More Online, Searchable, FREE Legal Research

The Free Law Reporter an electronic case reporter that freely publishes nearly every recent appellate and supreme court opinion, from state to federal US courts,  with emphasis on recent. Without getting into the nuts and bolts of the build, the FLR is looking to a free, unencumbered (by whom, I wonder?) law reporter fit for educational, research and practical purposes. It’s source feed pulls weekly so there is a potential lag time involved in securing results. Tapped sources include the appellate courts of the 50 states and the federal government. The service culls the slip opinions that are fed to it every week, and then organizes the opinions into “ebooks”, with each state and federal jurisdiction gathered into a volume. FLR is also working out its search function: basic keyword searching is now available and facet searching and “more like this” functionality is coming soon. Coverage starts January 1, 2011, so it is not much for archive searching. However, as it very cleverly formats the “ebooks” in the .epub format, they are viewable on virtually any desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone and e-reader device, allowing interested parties to read the most current decisions in the relevant jurisdiction easily and efficiently. Right now, the feed  include everything that comes from a given court including “unpublished” opinions, orders, and motions, which screams out for some level of filtering, which FLR promises is coming soon. And the FLP is actively soliciting law professors and other legal professionals to assist in a project to tag and add headnotes to opinions!

Limitations notwithstanding, the FLP is precisely the type of research geared to modern practice that we should be clamoring for. Once clever developers learn how to harness the massive flow of legal information generated from our court and legislatures, make that information accessible and usable, then the old models of electronic research, with their hefty paywalls, invariably will have to change. It can’t happen soon enough for me.

Hat tip to Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites.