Monday, August 16th, 2010...6:20 pm

Welcome, and a little more about this project

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Hello there law student or law librarian,

Welcome to the Law Student’s Guide to Free Legal Research on the Internet’s Blog (LSGTFLROTIB for short…or maybe not). My name is Austin Groothuis. Assuming you’re a law student, I was in your shoes as recently as three years ago. Now I work with Legal Information Institute and CALI; both are not-for-profit organizations and “sponsors” of this guide.

Who are we?

We, LII and CALI along with Justia, decided to create this guide for a couple of reasons. One reason is, of course, we’d love to see law students flock en masse to our free resources because it makes us feel important and justifies our existences. So to maintain some semblance of objectivity, we’ve enlisted one of the most web-savvy law librarians on the planet, Sarah Glassmeyer of the University of Valparaiso School of Law, to author almost everything of substance in this guide. This website and its resources, literally, wouldn’t exist without her, so we can’t thank her enough.

But the real reason we’re making this guide is that we think there’s a lack of a cohesive resource – and little ongoing discussion – that can a) inform law students about free online legal research options and b) help legal research instructors teach law students how to use those resources. Sarah makes a pretty convincing case for why students should be learning about free resources. But let’s just use me as an example.

Insert overused crack dealer/addict metaphor here.

Like your typical law student, I was bombarded with marketing from the two big legal research providers in law school. Their reps, literally, taught some components of my legal research classes. They gave me free stuff, I racked up “points” for using their searches; you know how it is. I became so comfortable with one paid provider that it was my crutch for legal research all through law school.

Acknowledgment of cost, in practice, and lessons on cost-effective research techniques were an afterthought second semester (I think), and regardless, they had no bearing on what was easiest for my next legal writing assignment. And I was never instructed on free resources. So I went through law school using basically one research provider, and I never had to confront the realities of practice during law school.

So, what?

That reality is, of course, that law students go on to work for firms of all sizes. They go on to work in the government or legal aid. They go solo. Or, like me, they don’t even really practice law, but still do legal research occasionally. In many of these work environments, unlimited use of a paid legal research provider is not practical. And in some cases, like mine, paying to do legal research, at all, is not an option: free is all I got.

free hugsLook, it’s not our intent to bash the big guys or try to put them out of business. We know their legal research tools are way more expansive and advanced than most free stuff. It’s important that these paid providers exist. We just think that free legal research resources also have a place in a legal professional’s repertoire; and that we should be instructing our students as such if we want law school to be more practical. So, we, some of the providers of these resources, came to the scary conclusion that we should also be doing a little bit of “marketing” and that – while we can’t come to your class and teach about free legal research options – we can give research instructors tools so that they can teach students about free resources. Thus, this website and these resources.

And the point of a blog?

As far as what the blog part of the site will do, maybe we can keep it filled with relevant posts concerning free legal research resources. There’s actually a lot happening in the free legal information world with the Law.Gov movement. Or maybe we’ll have guest posts by students and professors detailing how they use free resources. But we’ll see how it goes.

This is just one blog post. Wrap it up, Austin.

So, once again, welcome to your guide to free legal research. We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to email me, Austin Groothuis, if you have any questions, suggestions, or complaints.



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