Online databases can be invaluable, time-saving tools to any legal researcher as they provide organized access to a wide array of legal resources as well as sophisticated search tools. Many online databases, including fee-based databases, are available at the Law Library, free of charge, to library patrons. Each Tuesday of this month, this blog will highlight one of the many databases available at the Law Library.
Westlaw (www.westlaw.com) and Lexis (www.lexis.com) are two of the biggest players in the world of legal publishing and online legal research. These two legal services providers offer searchable databases with access to a wide array of primary resources, such as federal and state statutes, federal and state regulations and case law, as well as secondary resources, such as encyclopedias, treatises, journal articles and form books.*
There is a myriad of tools, resources and services available through both Westlaw and Lexis. One of the most popular services provided through Westlaw and Lexis is the online case citator service provided by each database (KeyCite for Westlaw and Shepard’s Case Citations for Lexis). These case citators identify all published cases and other sources that cite (e.g., refer to) the case being reviewed by the legal researcher and provide additional information, such as the reason why the later case cited the case at hand. This is important information to have as later cases can affect the value of the case at hand or later cases may better address the matter being researched. In addition, both databases provide document delivery services (e.g., email, PDF downloads, RTF downloads) so that users can access certain resources after the online session has concluded.
Access to these two databases can be very expensive, but the Law Library maintains subscriptions to both databases so that library patrons can access the databases free of charge. Law Library patrons can directly access these databases in the Law Library’s computer room. For those of you who are new to Westlaw and Lexis, the Law Library is available to assist you in learning how to use both databases and identifying the resources available through the databases. For those of you who have used Westlaw and Lexis in the past, the Law Library can assist you with searching more effectively. Please drop by the Law Library’s service desk, and we will help you get started.
*For more information about understanding legal research, including the difference between primary and secondary legal resources, check out these research guides.