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Finding and Assessing the Best Internet Sites for Lawyers

By the State Bar Committee on Libraries, Legal Research, and Publications

The Internet is becoming a valuable resource for the legal researcher. In addition to offering both primary and secondary legal materials, the Internet hosts sites that post time-sensitive information, such as slip opinions and legislative bill status information, with unprecedented speed.

However, the vast resources of the Internet can pose quite a challenge when you need reliable information. The Internet is many things, but it is not discriminating. This worldwide network imposes no quality controls over its contributors. How, then, can the legal researcher find information that is authoritative, current and comprehensive? To help with this challenging task, the State Bar Committee on Libraries, Legal Research and Publications offers a selection of its favorite Internet sites and comments on their contents and ease of use. In using these sites, the Committee also recommends that you ask the following questions to help you evaluate the quality of the information you select.


    Who is responsible for the site or document? When researching primary law, look for statements that attribute the information to the official body responsible for it. The following statements are taken from sites on the Internet. They tell you where the data came from and help you determine their reliability.

    From the Kentucky Revised Statutes, "The statutes provided at this World Wide Website are an unofficial posting of the Kentucky Revised Statutes as maintained in the official internal statutory database of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission."

    From ICLE & SBM, Michigan Law Online. We are pleased to provide Michigan Supreme Court Opinions and Orders and Michigan Court of Appeals Opinions, purchased from the Michigan Supreme Court, at no charge. ICLE downloads these opinions from the Michigan Supreme Court's Bulletin Board Service and posts them on our website as they become available.


    Is the site updated regularly? Look for information that tells you when the information was last modified or updated. Sites containing statutory codes may use a "current through" statement. The Kentucky Revised Statutes site alerts users with this statement: "The current files include amendments and new enactments through the 1997 First Extraordinary Session of the Kentucky Assembly, which adjourned May 30, 1997."

Depth of Coverage/Comprehensiveness

    What time period is covered? What documents does the site include? If not all documents for a given time are included, what is the basis for selection? Are documents archived or does the site concentrate on providing only current information?

    The Legal Information Institute Hermes home page includes a concise statement on coverage: "The Legal Information Institute offers Supreme Court opinions under the auspices of Project Hermes, the court's electronic-dissemination project. This archive contains (or will soon contain) all opinions of the court issued since May 1990. In addition, our collection of over 580 of the most important historical decisions of the Court is available on CD-ROM and (with reduced functionality) over the Net."

    With these thoughts in mind, your searching should be easier and more productive.

Recommended Law-Related Sites

    Comprehensive Sites: University-Sponsored

    Washburn University School of Law

    Washburn University School of Law links to law-related websites. At the home page the user may submit a query to link specifically to a relevant website. A series of links bring users to international, federal, state and city sites. Full text court opinions and other law-related documents (if available) are accessible from this website.

    Indiana University School of Law

    Indiana University School of Law hosts the Virtual Law Library. Links to other websites are accessible by organization type (for example, state government servers, vendors, law firms) or law-related topic. The websites themselves are maintained by institutions throughout the world.

    University of Michigan's Documents Center

    The University of Michigan's Documents Center presents Government Resources on the Web. A categorized menu offers direct links to government sites by branch of government; specific laws, plus the CFR, Federal Register, Constitution and U.S. Code; foreign government and international organization websites; Michigan governmental sites, plus much, much more.

    Cornell University's Legal Information Institutes

    Cornell University's Legal Information Institute's server offers recent and some historic Supreme Court decisions, plus hypertext versions of the U.S. Code and Constitution, Federal Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure, and recent NY Appeals decisions. For example, U.S. Code sections can be accessed by specific title and section, by title contents pages, or by subject. An "update" button identifies some more recent laws amending or repealing code sections.

    Emory University School of Law

    From Emory University School of Law home page select the Electronic Reference Desk. This offers the user an option to subject search or to link to other categorized information: law by country or subject; law publishers; other law websites; law schools; law and non-law journals; law career, job search and practice information; and directory information (see below).

    Comprehensive: Commercial


    This award-winning website began as a Northern California law librarians' workshop presentation. Maintained and updated daily, this site links to other law websites, provides a growing library of case law and state statutes, allows the user to perform subject searches for law review articles, and many more options.

    Hieros Gamos

    Hieros Gamos calls itself "the comprehensive legal site." It contains a very broad range of website links to state, national and international sites. The table of contents can be presented in five different languages.

    Law News Network

    Sponsored by the National Law Journal, this home page offers full text access to selected legal news headlining articles. Links to documents or websites can be easily accessed from buttons variously labeled marketplace, employment, practice areas, resources, law firms, etc.

    Internet Legal Resource Guide

    Internet Legal Resource Guide categorizes and links to over 3,000 law-related websites worldwide, attempting to be the most comprehensive legal resource guide on the Net. Sites are chosen based on their uniqueness and substantive value. The home page contains a categorized and annotated index to the information accessible from this database.


    Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Locator

    Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Locator offers directory information for over 900,000 attorneys and law firms from around the world. State Bar Association profiles, plus a vendors and consultants section are included. The state of Iowa listings, Martindale-Hubbell attorney ratings, and the Law Digest, which appear in the print version of the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, are not included.

    West's Legal Directory

    Locating law firms and attorneys is easy with West's Legal Directory. Simply fill in one or more categories presented on a form and press a search button. Searches can be performed by name of attorney or firm, by major practice areas, by geographic location, etc.

    Emory Law Library's Electronic Reference Desk

    From Emory Law Library's Electronic Reference Desk (see above) link to law firms and lawyers listed in this database, or select "directories" from this page to access an alpha list of links to over 15 websites containing law firm and lawyer directories.


    The Library of Congress, Thomas Database

    The Library of Congress updates their Thomas database daily, though information about bills and status may lag somewhat depending on legislative activity. GPO documents are indexed and searchable as soon as they are received. Use this site for quick and easy access to what's happening in Congress: floor activities, bill summaries and status, plus text. Public laws are accessible by number, topic, popular or short title. Includes Congressional Record text and index, plus Committee Reports beginning with the 103rd and 104th Congresses. Provides Web links to other branches of the federal government.

    The U.S. House of Representatives Internet Law Library

    The U.S. House of Representatives Internet Law Library offers free public access to basic law documents, including: a searchable, full text U.S. Code; the CFR; state and territorial laws; laws of other countries; treaties; law directories and much more. Many links to other law websites are arranged by subject or jurisdiction.

    U.S. Government Printing Office

    The U.S. Government Printing Office provides free access to official published versions of federal government information and law products. This file includes federal agency files, the Federal Register, the Congressional Record plus other Congressional documents, U.S. Supreme Court decisions from 1937 to the present, and much more. Michigan State University's GPO Access Gateway ( provides user friendly full text access to this massive GPO database.

    Government Information Locator Service

    The Government Information Locator Service (GILS) continues to identify and describe electronic, as well as other, federal agency resources as they become available. GILS follows the GPO's mission to make federal government information available and accessible to the public.


    Michigan State Government

    By and about Michigan State Government and selected issues. Links to all branches of state government, departments and agencies which are up on the Internet.

    Michigan Legislative Information Web Server

    The Michigan Legislative Council and the Michigan House and Senate sponsor the Michigan Legislative Information Web Server. Describing itself as a work in progress, this site offers finding aids to legislative bills, bill text, House and Senate journals, calendars and schedules, as well as links to other pertinent Michigan websites containing legislative documents. Plans are to add nonpartisan and substitute bills, legislative publications and reports.

    Michigan Supreme Court

    The Michigan Supreme Court's informational database describes the courts in the Michigan judicial system, the public programs it supports, and the publications it makes available to the public. Provides the Court's oral argument schedule and lists cases granted leave to appeal. Links to Michigan Supreme Court and Appeals full text decisions.

    Michigan Administrative Code

    This full text recodification of the Michigan Administrative Code is searchable by rule number or through a departmental index. New text is loaded onto the database on the effective date of each new rule, amendment, rescission.

    The Law Library of the Library of Michigan provides the Michigan Legislature's introduced and enrolled bills (full text), plus bill status, and journals and calendars for the current Legislature (1997-1998). This home page links to even more Michigan law-related sites. Other handy information includes: descriptions of the Law Library's collection, services, and how-to-do-it guides to legal research; a directory of Michigan law libraries open to the public; and a sampling of frequently asked questions.

    Michigan Electronic Library

    Michigan Electronic Library (MEL) is a virtual library on the Web designed and maintained by librarians from across the state who are experts in their fields. Though the primary focus is local, state and federal government, this covers all types of information about Michigan. From this main index select "Government, Politics & Law," to access law-related information and websites.

    Institute of Continuing Legal Education

    ICLE's website provides the full text of Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals opinions, posted within 24 hours of their release by the courts and downloadable in word processing format. The site also provides Michigan Court Rule revisions and Michigan law updates. Web links are provided to other law-related sites, people finders, government resources and forms, and fact-finding sites to news, records and maps. A portion of the site, called the Online Partnership, a fee-based area available to subscribers only, includes over 750 Michigan-specific drafted legal forms.

    The State Bar of Michigan

    The contents page links to the full text of Michigan court opinions, Ethics Opinions, Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct and Rules of Professional Conduct, and other legal resources (some include forms). Access the Bar's Sections' home pages, directories of local and special bar associations, and a list of Bar publications. Link to Michigan and other law school home pages from this website. Search a 15-year, cumulative index of Michigan Bar Journal articles by author, title or topic.


    Northwestern University and GODORT's International Documents Task Force

    Northwestern University and GODORT's International Documents Task Force maintain this file of links to other countries' and international organizations' Web pages. The user can directly link to the country or to one of several document or departmental choices under each.



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