free databases. Some legal database providers, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, have 24/7 telephone support. Subscribers can receive free help in choosing a database, constructing a search, and overcoming technical problems. Finally, while government information on the internet is usually reliable, internet information from other sources may not be. Unlike most websites, many commercial databases consist of material that has been published in print, and thus has gone through the screening imposed by editors and publishers. This makes commercial databases more reliable than some free internet information. Of course, all of these advantages come at a price. Commercial legal databases can be very expensive. Free sources may work better for researchers who have more time than money to spend.
Among commercial providers, Westlaw and LexisNexis are the largest, the most sophisticated (in searching and other features), and the most expensive. Loislaw, Bloomberg Law, Fastcase, Casemaker, and VersusLaw are considered to be low-cost databases. Specifically, Casemaker and Fastcase are free to state bar members in many states. On the hand, Bloomberg BNA, CCH IntelliConnect, HeinOnline, and Thomson Reuters RIA provide expensive, sophisticated, and specialized products for practitioners in areas such as labor law, environmental law, securities, and taxation. Although they have not been introduced in this article, other important fee-based databases are PACER, CourtLink, Courthouse News Service, Law360, and CourtExpress for court docket and case information service, Securities Mosaic and Morningstar Document Research (Wizard 10K) for securities, and LexisNexis Accurint for public records.
LexisNexis, owned by Reed Elsevier, is one of the two largest providers of U.S. legal information. The legal information division of LexisNexis is often referred to as “Lexis.” Outside of the U.S., LexisNexis provides non-U.S. legal information through country-specific websites, for example, LexisNexis- France; LexisNexis - Germany; LexisNexis- Austria; and LexisNexis- United Kingdom.
What LexisNexis Offers
Like Westlaw (see below), LexisNexis offers a full range of U.S. legal information, including materials from all 50 states. In the U.S., primary authority consists of the constitution, statutes, administrative regulations, and cases. LexisNexis gives the researcher access to all of these sources. In addition, LexisNexis has large databases of secondary sources – commentary on law contained in legal treatises, law journal articles, legal encyclopedias, and legal digests. Although commentaries are not primary sources of law in the U.S. legal system, consulting these secondary sources is often an efficient and effective approach to research. Secondary sources usually explain the law more clearly than statutes and cases, while providing references to the applicable primary sources. Examples of secondary materials, to name a few, include: encyclopedias, such as American Jurisprudence 2d, California Jurisprudence 3d, New York Jurisprudence 2d, Illinois Jurisprudence, Florida Jurisprudence, etc.; American Law Reports (ALR); Restatements of general principles of common law; continuing legal education (CLE) materials for practicing bar members; and U.S. law review and journal articles.
LexisNexis offers thousands of individual databases. Some databases combine the contents of several databases. For example, researchers can choose a database of New York court decisions, or search all state court cases at once. Usually, it is cheapest and most efficient to search the smallest database that contains all of the information needed.
In its databases of cases, LexisNexis generally offers complete coverage back to the earliest case. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court cases date back to January 1790, and cases from the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the U.S. District Courts go back to 1789. Its statutes databases offer current, frequently updated laws, and offer both codified statutes like United States Code Service arranged by 51 subject titles and uncodified public laws published chronologically. Because researchers sometimes need earlier versions of statutes, LexisNexis also has “archived” versions of statute databases, most of which extend back to 1991. LexisNexis offers a free, searchable list of its databases.
Currency and Updating Tools
Primary authorities such as statutes, cases, administrative regulations and decisions are current and updated regularly. For example, the most recent public laws are available within 24 to 48 hours after a law is passed, U.S. Code Service is updated several times per month, Federal Register is updated daily, and Code of Federal Regulations is updated weekly.
Researchers also monitor new cases, new statutes, news, and more, using LexisNexis Alerts. After retrieving satisfactory search results and clicking on “Save as Alert,” researchers can receive email updates on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis. LexisNexis offers Shepard's Citations Service in order to enable researchers to determine whether they are employing “good law.” Furthermore, Shepard's Alert allows subscribes to receive regular updates on citing authorities that could potentially affect the validity of a law. Lastly, LexisNexis provides legal news databases. Researchers can search by practice area, jurisdiction, and publisher, such as BNA, Mealey's, Tax Analysts, American Lawyer Media, Dolan Media Company, etc.
How its Databases are Organized
LexisNexis organizes its databases in a hierarchical structure. Major headings include:
· jurisdictions (e.g., federal, states, country, and region);
· types of documents (e.g., cases, court records, briefs, filings, legislation, secondary legal materials, legal news, 50 state survey, and reference); and
· legal subjects (e.g., taxation, bankruptcy, and labor & employment).
For a typical U.S. state, LexisNexis divides its database offerings under several major headings. For example, California databases are divided into Cases, Court Records, Briefs and Filings, Expert Witness Analysis, Jury Verdicts & Settlements, Statutes & Regulations, Administrative Materials & Court Rules, Forms & Drafting Instructions, Analysis & CLE Materials, General News, Legal News, Public Records [], Filings [], Legal Reference Materials [], Jury Instructions [], and Verdicts [].
Within a category, such as Cases, the researcher can choose from several databases. For California, LexisNexis offers a database of cases from the California Supreme Court, a database of cases from the California Courts of Appeals, a database that combines these two, and a database that combines them with federal cases relating to California – these federal cases are those from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and lower federal courts within that circuit.
Basically, Researchers should choose an appropriate database(s) by the "Find a Source" function or by browsing by jurisdiction, types of documents, or topic. Then, they can search by terms after selecting search type among Terms & Connectors, Natural Language, or Easy Search. If Researchers have a citation(s), a party name(s), or docket number(s), they can retrieve by the "Get a Document" function.
The design of LexisNexis has become much simpler since its change in November 2010, but is still complex since users have to browse the contents instead of using a search box in the beginning. Once you log in to LexisNexis, unlike the recently launched Lexis Advance platform, the traditional LexisNexis does not provide a search box upfront. Researchers either have to choose what type of search they will begin with from the navigation bars on the top-left hand side, or from the main middle page, browse by jurisdiction, type of documents, and topic to find an appropriate database by clicking several times. Sub-tabs under the navigation bar allow users quickly access to the databases by a topical tab.
In the U.S., LexisNexis launched the new Lexis Advance platform in May 2012. This new platform is much more usable and intuitive than Lexis, and allows users to do Google-like search and find the relevant answers by their unique content classification technology. Lexis Advance is not yet available in foreign markets.
LexisNexis offers a bewildering variety of subscription plans. Some plans are based on hourly usage and database cost. Others are based on the number of searches conducted (“transactional” pricing), and others are based on a discounted rate for specified databases. The cost of databases differs considerably, depending on factors such as the size of the database and whether the underlying data comes from another vendor. Additional charges for printing, downloading, or emailing documents may apply.
LexisNexis does not offer free trials. But, LexisNexis offers 10 years of free unenhanced federal and state case law as well as a wide variety of legal and business online communities at this website.
Westlaw is an online service containing more than 10,000 legal, financial, and news databases and is owned by the Thomson Reuters Corporation. It is one of the two largest providers of U.S. legal information.
What Westlaw Offers
Like LexisNexis (see above), Westlaw offers a full range of U.S. legal information, including materials from all 50 states. In the U.S., primary authority consists of the federal and state Constitutions, statutes, administrative regulations, and cases. Westlaw gives the researcher access to all of these sources. In addition, Westlaw has large databases of secondary sources – commentary on the law in legal treatises, law journal articles, and legal encyclopedias. While commentary is not a source of law in the U.S. legal system, it is often an efficient way to research. Secondary sources usually explain the law more clearly than statutes and cases, while including references to the applicable primary sources. "Secondary Sources" include: encyclopedias – American Jurisprudence 2d, American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts, Causes of Action, Corpus Juris Secundum, California Jurisprudence 3d, New York Jurisprudence 2d, Illinois Jurisprudence, Florida Jurisprudence, etc.; Black's Law Dictionary; American Law Reports (ALR); Restatements for case oriented areas of law; continuing legal education (CLE) materials for practicing bar members; Uniform Laws Annotated; U.S. law reviews and journal articles.
Westlaw offers thousands of individual databases. Some databases combine the contents of several databases. For example, researchers can choose a database of New York court decisions. But they can also search all cases from all 50 states at once. Usually, it is best to search the smallest database that contains all the information you need.
For its databases of cases, Westlaw generally offers complete coverage back to the earliest case. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court cases date back to 1790, and cases from the U.S. Courts of Appeal and the U.S. District Courts go back to 1789. Its statute databases offer current, frequently updated laws and offer both codified statutes like U.S. Code Annotated arranged by 51 subject titles and uncodified public laws published chronologically. Because researchers sometimes need earlier versions of statutes, Westlaw also has “archived” versions of statute databases. United States Public Laws dates back to 1973. Most of state statutes extend back to the late 1980s or early 1990s. Westlaw provides database information here, although it is not in an easily used format.
CAUTION: Westlaw makes only selected databases available under its standard international subscriptions. One primary part of its international subscription is a searchable database of West “headnotes” for U.S. federal and state case law. These “headnotes” are Westlaw’s proprietary summaries of various points of law discussed in a case. So, for example, one case might contain several different headnotes. Westlaw provides the full text of cases and of statutes in a handful of topical areas: banking, bankruptcy (insolvency), commercial law, intellectual property, securities, and insurance. The collection also includes law reviews, practice texts, and treatises in those topical areas. The databases are described here. Researchers can subscribe to one or more topic areas.
Currency and Updating Tools
Primary authorities such as statutes, cases, administrative regulations and decisions are current and updated fast. For example, the most recent public laws are available within 24 to 48 hours after a law is passed, U.S. Code Annotated reflects the current changes enacted by public laws from the current Congress session, Federal Register is updated daily, Code of Federal Regulations reflects changes made by Federal Register within a week, and U.S. Supreme Court cases are available online prior to West Advance sheets without editorial enhancement. Researchers also monitor new cases, new statutes, new regulations, standards, news, and more legal developments, using WestClip. After obtaining satisfactory search results and clicking on "Add Search to WestClip," researchers can receive email updates on a monthly, biweekly, weekly, or daily basis.
Westlaw’s KeyCite allows researchers to determine whether they are employing “good law.” Furthermore, KeyCite Alert allows subscribes to receive regular updates on citing authorities that could potentially affect the validity of a law. Coverage varies by country. In the U.S., KeyCite is available for case law, statutes, regulations, administrative materials, patents, and secondary sources. For Hong Kong law, its coverage is limited to only case law, while for Canadian law; it covers case law and legislation.
Lastly, Westlaw provides access to legal news and current awareness databases. Researchers can search for articles by title, topical highlights, and publishers like American Bar Association, Aspatore, LegalWorks, M. Lee Smith Publishers, National Legal Research Group, RIA, Seak, Inc., Thomson/West, West Group, etc.
How its Databases are Organized
Westlaw organizes its databases in a hierarchical structure, which can be best utilized by click "Directory" from the navigation bar at the top of the page. Major headings include:
· jurisdictions (e.g., federal, states, country, and region);
· types of documents (e.g., cases, briefs and court documents, court transcripts, statutes, administrative materials, court rules, jury instructions & jury verdicts, treatises, CLEs [] Practice Guides[], journals, and law reviews; and
· legal subjects (e.g., taxation, bankruptcy, and labor & employment).
For a typical U.S. state, Westlaw divides its database offerings under nearly twenty headings. For example, California databases are divided into Cases; Statutes & Legislative Materials; Court Rules & Orders; Dockets; Briefs; Petitions; Administrative & Executive Materials; Law Reviews, Bar Journals & Legal Periodicals; Public Information, Records & Filings; Forms, Treatises, CLEs and Other Practice Material; Jury Instructions, Jury Verdicts & Judgments; News, Newspapers & Periodicals; some topical databases (for example, insurance materials, securities materials, tax materials); and a few other categories.
Within a category, such as Cases, the researcher can choose from several databases. For California state cases, for example, Westlaw offers California Reported Cases, West's California State Cases, California State & Federal Cases, California and California Appellate Cases, California Civil Rights Cases, etc. By clicking on the "Scope" button next to the database name, a researcher can determine the scope of coverage of each database.
While the categories and database names on Westlaw differ from those on LexisNexis, both providers offer mostly similar coverage of primary sources. The two providers vary more in the secondary sources they offer. For example, they often have different treatises on similar topics.
Overall, searching in Westlaw is not intuitive for beginners. Thus, it is highly recommended that researchers complete Westlaw Training, available at here .
Basically, researchers should choose an appropriate database(s) by the "Search for a database" function or by browsing by jurisdiction, types of documents, or topical practice areas. Then, they can search by terms after selecting the search type of "Terms & Connectors" or "Natural Language." By default, search results are arranged in reverse chronological order and cannot be further narrowed. However, researchers can search again within the search results by utilizing the "Locate in results" function free of charge. If researchers have a citation(s), a party name(s), or docket number(s), they can retrieve a document by the "Find by citation" function.
The design of Westlaw is more user-friendly than LexisNexis, but is still complex and confusing since users are provided with many navigation bars, tabs, search boxes, and options. Even if a researcher knows to choose a proper tab, choose a database, and type in search terms; once logging on to Westlaw, she/he may have a steep learning curve.
In the U.S., Westlaw launched the new WestlawNext platform in 2010. This new platform is much more usable and intuitive than Westlaw, and allows users to perform Google-like searches. Westlaw provides one simple search box, where researchers can choose a scope and simply click the search button. Then, users can further narrow their search results according to relevance. WestlawNext is not yet available in foreign markets.
International subscribers can choose from a relatively small number of databases, via Westlaw International. Access to Westlaw databases that are outside of a subscriber’s Westlaw International subscription is available on a transactional charge basis. In other words, the researcher is charged for each search or other transaction.
Westlaw offers a bewildering variety of subscription plans. Some plans are based on hourly usage and database cost, while others are based on a discounted rate for specified databases. Smaller law offices often pay a flat monthly rate for a few specified databases. The cost of databases differs considerably, depending on factors such as the size of the database and whether the underlying data comes from another vendor. Additional charges for printing, downloading, or emailing documents may apply.
Only U.S.-based organizations can subscribe directly to the U.S. version of Westlaw. That is, a foreign law office can subscribe to the U.S. version of Westlaw through its U.S. office, if it has one. If not, it must work through Westlaw International.
Fastcase is an independent company located in Washington, D.C. Fastcase is a “next-generation legal research service that puts a comprehensive national law library and smarter and more powerful searching, sorting, and visualization tools at your fingertips.” Its target market is U.S. law firms, solo practitioners, and state bar associations that provide access to their members.
What Fastcase Offers
Fastcase offers online access to cases, statutes, regulations, court rules, and bar publications. The National Appellate plan includes comprehensive 50-state and federal law, federal and 50-state appellate law, nationwide statutes and regulations, search results with the timeline view, authority check, and dual-column and batch printing. The National Premium plan includes everything in the National Appellate plan plus case law from federal district courts and federal bankruptcy courts. The Fastcase Premium Plan includes the complete national research database, including cases from 1 U.S. 1 to present, 1 F.2d to present, 1 F.Supp. 1 to present, 1 B.R. 1 to present, and cases from all 50 states going back at least to 1950. The free 24-hour trial has the same coverage as the National Premium plan. With either plan, FastCase offers the framed versions of state and federal statutes and regulations.
Fastcase offers complete U.S. Supreme Court Reports; federal bankruptcy cases from 1979; federal courts of appeals decisions from 1924 or the inception of the court, whichever is more recent; and federal district court cases from 1912. Coverage of state appellate cases starts in 1950 or earlier for all U.S. states. Fastcase also provides access to a newspaper archive, legal forms, and a one-stop PACER search of federal filings through their content partners.
To check whether a case is “good law,” and to find subsequent cases, Fastcase offers an “Authority Check” feature. This feature displays a list of citing cases, as well as the text in which the citation occurs. For its databases of court cases, Fastcase offers sophisticated search capabilities. It supports Boolean connectors, including proximity connectors. It also supports natural language searching, phrase searching, date restrictions, and truncation (“stemming”). Fastcase gives the user several options for displaying the list of cases retrieved, including relevance ranking and reverse chronological order. Results can be narrowed by jurisdiction or date range.
How its Databases are Organized
Fastcase’s initial search screen allows users to look up citations or search by keyword. Users can choose to search from several options (caselaw, statutes, regulations, constitutions, court rules, newspapers, federal filings, and legal forms).
Fastcase offers a free 24-hour trial, a flat rate pricing for the National Appellate plan ($65/month, $695/year), and the National Premium plan ($95/month, $995/year). Fastcase gives potential subscribers clear information about its subscription costs. Details are available here.
Fastcase works on most major browsers, including Internet Explorer 6.0 or greater, Netscape version 7.2 or greater, and Firefox 1.1 or greater on PCs. Fastcase is also compatible with the most recent Mac versions of Firefox, Safari, and Netscape. Customer support is available via telephone, email, and live chat.
Since 1999, Casemaker has provided attorneys with affordable access to quality legal research.
What Casemaker Offers
Casemaker’s federal library includes: Bankruptcy Opinions, Circuit Opinions, C.F.R., the Constitution, Court of Appeals - Armed Forces, Court of Appeals - Veteran’s Claims, Court of Claims, Court of International Trade, District Court Opinion, Federal Court Rules, Federal Rules Decisions, Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation, NTSB Decisions, Public Laws, Supreme Court Opinions, Tax Court, and the U.S. Code. The state libraries vary between states, but for many states, includes: Session Laws, Administrative Code, the Bar Journal, Case Law, the Constitution, Ethics Opinions, State Court Rules, and the Code.
Casemaker offers a Google-like search engine, a multiple library search, client and subject matter folders, and accurate citation services. Casemaker+, an optional service, provides a citator, case alerts for new appellate court decisions within 24 hours, and a brief analyzer that will scan your brief and automatically create a table of authority while indicating whether cites have any negative treatments.
Monthly and annual subscription costs are listed here, and vary by state. Casemaker is provided for free through many participating state and local bar associations.
Customer service is available through telephone, email, and a web form.
Loislaw is owned by Wolters Kluwer. Its primary target market is U.S. law firms with 50 or fewer attorneys.
What LoislawConnect Offers
LoislawConnect offers online access to current and comprehensive federal and all 50 state databases. Every subscription includes cases, statutes and acts, administrative rules and regulations, court rules, and other primary law. These databases are updated within 24-48 hours of changes. LoislawConnect also offers more than 20 treatise libraries by Aspen authors.
LoislawConnect contains complete U.S. Supreme Court Reports, and federal courts of appeals decisions from 1924 or the inception of the court, whichever is more recent. Coverage of selected federal district court opinions back to 1921 is available. Coverage of state appellate cases varies, and LoislawConnect does not make this information easy to find. You must request information about a specific state. Unlike the U.S. Code versions on LexisNexis and Westlaw, LoislawConnect’s U.S. Code does not directly incorporate references to related cases, regulations, or secondary sources such as law reviews or legal encyclopedias. LoislawConnect’s treatises and formbooks represent an excellent collection of specialized practice materials on a wide variety of topics, including securities, antitrust (competition law), business organizations, bankruptcy, real estate, and many others. LoislawConnect also offers public records, court rules, and federal and state regulations.
GlobalCite, Loislaw’s citator, aids in finding “good” case law. It expands a search to include all of Loislaw’s content regardless if it is a user’s subscription. Specifically, by clicking on the GlobalCite button at the bottom of each code section, researchers can retrieve all other documents on LoislawConnect that reference the section. GlobalCite function can be used on cases, regulations, and state statutes. Like the U.S. Code versions on Westlaw, LexisNexis, and VersusLaw, the LoislawConnect version is very up-to-date. Additionally, Law Watch allows users to save searches and receive email notifications when a new document is indexes.
Loislaw supports Boolean connectors, including proximity connectors. It also supports phrase searching, date restrictions, and truncation (“stemming”). It does not offer the grammatical connectors offered by Westlaw and Lexis. Loislaw gives the user several options for displaying the list of cases retrieved, including relevance ranking and reverse chronological order. Finally, researchers can choose from a variety of printing, saving, and emailing options.
How its Databases are Organized
LoislawConnect arranges its databases by “Primary Law” (case law, statutes and acts, administrative rules and regulations, court rules, federal law, and state law); “Secondary Law” (treatise libraries and bar publications); and “Smart Rules.”. Its limited number of databases, relative to Westlaw and LexisNexis, make finding the right database simple.
Loislaw’s pricing model is to sell unlimited access to a database or package of databases. The subscriber pays a flat rate for each password. A password may be shared by any number of users, but can be used by only one person at a time. Loislaw does not have separate charges for printing, copying, or downloading documents. Costs are listed heresubscriptions for 48-hours, a week, a month or a year. Options to purchase access for multiple subscribers are available, but the cost information is not easily available. There is no free trial.
LoislawConnect’s technical specifications can be found here. Loislaw provides telephone and email support to customers. There is also a built-in “Help” command to find answers from a recorded video and/or user manual.
VersusLaw was founded in 1985 as Timeline Publishing Company. VersusLaw’s mission is to provide legal practitioners with access to current, in-depth, and easy-to-use legal research. VersusLaw offers low-cost competition to Westlaw and LexisNexis. VersusLaw offers access to core U.S. court decisions, federal and state statutes, and administrative codes and regulations at much lower monthly and annual subscription prices than LexisNexis and Westlaw. VersusLaw’s target market is law students, academic law libraries, small firms, solo practitioners, and non-lawyers.
What VersusLaw Offers
VersusLaw offers three types of subscriptions. The Standard Plan provides access to opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, state appellate courts, tribal courts, and foreign courts. It also includes access to AdvanceLinks, a system that sends weekly emails with updates on various topics. U.S. Supreme Court coverage extends back to 1886. Its coverage of federal circuit court cases extends back to 1930 or to the creation of the court, whichever is later. Coverage of state appellate cases varies, but for most states, it begins in the 1930s or 1950s.
VersusLaw’s Premium Plan provides access to federal, appellate, tribal court, and foreign court case law opinions, federal district court opinions dating back to 1950, as well as selected state statutes and regulations. It also provides increased search engine functionality including a citation search feature, and access to AdvanceLinks. VersusLaw is believed to be the first national database dedicated to tribal court opinions. In 2000, Versus Law entered into a cooperative agreement with the National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA).
The Professional Plan provides access to all the materials in the Standard and Premium Plans, as well as to federal statutes (U.S. Code) and administrative regulations for the federal government (the “Code of Federal Regulations,” or C.F.R.). In addition, it provides access to certain federal administrative materials in its “Specialty Practice Collections.” These include opinions from the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Court of Federal Claims, the Court of International Trade, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC), Internal Revenue Service Revenue Rulings, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and the U.S. Tax Court.
Unlike the U.S. Code versions on LexisNexis and Westlaw, VersusLaw’s U.S. Code does not provide references to related cases, regulations, or secondary sources such as law reviews or legal encyclopedias. However, it is very up-to-date. Additionally, V.Cite, available to Premium and Professional Plan subscribers, allows users to determine the validity of cited cases, and identify other cases examining similar issues. By entering the citation in the V.Cite form on the Search Query page, users can determine the validity of the cited case, as well as review opinions examining certain legal issues.
How its Databases are Organized
VersusLaw contains the following libraries: U.S. Supreme Court, Federal Circuit Courts, Federal District Courts, Other Federal Courts, U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations, State Appellate Courts, Other court Content, Native American Tribal Courts, and Foreign Courts. The library selections appear on the left side of the screen after the researcher signs in. Once a user selects a library, the user can search within the library, as well as restrict search dates.
Among the vendors, VersusLaw offers the most straightforward pricing options.. The Standard Plan is $13.95/month, the Premium Plan is $24.95/month, and the Professional Plan is $39,95/month. Its pricing information is found here Researchers can subscribe by the month or year. Shorter, 24-hour access is also available, but only to VersusLaw’s cases (Standard Plan). A subscription provides unlimited searching and printing.
VersusLaw’s site is best viewed using MS Internet Explorer 6.0 or Netscape 7.0. For overseas customers, email help is available. Telephone help is available 9 hours each day, but is not toll-free for overseas customers. Customer Service agents are available to assist users through the Live Chat function as well as through email.
HeinOnline is owned by William S. Hein & Co., Inc. (“Hein”). Hein’s primary market for HeinOnline is U.S. law school libraries and large law firms. HeinOnline has subscribers in over 150 countries.
What HeinOnline Offers
HeinOnline, a product of William S. Hein & Co., Inc., includes over 70 million pages of legal history available in an online, fully searchable, image-based format. It provides comprehensive coverage from inception of more than 1,600 law and law-related periodicals. HeinOnline provides PDF images of documents as they appear in print, ensuring authenticity of the original copy.
HeinOnline offers a variety of materials. For the most part, it does not have core legal research resources (statutes and cases) like those offered by the other vendors in this guide. HeinOnline’s main components are U.S. Supreme Court opinions from the beginning of the Court; a large collection of U.S. law journals, with coverage back to the earliest volume; a “Treaties and Agreements” library including the Treaties and International Acts Series, and U.S. Treaties and Other International Acts; and the Federal Register. Further descriptions of its collection are available here.
HeinOnline has been successful in part because it provides high-quality image-based PDF replicas of original documents. Also, most of its Federal Register and law journals collection is not available electronically from other vendors. Although HeinOnline is popular in academic law libraries, researchers use it primarily to retrieve known documents. Its full-text search capabilities are much less powerful than those of Westlaw, Lexis, or other commercial database providers. Users can search by phrase, and can use the Boolean “and” connector (by selecting the “all words” option). HeinOnline offers a very limited Boolean “or” connector option (by selecting “any words”), which cannot be combined with other terms. But users cannot create proximity searches, grammatical connector searches, or natural language searches. They can, however, restrict searches by date.
The Librarian’s Corner of HeinOnline offers various materials for libraries to market the products: logos, brand identity guidelines, posters, graphic banners for webpages, the law journal library citation widget, new library press release announcements, as well as a description of HeinOnline and its libraries. Moreover, the American Association of Law Libraries (“AALL”) makes its entire archive available to its members through HeinOnline.
How its Databases are Organized
HeinOnline is divided into various “Collections” (sometimes referred to as “Libraries”). Users access collections within their respective institution’s subscription. These include, amongst others: Law Journal Library; Intellectual Property Library; HeinOnline PoliSci; Foreign and International Law Resources Database (FILRD); English Reports 1220-1865 (full reprint); Digital Session Laws; New York Court of Appeals Records and Briefs; European Center for Minority Issues (ECMI); International Law Association Reports (ILA); U.S. Code of Federal Regulations; Federal Register; Legal Classics Library; Philip C. Jessup Library; World Trials Collection; Treaties and Agreements Library; U.S. Supreme Court Library; U.S. Federal Legislative History Library; U.S. Attorney General Opinions Library; U.S. Statutes at Large Library; and U.S. Presidential Library. The scope notes in the index provide useful summaries of the content of each library. In each scope note, a list of titles can be downloaded in CSV and KBART formats.
Hein’s pricing model is to sell unlimited access to a “Collection” or package of Collections (“library modules”). Hein offers differing subscription prices based on the size and nature of the subscribing institution and whether the institution subscribes to the entire collection or to one or more of its library modules. License agreements also vary depending on the type of institution. Hein offers a core subscription package and a-la-carte subscription options. Subscriptions are annual. Trial access to a sample of the HeinOnline collection is available at Hein’s discretion; see here.
HeinOnline recommends that users have a dedicated internet connection. For PDF printing, HeinOnline recommends Adobe Acrobat Reader, version 6.0 or later. More system requirements and recommendations are listed here. HeinOnline provides technical support by email. A toll-free technical assistance number is available for U.S. customers.
Note: requires software download
· Trial period subscription is fully refundable:
Bloomberg BNA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bloomberg. It is a leading source of legal, regulatory, and business information. Bloomberg BNA comprises a network of more than 2,500 reporters, correspondents, and leading practitioners in order to deliver expert analysis, news, practice tools, and guidance within a wide range of practice areas. Its market includes law firms, law schools, businesses, and governments.
What BNA Offers
BNA offers standalone online research databases in several subject areas. The subject areas include antitrust, banking, bankruptcy, corporate, criminal law, employee benefits, employment and labor, environment and safety, ethics, family law, healthcare, homeland security, intellectual property, international, litigation, product liability, securities and corporate responsibility, tax, and trade and commerce. BNA’s products usually combine primary law materials (laws, cases, regulations) with editorial analysis.
How its Databases are Organized
BNA’s databases are arranged alphabetically by subject matter. Internally, each product is organized differently. The daily, weekly, and monthly reports are organized like newsletters, allowing search by keyword, or browsing topically through the index. The most comprehensive way to search is by clicking on “Search My BNA” on the left side of the homepage. There, you can search across databases by using a variety of search operators, limit the date range, and choose which publications to search.
Most BNA databases are based on its loose-leaf publications. The arrangement of its databases depends on the type of publication. Generally, databases combine a subject arrangement with frequently released updates. For smaller products, such as the Criminal Law Reporter, the default search is across the entire contents of the database. For larger, more complex products, such as the Labor and Employment Law Library, the researcher selects from a variety of database divisions before searching. Using BNA’s larger products usually requires training.
BNA does not make pricing information readily available; it is best to contact the company. Subscription options vary, but are flat rate. Customers can buy a single-user password, a single password for an entire organization, or access via IP address recognition. Subscriptions can be made on a one-year or two-year basis. Free trials are available. Customer service can be accessed through the telephone or online support forms.
The Bloomberg BNA Web Reference Libraries are compatible on Windows and Mac operating systems. It is recommended to use the Mac version of the Mozilla Firefox or Netscape Navigator software as the Internet browser. However, the Interactive Forms software included with a few if the BNA Web reference libraries is only compatible with Windows operating systems. Additionally, Bloomberg BNA Technical Support provides assistance to electronic subscribers. Technical Specialists are available to assist customers in the installation, configuration, and use of BNA’s electronic publications on the web, on CD, and delivered by e-mail.
CCH is owned by Wolters Kluwer. Its primary focus is tax research, though it has databases in antitrust, banking, construction law, corporate governance, energy, intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, products liability, securities, and transportation law, and in other subject areas. Its customers include large tax and accounting firms, large law firms, smaller law firms with tax practices, and law schools.
What CCH Offers
CCH offers content in: tax news, journals, and newsletters; federal tax; state tax; international tax; accounting and audit; advertising law; antitrust and trade regulation; banking (federal); banking (state); banking compliance library; commercial; commodities and derivatives; consumer financial services; corporate governance; energy and natural resources; European Union financial services; exchanges and SROs; financial and estate planning; financing and distribution; government contracts; insurance coverage litigation; intellectual property; international securities and business; investment management; litigation; mergers and acquisitions; privacy law; products liability and safety; secured transactions; securities (federal); securities (litigation); securities (state); tax treatises; transportation law; U.K. financial services; U.S. financial services; and practice tools.
On the IntelliConnect homepage, users can search, view and browse content. By default, users search all content in the subscription or in particular practice areas. Each result can be viewed in a list or categorized by document type. Filters allow users to sort their results in order to find documents of interest. The filters include document type, practice tools, library, court, state tax type, and jurisdiction. Multiple filters can be used together to refine search results.
Users can link to related documents, save and email documents, view documents in a split-screen with their search results, or run multiple searches simultaneously. Search results can be viewed as the top three results listed in each category. Additionally, the easy-to-use browse tree enables users to easily find documents. Moreover, Tracker News is an automatic daily search for important news articles of interests. These articles can be emailed to the user. Finally, research folders allow users to save and store documents for future use.
How its Databases are Organized
The databases are listed alphabetically. CCH uses a combination of tabs and lists with checkboxes to organize its database offerings. Organization depends on which databases are in the subscription. The scope notes provide detailed information about each publication in a database.
All internet products are offered on an annual subscription basis only. Pricing varies depending upon the number of passwords purchased and the number of users that are allowed to access the service at the same time.
CCH specifies Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP. It recommends a 56 Kb or higher speed internet connection, and Internet Explorer version 5.5 or later, or Netscape version 6.2 or later.
RIA is owned by the Thomson Reuters Corporation. RIA Checkpoint is a web-based tax research service that includes a wide range of materials on federal and state tax law. Its customers include large tax and accounting firms, large law firms, smaller law firms with tax practices, and law schools.
What RIA Offers
RIA’s primary product is RIA Checkpoint. Some of the U.S. federal materials offered by RIA Checkpoint include: Internal Revenue Code and regulations; Internal Revenue Bulletin; IRS rulings and releases; Tax Court and other tax decisions; pending tax legislation; IRS forms and publications; Federal Tax Coordinator; U.S. Tax Reporter; RIA Federal Tax Handbook; Journal of Corporate Taxation; Taxation for Accountants; Journal of Taxation; daily tax news. Some of the state materials offered include: laws and regulations; forms and instructions; tax rates; court decisions; multistate law comparisons; and Journal of Multistate Taxation and Incentives. RIA Checkpoint also provides calculators in the areas of: auto; business; credit card; investment; loans; mortgages; personal; retirement; savings; and tax.
RIA Checkpoint combines primary and secondary sources so that a researcher can examine a primary source, such as a section of the U.S. tax code, and jump quickly to commentary on the source. Its service includes access to most of the administrative documents needed by tax researchers. This administrative material is available on LexisNexis and Westlaw, but not on Loislaw or VersusLaw.
How its Databases are Organized
RIA Checkpoint’s databases are broken into several divisions. The federal tax product, for example, is divided into Editorial Materials, News/Current Awareness, Primary Source Materials, Legislation (Editorial Analysis and Source Material), and archival material. The researcher can, however, search all sources at once. Generally, researchers will need training on how to choose the best database for efficient searching.
Potential customers should contact a sales representative for pricing information. Contact information is available here. Subscription prices vary depending on the individual databases chosen. Free trials are available here.
RIA Checkpoint has the following system requirements: A high-speed internet connection, Microsoft Internet Explorer® (latest version) or Mozilla® Firefox (latest version), Adobe Acrobat® Reader (latest version). RIA Checkpoint provides telephone support for US customers, but does not offer toll-free support for overseas customers. Email support is available.
[] “Public Records” include a wide variety of documents filed by companies or individuals with the state, or filed by the state regarding companies or individuals. Examples include records of incorporation, records of property ownership, and records of professional licensing.
[] A “CLE” is a Continuing Legal Education publication. These publications are prepared as part of educational programs for attorneys. Most states require attorneys to attend a certain number of hours of Continuing Legal Education programs.