3 Money-Saving Legal Research Tips

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Conducting legal research is a daily activity in most law offices–and it can be an expensive one, as well. For many of us, the cost of legal research wasn’t something we gave much thought to in law school since free law student LexisNexis and Westlaw accounts were handed out like candy. But upon graduation, the costly reality of legal research became all too familiar for those lawyers seeking to hang a shingle and start their own practice.

Fortunately, in the Internet age and with the rise of mobile apps, lawyers now have an increasing number of options when it comes to affordable legal research tools. So without further ado, here are 3 tips to help you save money on legal research costs.

1. Use Google Scholar. If you haven’t looked into using Google Scholar in your law practice, now’s the time to start. It’s an online legal research platform that’s easy to use and best of all–it’s free! When Google Scholar was first released in 2012, it was somewhat rudimentary. But over the years, its features have been expanded and one of the key gaps–the ability to cite check cases–has been greatly improved.

Using Google Scholar you can 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. Google Scholar also includes citations for cases cited by indexed opinions or journal articles, and using those citations you can locate influential cases (usually older or international) which are not yet online or publicly available.

Google Scholar’s interface is very user-friendly and it’s simple to use. To get you started, take a look at our recently updated 2-part blog series on using Google Scholar. In no time flat, you’ll learn everything you need to know to start using Google Scholar in your practice and will save money in the process.

2. Download the Fastcase app. Fastcase is a company that offers lawyers an affordable online legal research alternative to LexisNexis and Westlaw. But even if you don’t subscribe to Fastcase, make sure to download their mobile app, since it provides free access to Fastcase on your mobile phone, allowing you to conduct legal research on the go.

The Fastcase app gives you full access to their database so you can easily look up case cites in court or even run case law searches. However, the app isn’t intended to be a full fledged research solution, so you’re not able to print or email cases via the app. You can download the iPhone app here, the iPad app here, and the Android app here.

3. Don’t overlook bar association partnerships. Most local and state bar associations have established partnerships with legal research companies such as Fastcase, Loislaw, or Casemaker, which provide members with access to these tools at a reduced price or for free. Make sure to look into the benefits offered by the bar associations available to you. Sometimes the cost of joining the bar association pays for itself due to the savings on legal research tools alone!

Those are just a few ideas to help you save money on legal research, while still providing your clients with the best legal representation possible. Any other cost-cutting ideas for legal research? Let us know in the comments!

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