Thursday, November 26, 2009

Case Law Research on Google Scholar

Google announced this month that users will be able “to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts" using Google Scholar. According to Google, "Google Scholar allows you to search and read opinions for 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." Users interested in doing case law research will probably find the advanced search screen easier to use than the basic search. This is an exciting development for those interested in free public access of legal information; however, legal professionals should probably keep their LexisNexis and Westlaw accounts for the time being.

Google has not provided information about how it collects this case law, so we do not really know how comprehensive its collection is. We also do not know how frequently the case law information is updated. These shortcomings do substantially limit its use for legal professionals. That being said, it is a massive undertaking to collect and update U.S. case law, so it is probably not reasonable to expect any free service to be comparable to expensive professional services like LexisNexis and Westlaw. Google Scholar’s case law search is hopefully a sign of great things to come.