Google Scholar Legal is Google’s free and easy-to-use legal research tool. Using Google Scholar lets you search for articles, patents, and case law. If you’re looking for statutes, you’re stuck with searching “regular Google,” state-specific resources, or an adjunct legal research tool.
Google Scholar Legal Highlights
Free. Google Scholar Legal is free to use. Its case law library includes state cases from 1950; federal, appellate, tax, and bankruptcy cases from 1923; and US Supreme Court opinions from 1791.
Hyperlinked cases. As you’re reading case law on Google, cases cited within the opinion are (almost always) hyperlinked, which enables easy navigation to the cited page (or lets you open 80 tabs in your browser at once!).
Just like Google. Because we all use Google, you already know how to use Google Scholar Legal. The interface is mostly the same, except for some additional filters you can use to search by year, courts, or within your existing search results.
Google Scholar Legal Pricing
In case we didn’t say this enough already, Google Scholar is free. Searching secondary sources may require a paid subscription to other databases for article access, but Google Scholar itself is delightfully free of charge.
Google Scholar Legal Features
|Natural Language Searching||✓|
|Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence|
|Search without an Account||✓|
|Send to Cloud Storage||✓|
Things You Might Want to Know
Set up your preferences. If you have specific settings you’d like to set as defaults, click the button in the top right corner to set your preferences. On the home search screen, you can also select which jurisdictions you’d like Google to search.
Google Alerts. If you want updates about changes to practice areas or particular cases, the Google Alerts feature automatically updates you according to your customized notification preferences.
“How Cited?” Google Scholar does not have a citator per se. It does, however, have the “How Cited” section, which shows you how other opinions or secondary sources have treated the case. It doesn’t provide explicit “good law” or “bad law” ratings, either, so you’ll have to put in the grunt work to find how reliable a particular case is.
No headnotes. Google Scholar also skips summaries and headnotes. So you’ll have to do a little digging there, too, to see if a particular case is actually relevant to your search.
Limited secondary sources. While you can search for articles, some of the search results lead you to different databases, like HeinOnline or JSTOR, which require subscriptions for access.
Save your articles. As you search, if you come across articles or case law you want to save, save them to your Google Library by clicking “Save.” You can even organize saved documents by labeling them in much the same way you label Gmail messages.
Who Google Scholar Legal is For
Google Scholar Legal is an excellent choice for anyone just starting to research case law, patents, or articles. It’s free and easy to use. It can also help refine and scope a search in a familiar interface you know and trust before you dive into a different—and probably much more expensive—tool. Your mileage may vary, since your Google searches may not be as accurate as you need without lots of extra digging. And, as with the Google you know so well, the software returns search results that are only as good as your queries. Google Scholar is a good starting point, but because of its lack of secondary resources and a proper citator, you should probably use it in conjunction with other legal research tools or in cases where you are already intimately familiar with the issue’s seminal cases in your jurisdiction.
See all the key features of all the online legal research tools options in our features chart.