Online legal research database giants Westlaw/ThomsonReuters and LexisNexis have dominated the legal research landscape for many years, surpassing the days of mailed compact and floppy discs. Joined now by Bloomberg Law, these databases now digitally host nearly all the materials previously used in print. While many law libraries still maintain modest collections of print, most academic and large firm libraries rely on these database giants to meet the needs of the legal communities they serve. These all-encompassing databases are not necessary or practical for all legal practices or all cases.
The lower-cost alternatives listed here are generally considered current, reliable, accurate, unbiased, and suitable for smaller practices. Local attorneys who need occasional access to the giant databases, should check with Cleaves Law Library or look at trial or short-term subscriptions. LexisNexis still sells transactional products (priced by item). Westlaw has special pricing for small and solo firms.
For more options, check out the ABA September 26, 2017 FYI: Online Legal Research Options for Solo/Small Firms. This blog post from May 2019 comparing products and prices is also worth a look.
Some platforms require Bar Membership that is only open to admitted lawyers.
is a source of current primary law covering the U.S. and all 50 states, organized into digests topics and supported by a citation checker. Rules, Attorney General and Ethics opinions, and some law journals are included. Law students may access Casemaker through two portals. In March 2019, Casemaker added artificial intelligence capabilities with the incorporation of Vincent, a VLex product. VLex is the only legal research product that can simultaneously analyze documents in two languages and deliver results across multiple jurisdictions
CasemakerX is free to law students and law school faculty/staff.
Casemaker is available at no additional charge to members of the Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont bar associations, and most other New England states. Additional consortia members here. Law students may join the Maine State Bar Association for free and apparently can access Casemaker through either CasemakerX or MSBA portals.
partners with state and regional bar associations (list here) to provide fast, comprehensive primary and secondary law materials to members without additional fees. Artificial intelligence drives the research platform which includes citation analysis and data visualization. Fastcase partners with Carolina Academic Press for treatises.
The Fastcase Mobile App offers free access to its legal database and won the prestigious American Association of Law Libraries New Product Award. Its proprietary material is available through the law school's subscription and is integrated with HeinOnline. The Fastcase Mobile App is free to all. For lawyers, join a subscribing bar association, such as the Massachusetts Bar Association (free to law students). A free trial lasts only 24 hours so use it wisely.
Law Journal Library includes more than 1,800 law and law-related periodicals and federal and state case law. Maine Law's Garbrecht Law Library provides free alumni access to the law journal database used by law students. HeinOnline also has a unique partnership with Fastcase ($) to integrate primary and secondary law. Follow the link for information and tutorials.
is a legal research engine powered by its proprietary algorithm. Free access is available to law schools through this link. The fee-based "CARA A.I. contextual search" interface includes case summaries, a full citator, and black letter law. Practicing attorneys should be aware that Casetext is provided free to the judiciary.