U.S. Free Law Options Narrow

LexisNexis has dropped the free case law resource – formerly known as LexisOne – and is now funnelling users to paid options only. When I saw the announcement on Twitter, it was a disappointment. As far as U.S. case law goes, LexisOne was unique in enabling some of the segments – search by counsel, by judge’s name – that you could get within the paid database.

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This was not that surprising, since they had recently shifted the free case law from a relatively easy to reach location on Lexisone.com to a new community site.  Since that lasted for only 2 months, this elimination of access was probably planned.  It may also mean that LexisOne as a case law service wasn’t that popular, although it may also just be the next shift away from any flexibility in access beyond a subscription.

It seems a relatively feeble decision.  Free U.S. case law is abundantly available.  State and Federal appellate courts have a substantial amount of recent, free law on their own sites.  Google Scholar maintains a database of US case law that is getting regular improvements (citation relationships, pagination).  Despite the continuing lack of information about where the data comes from, it appears to be entirely reliable.

There is also the venerable Public Library of Law, which, like LexisOne did, relies on a fee-based service.  Fastcase.com powers the PLOL and content you retrieve in your searches comes from the same database.

Access to Google, the Public Library of Law, and the courts are more than enough of an option to the departed LexisOne.  Free case law needs to be easy to access – not behind marketing sign-ins and other functionality – so the disappearance of LexisNexis’ free content was probably inevitable.

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