Free Legal Research Resources for Lawyers and Law Students
Great legal analysis starts with great legal research. The law changes quickly: to avoid making a mistake in your advice, don’t give off-the-cuff advice – start with legal research.
This article highlights five free sources you can use, and how to make the most of them to help you help solve your client’s legal issues.
1. Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII)
CanLII provides free public access to over 2.8 million cases and 74,000 statutes. But do you know all the amazingly powerful tools it has developed recently?
CanLII has several features to assist with your legal research. Some notable features include a blue sidebar, or “heatmap,” which shows you where the most cited parts are in your case of interest – the darker the shade, the more a passage has been cited. Another feature is the jalapeño-based system of ‘discussion intensity’ for citation/note-up searches — the more jalapeños a case has, the more discussion of the noted-up case.
CanLII also allows you to keep track of your legal research online through its supplementary tool, Lexbox. After creating a free Lexbox account, you can create and organize folders, save cases, and set up alerts. The alert feature makes it easy to keep track of changes to cases and statutes of interest to you.
You can now access over 19,000 pieces of legal commentary through CanLII’s collection. This includes free law journals, articles, newsletters, research papers, and legal textbooks. Some notable mentions include The Canadian Legal Research and Writing Guide, An Introduction to Civil Procedure: Readings and Tort Law: Cases and Commentaries.
2. Great Library and Local Law Libraries
The Great Library
The Great Library serves the Law Society of Ontario’s lawyer and paralegal licensees, articling and LPP students, summer students, law clerks, law librarians, and others who are working for licensees.
You can use InfoLocate to search for books, journals, other print materials, e-books, e-journals, LSO CPD articles and web resources.
You can also receive research support by asking a law librarian. The Great Library staff can assist you with retrieving decisions, articles, commentary, noting up cases and statutes, and guiding you to the relevant websites, databases or texts for your research.
If you have research questions, you can email the Great Library at [email protected]
Local law libraries
Did you know that there are 48 courthouse libraries across Ontario? To access the services of a regional, area or local library visit Legal Information and Resource Network.
3. LSO Resources
The Law Society of Ontario offers guidance to Ontario lawyers and paralegals through its Practice Management Topics, Practice Management Helpline and Practice Area Resources.
The Law Society has developed resources to assist lawyers with understanding their obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Law Society’s By-Laws, as well as with ensuring proper practice management. Some topics that are covered include opening, operating or closing a practice, the lawyer-client relationship and managing money.
The Practice Management Helpline is a confidential telephone service for Ontario lawyers and paralegals. If you have questions about your obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct or the Paralegal Rules of Conduct, you can call the Helpline.
The Law Society also has resources covering Civil Litigation and Real Estate Law topics such as a Frequently Asked Questions on CaseLines and Residential Real Estate Transactions Practice Guidelines.
Following legal blogs is a great way to stay up to date on discourse and recent changes in your area of practice. Lawblogs.ca is a one stop shop that reshares posts from Canadian blogging lawyers, law librarians, marketers, IT professionals and paralegals. The site can be browsed by different filter categories such as practice area, province, and industry. You can find a range of blogs from this one site, from the more extensive Slaw.ca to the more niche, such as Dan Zacks’ limitations.ca.
5. Steps to Justice / CLEO
In partnership with Community Legal Education Ontario, Steps to Justice offers plain language resources on common legal problems. This is a valuable resource for both legal professionals and clients. The simplified language makes it easy to understand complex legal problems. As a legal professional, if you’re looking for a refresher on a certain legal topic or require assistance explaining a legal matter to your client, be sure to check out Steps to Justice.
6. Bonus – practicePRO and AvoidAClaim.com
Here’s a bonus for having read this far! The practicePRO program provides risk management, claims prevention and law practice management information to Ontario lawyers. On practicepro.ca find free articles, resources and CPD programs on a number of topics including practice management. You can subscribe to avoidaclaim.com to receive updates on practice management, fraud and a range of other topics.
This article is by Mithea Murugesu, articling student at LAWPRO.