A Plug for Google Scholar

After court today, I visited the law library in the courthouse. Given that I do most of my research online, I don’t spend much time in the law library. However, today, I wanted to take a look at a treatise. I then decided that the library would be a good place for me to work on the response brief I was drafting.

I had my laptop with me, so I went to work.

As I was writing, I discovered that I needed a case to support a particular position. Because the library has wi-fi, I was able to log on to my WestlawNext Account and search for what I needed. During the search, I came across a case from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. I wanted to see if the case was useful, but I knew that it was outside of my plan.

Not wanting to give up, I decided to see if Google Scholar had the case. I put the inf0rmation into Google and in a few seconds I was reading the case (and realizing that it was of no use to me). The thing I love about the process was that pulling the case up was no more difficult than typing its name into my Google Search bar.

So, if you are looking for a case that it outside your subscription plan, give Google Scholar a try.

Now, for the embarrassing part of the story. It was only after I was done and leaving the library that I realized I could have just pulled the reporter from shelf. I was in a law library for heaven’s sake. However, the though of pulling the physical book never even crossed my mind.

Case Law on Google

The big news that broke last week was that Google Scholar now allows you to search state and federal court opinions. The official announcement is here. I think this is awesome. In general, I believe that making information more available is a good thing. Making our laws freely available and easily searchable is a great thing, for both attorneys and nonattorneys.

Now, I don’t think that Google Scholar is going to replace West or Lexis anytime soon. Although, like Carolyn Elefant, I have concerns for other providers of legal research. Carolyn explains:

As I see it, Google’s free legal research services won’t put a dent in LEXIS or Westlaw, at least not for a long, long time,  Instead, they pose a threat to what I’ve collectively termed the “second city” providers like Versuslaw, Casemaker, FastCase or Loislaw.  Right now, most lawyers are able to access those services for free or cheap through deals with the bars – but will bars continue to support those subscriptions when there’s a robust free option available?  My heart goes out to these companies because they served as an oasis for solos when no other options, save the law library and manual research, existed.  Yet I don’t see all of them able to survive the Google onslaught.

Of these, the greatest concern is likely for those companies whose market is primarily individual attorneys and individual law firms, rather than those companies that provide services to attorneys as a bar association member benefit. Nevertheless, I expect that Google Scholar will eventually affect the business models of these companies. Also, I would not be surprised if Google continues to improve their service and eventually draws a not insignificant portion of the West/Lexis customers away. Yes, there are those who use West and Lexis for their specialized databases. However, those who aren’t using the specialized databases may, in the near future, decide that it is not worth the amount being charged by Lexis and West.

For other thoughts on this announcement, you can check out the rest of Carolyn’s post, as well as posts by Crime and Federalism, TechnoEsq, Lex Tek, Ernie the Attorney, Jim Calloway, and Rick Klau.


Check out this analysis of the service from Law on My Phone.