Google is now offering FREE access to a huge amount of U.S. law through Google Scholar.
Why is this a big deal? Because historically law firms have had to pay incredibly high rates to gain access to online case law via services such as WestLaw and Lexis. Many law firms pay thousands of dollars each year for legal research through these services, dollars hopefully that can be saved in the near future.
Google Scholar is a freely-accessible Web search engine that indexes the full text of scholarly literature. The beta version was launched in late 2004, and now the Google Scholar index includes most peer-reviewed online journals from many of the world's scholarly publishers.
Here's the official Google Blog post, "Finding the laws that govern us," regarding their new service.
Go to the Google Scholar home page and select the radio button for Legal opinions and journals. You can search by the names of the parties in a particular case or the type of decision. Not only will Google Scholar return the results for a specific case you are looking into, it will offer links to associated cases for your further research.
While Google's current offerings don't match all the features of Lexis yet, it is only a matter of time until we can accomplish all we need to do for FREE.
And that's the way it should be – information wants to be free.