One of the most frustrating experiences while researching is coming up against a paywall or running into something that is purportedly only available through a subscription service. Many attorneys do not have the benefit of unlimited LexisNexis or Westlaw subscriptions, or other similar research tools.
Fortunately, if you are looking to get yourself something this holiday season, Santa (aka our PILS blog, in this instance) has just the thing wrapped up in a blog post, just for you: a compilation of some of the great free research tools available to Wisconsin attorneys.
One of the best starting points to find relevant case law or articles of note is found in the annotated Wisconsin statutes or the Wisconsin Constitution. After each section, you can find related cases, articles, and law review article citations. Many of these can be accessed for free simply by doing a web browser search, which is a great starting point.
State Law Library: Online and In Person
Our Wisconsin State Law Library also has an incredibly useful online service, in addition to physical books and resources. The Law Library provides resources for a wide array of topics, including forms, ordinances & codes, county resources, and sources of law. In addition to relevant law, the topics include popular questions, forms, guides, and county resources. Topics also include a sidebar with related topics, law review articles, and other relevant library resources.
The State Bar: Many Resources for Members
The State Bar of Wisconsin via WisBar.org is another resource to find answers, discussion, and publications. Many State Bar sections and divisions have blogs like this one as well as email elists. Did you know you can also not only subscribe to a section’s email elist, but also access and search the archived elist emails (be sure to log in)? This tool is great for getting opinions from your colleagues around the state, including more than a few active court commissioners who are willing to share their perspectives.
The search function on WisBar allows you to search for articles in Wisconsin Lawyer, InsideTrack, and section and division blogs; it is truly a wealth of information.
For more specific searches, if you are logged in to WisBar.org, select the Legal Research page along the top, and you will be able to do a combined search of State Bar PINNACLE’s online Books UnBound (some of which are available via a free trial), Fastcase, and WisBar.org or search each database individually.
Court System Resources
The Wisconsin Court System also provides various free resources, including bench books and guides on practice area basics. The publications include municipal law, domestic abuse, and small claims, among other areas. Free court forms are also available and can be a great starting point for assisting clients.
One More Tip: Law Librarian Research Guides via InsideTrack
The State Bar publication InsideTrack publishes a monthly legal research column written by members of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin (LLAW). Recent articles include:
101s on research in a variety of practice areas;
a discussion of various productivity apps;
techniques for researching legislative drafting files; tips on using Fastcase;
Their articles are very useful, especially if you are new to your topic.
To see a list of these columns, you can search for your target area – but for a quick survey of what’s there, search keyword “LLAW” and site source InsideTrack (or click the link here). This will get you a quick list and help you boost your research.
Resources to Keep in Mind
Ultimately, the convenience of paid research tools is great, but Wisconsin has ample research tools for attorneys. Knowing where to start looking is frequently one of the biggest challenges when tackling a research question, so keep these resources in mind as you move forward into the New Year.
This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Public Interest Law Section Blog. Visit the State Bar sections or the Public Interest Law Section web pages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.