I’ve mentioned in the past that Google Scholar is a great way to begin basic legal research when you aren’t a lawyer or don’t have access to a professional legal database. Recently, Google has made some changes to their Scholar, improving legal research.
Google Scholar contains full text published opinions from the following courts and time periods:
- U.S. Supreme Court: 1791 to present
- Federal District, Appellate, Tax, and Bankruptcy Courts: 1923 to present
- State Appellate and Supreme Courts: 1950 to present
Google Scholar went through a facelift, also adding a number of features that link together cases and make it easier to use:
- While scrolling through a case, the case citation floats at the top of the screen
- The footnotes link to their accompanying text
- Citations to other cases within Google Scholar are now live links to those cases
- Level of discussion feature allows reader to see the extent to which a citing case discusses the original case. The levels are three bars for most significant discussion, two bars for significant discussion, and one bar for the least significant discussion
- Results lists can now also be sorted by date, which could allow a thorough researcher to check the currentness of a particular case or rule of law.
To keep track of any additional updates, follow the Google Scholar Blog for the latest additions and alterations to the site.