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Whatever you are researching, every source you consult should be evaluated for its currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. This is particularly important when you are relying upon free and low cost sources. While many of these are excellent, there are also plenty of seemingly authoritative sources that contain gaps, are not current, or that are difficult to search, thus making it difficult to ensure you do not miss relevant authority. Additionally, no matter what resources you use for legal research, it is critical that you validate your research to ensure that the authority you are relying upon is good law.
Low Cost Legal Research Platforms
For the most part, legal research without Westlaw, Lexis, or Bloomberg requires using multiple websites and databases specific to particular publications or categories of material. There are, however, two low cost providers who combine primary sources and some secondary sources into single searchable platforms. These platforms may be available to graduates as a benefit of state bar association membership, or for a monthly rate without requiring an annual contract. The world of low cost alternatives is changing rapidly, so if you are looking for additional options, check the blog LawSites or the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center for recent announcements.
Legal research database containing federal and state case law, statutes, federal regulations, and more. Law school students and faculty can sign up for free at the above link.
Fastcase This link opens in a new window
Legal research database of federal and state cases, statutes, regulations, constitutions, court rules, and WSBA Deskbooks. Use the link above to access Fastcase with your SU id and password. DO NOT create an individual Fastcase account, as our subscription does not support individual accounts.
Free Secondary Sources
High quality secondary sources can be difficult to find for free. Below are a few of the better options. If you rely upon web searching to locate legal information on the web, be sure you look carefully to ensure the site is trustworthy and up to date.
The ABA provides free current and archived issues (since 2004) of this legal news magazine.
This specialized Google search engine can be used to locate scholarly articles. The results will include both abstracts and full text articles. Not all results will be freely available online, though students and faculty will find that many are available through databases provided by the library.
This legal dictionary is both searchable and browsable by major legal topics. It is neither as extensive nor as authoritative as Black's Law Dictionary.
Another free legal dictionary that provides basic definitions to thousands of legal terms and concepts. Not as authoritative nor as extensive as Black's Law Dictionary.
Wex Legal Dictionary/Encyclopedia
Wex, a publication of the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell University Law School, provides high quality overviews dozens of important legal topics.
A free legal encyclopedia aimed primarily at non-lawyers, NOLO provides articles on a wide range of practice areas.
Washington Law Help
Maintained by the Northwest Justice Project, and designed for use by non-lawyers, WA Law Help provides high quality legal overviews, self-help resources, and forms covering many common legal issues.
Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC)
The MRSC is a non-profit organization that provides legal, finance, and policy support to local governments in Washington state. You can browse or search their online collection of documents for in-depth discussions of legal issues related to city and county governance.
Free Washington Primary Sources
WA Statutes (Current RCWs)
The state published, unannotated compilation of all permanent laws now in force. Updated twice a year.
WA Statutes (Archives)
Includes copies of the RCWs as they existed each year since 1973.
WA Session Laws
This page provides instructions and links for locating recent as well as historical session laws (back to 1854).
Washington State Legislature
The official website for Washington state legislative information, including proposed and pending legislation.
WA Administrative Code (Current WAC)
The official publication of the Washington Administrative code. Updated twice a month.
WA Administrative Code (Archives)
Includes copes of the WAC as they existed each year since 2004.
WA State Register
The Register includes notices of proposed and expedited rules, emergency and permanently adopted rules, public meetings, requests for public input, notices of rules review, executive orders of the governor, court rules, summary of attorney general opinions, juvenile disposition standards, the state maximum interest rate, an index, and WAC to WSR table. Published biweekly.
WA State Constitution
HTML as well as PDF version of the Washington Constitution.
WA State Judicial Opinions
This website provides free public access to the precedential, published appellate decisions from the WA Supreme Court and WA Court of Appeals. These opinions are published by Lexis and made available for free through a contract with the Washington Courts.
WA State Court Slip Opinions
This website includes slip opinions from the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals that were filed after February 22, 2013. Slip opinions are the opinions that are filed on the day that the appellate court issues its decision and are often not the court's final opinion
WA Pattern Jury Instructions
The WA pattern jury instructions are owned and published by Thomson Reuters, but are made available for free through a contract with the Washington Courts.
WA County Codes
The Municipal Research Services Center (MRSC) provides links to the codes of many WA state counties. Each code must be searched individually.
WA Municipal Codes
The MRSC has also compiled this list of links to city codes.
If you're looking for more free resources, the following guides provide links to numerous reputable options.
Free Federal Primary Sources
This service of the United States Government Publishing Office (GPO), provides free public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government.
United States Code (USC)
Searchable access to the United States Code provided by the Office of the Law Revision Council of the US House of Representatives. Archived versions of the code, back to 1994, may be accessed and searched from the Advanced Search page using the Search in version dropdown menu.
US Code (archives)
This collection contains editions of the US Code dating back to the 1925-26 edition.
The official website for US federal legislative information. Includes information on pending and proposed legislation.
Code of Federal Regulations -- eCFR
A searchable version of the CFR that is updated daily. Results must be verified against the most current annual edition of the CFR, the Federal Register, and the List of CFR Sections Affected.
Code of Federal Regulations (Official version and archived)
Browsable version of the annual edition of the CFR. Includes archived versions back to 1996. Must be updated with the Federal Register and the List of CFR Sections affected.
The daily journal of the US Government. Use to find rules, proposed rules, notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents.
Federal Register (Archives)
Browsable PDFs of the Federal Register dating back to 1936.
List of CFR Sections Affected (LSA)
The List of CFR Sections Affected lists proposed, new, and amended Federal regulations that have been published in the Federal Register since the most recent revision date of a CFR title.
US Constitution Annotated
A service of the Library of Congress, the Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation provides the text of the Constitution along with a legal analysis and interpretation based upon a review of US Supreme Court case law and, where relevant, historical practices that have defined the text of the Constitution.
Federal Case Law Searching via Google Scholar
Use the Radio button to choose Case law, and then Select Courts to specify the desired jurisdiction. Includes U.S. Supreme Court Opinions from1791 to present and U.S. Federal District, Appellate, Tax, and Bankruptcy Court Opinions from1923 to present. Can additionally be used to find published U.S. State Appellate and Supreme Court Opinions from1950 to present.
9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Includes slip opinions, local rules, forms, video streaming of oral arguments and more.