Are law library resources online and free?

Most law library resources are only available for a fee or in print.

Table of Contents

Overview

There is a popular misconception that you can find everything on the web for free. The truth is that most of the resources in our law libraries are only available in print or through expensive licensed databases. Here are some examples.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts resources that aren’t free online include:

  • An up-to-date copy of the Massachusetts General Laws (Official Ed.). The General Court has an online version of the Massachusetts General Laws available on its website, but it isn’t up-to-date, and the website states that it’s not the official edition.
  • Older editions of the Massachusetts General Laws (Official Ed.)
  • An annotated version of the Massachusetts General Laws
  • Copies of Massachusetts House and Senate bills prior to 2009
  • The official Code of Massachusetts Regulations. Massachusetts is the only state in the United States that charges for online access to its own state administrative code. Though we compile regulations on this site, and a number of Massachusetts state agencies post their regulations on their agency’s website, there is no guarantee that they are official or up to date.
  • The records and briefs of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Appeals Court
  • Selected full and indexed decisions of the Massachusetts Superior, Housing, District, and Land Courts.
  • Comprehensive legal analysis of Massachusetts laws, regulations and cases, which is provided in standard legal treatises (e.g., Massachusetts Practice Series, Massachusetts Legal Practice Library, Mass. Continuing Legal Education materials) published by West, Lexis, MCLE and other legal publishers.
  • Superseded editions of the above comprehensive legal analysis. These older editions are often specifically cited in court and agency decisions.
  • Full and indexed decisions of Massachusetts state agencies (e.g., MCAD, Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, Board of Registration in Medicine, Division of Insurance, Department of Labor Relations, etc.).
  • The full version of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, the only Massachusetts legal newspaper.
  • Continuing Legal Education programs.

Federal

Federal resources that aren’t free online include:

  • An annotated edition of the United States Code
  • The Code of Federal Regulations from before 1996
  • The Federal Register from before 1994
  • Older federal agencies decisions (e.g., IRS, SEC, FAA, Board of Immigration Appeals, etc.)
  • Pleadings and other docketed information from federal courts

General legal information

 

General legal information that isn’t free online includes:

  • Annotated codes from other states
  • Most law reviews and law journals (especially back issues)
  • Standard citation services (Shepard’s Citations and Keycite), so there’s no way to tell whether a case has been overturned, reversed or overruled.
  • Authoritative legal dictionaries, such as Black’s Law Dictionary.
  • The Restatement of the Law
  • Nationally cited treatises like Couch on Insurance, Corbin on Contracts, Collier on Bankruptcy and Powell on Real Property.
  • Legal encyclopedias, such as American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum.
  • American Law Reports (ALR) (state and federal)
  • An index/digest to all published state and federal opinions
  • Litigation guides (such as AmJur Trials, AmJur Proof of Facts, and Causes of Action)
  • Publications that include examples of legal forms and pleading forms, such as AmJur Legal Forms, Mass. Litigation Forms & Analysis, and AmJur Pleading & Practice Forms.

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Last updated: August 2, 2019
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