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Free and Low Cost Legal Research: Free Internet Resources

Fastcase, Casemaker, Pacer, Casenet, Free Internet Resources. Federal and Missouri materials.

Public Laws, Regulations, Code, Constitutions...What are these things?

There are many different kinds of legal documents. To optimize your search, first determine the legal document(s) that may contain the information you are looking for.

Need even more research help? Visit the Library of Congress Research Guide or contact the MU Law Library at 573-884-6362 where a Law Librarian will be happy to assist you.

Types of Legal Documents

  • Pending Legislation (also called a Bill, Resolution, etc): Legislation in the process of becoming law. Search pending legislation here, or review the legislative process. 

  • Regulation: A federal or state rule generated by an agency with law-like force , e.g. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Search Federal Regulations. Search Missouri Regulations.

  • Case Law: Law generated from judicial opinions on litigated issues. Search cases online through various databases.

  • Primary legal resources: These documents comprise the law; includes constitutions, statutes, regulations, and case law.

  • Secondary legal resources: These documents discuss scholarly opinions about the law and explain it but do not comprise the law; includes journal articles, legal encyclopedieas, etc.  

  • Forms: State or Federal legal forms provided for common legal actions, such as a Petition for an Order of Protection or an Affidavit for Terminating Child Custody Payments.

 

  Print Resources Available at the Law Library

In addition to searching for online resources, you can also access free legal resources at the MU Law Library. Here is a list of some of the excellent print resources available and the type of information they contain.

Case Reporters (Primary Source)

Reporters are printed publications that contain court opinions, categorized by state or federal jurisdiction, with volumes located on the First Floor of the Law Library (Banks 3 and 4).

State appellate court opinions are found in seven regional reporters, with each reporter containing opinions for a certain geographic arrangement of states:

    Federal court opinions can be found in the Federal Reporter (covering Court of Appeal opinions) and Federal Supplement (covering District Court opinions)

      Opinions from the Supreme Court of the United States can be found in:

      • Supreme Court Reporter (abbreviated S.Ct)
      • United States Supreme Court Reports/Lawyer’s Edition (abbreviated U.S.L.Ed.)
      • United States Reports (abbreviated U.S.)

       

      Statutes (Primary Source)

      State Statutes: Some states have a set of current statutes available in print form in the Law Library while other have been discontinued.  Some are annotated (include case citations and references to other materials, e.g., Vernon’s Annotated Missouri Statutes) and others not (e.g. Missouri Revised Statutes). Statutes are organized alphabetically by state, and are located in Bank 3 on the First Floor of the Law Library.

      Federal Statutes: Federal statutory law is found in the United States Code (U.S.C.). The Law Library carries both annotated and non-annotated versions. The sets are located in Bank 5 on the First Floor of the Law Library.

       

      Periodicals (Secondary Source)

      Periodicals are considered “secondary sources” (meaning they are not the “law”), used for legal research. They are comprised of law and law-related materials written by law faculty (articles) and law students (notes and comments).  Law Reviews and Journals may be academic (when published by law schools) or professional (when published by Bar Associations or other organizations.

      Periodicals are helpful for understanding a particular topic of the law and can also provide persuasive arguments regarding legal interpretations.  They are located on the Second Floor of the Law Library, and are organized alphabetically by title.  They do not have call numbers.

       

      Treatises (Secondary Source)

      Treatises (a fancy word for “extensively researched books that typically discuss one topic of law”) are also considered secondary sources. Many of these, as well as other study aids, are located in the Reserve Room and the Third Floor of the Law Library.

      You can find treatises by subject, title or author using the Law Library's catalog.  You can also find a guide on recommended treatises for areas of law at: (Insert Cindy S.'s treatise url here).

       

      American Law Reports (Secondary Source)

      Last but not least, ALRs provide summaries for specific legal issues, and include references to case law, statutes, periodical articles, and other helpful resources. They are located on the First Floor of the Law Library in the set of low shelves nearest the computer lab.