This guide covers selected resources available to current Fordham Law students that can be considered alternatives to Westlaw and Lexis. While there is no exact replica, we have ordered this list from most comprehensive to least in terms of the amount of materials.
*All of the sources denoted with * are available to you via the Law Library; all others are free online.
Bloomberg Law is often considered one of the "big three" legal research databases along with Westlaw and Lexis. It has both federal and state law statutes, extensive case decisions, and regulatory materials, along with a number of secondary sources. It does have its own version of Shepards for updating cases called B-Cite, but its statutes are missing the research annotation notes. This database is particularly good with news coverage, access to dockets and court filings, and its practice centers, which put together in one collection all the documents on a particular legal topic (bankruptcy, labor and employment, health, etc.).
To access: all students received Bloomberg Law access codes at the beginning of their 1L year; if you never signed up for your account, go to bloomberglaw.com and select Register Academic account; be sure to sign up with your Fordham email - no activation code needed.
Fastcase is a low-cost alternative to Westlaw/Lexis and is often a benefit of bar memberships. This database is a comprehensive online law library with all federal cases going back to 1754 (1 U.S. 1, 1 F.2d 1, 1 F.Supp. 1, and B.R. 1), as well as state and appellate cases for all 50 states going back to 1950 or earlier, statutes, regulations, court rules, constitutions, access to a newspaper archive, and legal forms.
HeinOnline's major strength lies in its secondary sources, government documents, and deep historical coverage. It contains a large collection of law journals; the Restatements from the American Law Institute; and the United States Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the Federal Register going back to their very first volumes. While it does offer historical cases and statutes for states, the only current set of state laws for all 50 states are found in the Session Laws Library, which prints legislative acts in date order. As for cases, it has some historical coverage for states, the official case reports of the U.S. Supreme Court, and links through to Fastcase for more extensive and modern case law coverage.
This site, frequently called Cornell LII, offers all opinions of the United States Supreme Court handed down since 1992, together with over 600 earlier decisions selected for their historic importance, over a decade of opinions of the New York Court of Appeals, and the full United States Code and Code of Federal Regulations. It also publishes important secondary sources: libraries in two important areas (legal ethics and social security); and a series of “topical” pages that serve as concise explanatory guides and Internet resource listings for roughly 100 areas of law.
GovInfo provides public access to official publications in PDF from all three branches of the federal government. A product of the U.S. Government Publishing Office, it is a better resource for final versions of statutes, regulations, and some Congressional documents. Because it contains the authoritative and official version of the documents, you will see this website discussed in many guides on low cost/free research, but if you are researching a topic more broadly, for regulations you should start on the eCFR and the Federal Register's website; if you are focusing on federal legislation and congressional materials, start on Congress.Gov.
Casetext is a database of federal and state case law, statutes, and regulations, as well as federal briefs and attorney legal analyses. The Casetext artificial intelligence tool CARA finds cases on the same facts, legal issues, and jurisdiction as a brief or memo uploaded to the platform. (Tip: Remember the saying "garbage in, garbage out" - to use this AI tool to its full potential, make sure you are uploading a well-researched document.) This website is free, but you must register with your @law.fordham account to have access.
CourtListener is an open-access, open-source database by the Free Law Project. It primarily contains case law from federal and state courts and holds over two million opinions. For full coverage details on federal and state courts, see their Coverage page. Each case is displayed in a user-friendly format and has a list of subsequent citations, authorities cited within, and cases on similar topics. In addition to cases, this source contains some oral arguments for the U.S. Supreme Court and federal circuits; it also holds the RECAP archive, which contains millions of documents from PACER, making it a great place to search for court filings.
Google Scholar allows you to search and read opinions for U.S. state appellate and supreme court cases since 1950; U.S. federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923; and U.S. Supreme Court cases since 1791. Cases are cited in Bluebook format, include internal page numbers, and are cross-linked within the database. The service crawls other free case law providers and provides links to cases on these sites. In addition to case law, Google Scholar also searches secondary sources, such as law reviews and journals; these are often short summaries rather than full text access, so if you hit a paywall, try searching for the article on the Law Library's website.
Researchers should know that some subjects already have specific databases that are generally better for research than the standard databases -- for example, Legislative Insight for federal legislative history documents, Kluwer Competition for antitrust, and RIA Checkpoint for tax. Ask a librarian for resource recommendations or browse our databases list by subject.
Many government documents, from case decisions to regulations, are available on government websites, and these are great places for research. For example, the official website of the federal Congress, Congress.Gov, makes available bills, laws, committee hearings, member information, etc.
There are a lot of online directories, such as this one from the federal government, which lists contact information for federal, state, and local elected officials; landing pages for the main branches of government for state, local, and tribal governments; and an A-Z list for federal government agencies.
Alternatively, use a search engine, like Google, to find these webpages; use the name of the office, the jurisdiction, and/or the document that you're looking for in your search terms and include ".gov" to help ensure you're finding the legitimate government websites. For example, searching <<new york city labor regulations .gov>> on Google, brings up the major websites on the city and state labor department regulations.
For help accessing these titles, please contact a reference librarian at email@example.com, via chat, or by calling 212 636 6908.