Our annual Bridge the Gap series is offered to prepare law students for summer and post-graduate employment. In 2016, one of the nine sessions includes an overview of “New Technology in the Law” to highlight legal research sources beyond traditional commercial options. To accompany this session, following are summaries of emerging research resources for federal and Virginia sources to explore this summer.
Ravel Law provides a research platform with data visualization tools to depict case citation relationships. Read an early review of the service from 2014, and read this article on the “Free the Law” project to learn about an ambitious project to eventually digitize 40 million pages of court decisions for the site’s collection. Major features of their platform are meant to be free to law students and others.
Following are two images that depict a simple search for “trademark dilution” highlighting a major Supreme Court case on the topic as a large circle towards the top of the graph. The second image show the relationship between cited and citing cases in the Ravel Law database.
Casetext is a legal research platform that includes crowdsourced editing and annotations, together with a robust caselaw search engine. Read a review of the site’s goals and content at the time it launched. An innovative feature of the site is the WeCite content, where people, primarily law students, describe case relationships for cited cases. More than 100 law schools, including students at the University of Richmond School of Law, have submitted nearly 200,000 case relationship descriptions to date.
The following text passage shows a section of a Supreme Court case that has been cited by 14 subsequent cases.
Open:States, a project of the Sunlight Foundation, is a search engine and collection of tools to search legislation from all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. With this site, you can search the text of legislative bills to find language in legislation ranging from “open source” (112 documents) to “growler” (63 documents). You can read about the project, use their data, or contribute.
Federal Government Sites
Our federal government provides a robust and impressive number of free sources for searching sources in all three branches of government.
In the area of regulations, Regulations.gov provides efficient access to proposed and enacted regulations, to enable “Your Voice in Federal Decision-Making.” FederalRegister.gov is a free and attractive presentation of regulations and presidential documents. With the e-CFR site, you can access an electronic version of the Code of Federal Regulations, updated every day.
Congress.gov, presented by the Library of Congress, is the official website for U.S. federal legislative information. If you’re more interested in historical materials, check out A Century of Lawmaking, which contains U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates from 1774 to 1875.
In the area of federal courts, the Supreme Court’s website provides oral argument transcripts, dockets, and decisions. If you are interested in court filings from federal other levels of the federal court system, there are options from non-official sources, including the Justia Dockets & Filings collection, as well as the RECAP project site.
If you’re looking for sources of federal government materials but you’re not sure where they originate, check out the Govinfo.gov site, launched in beta form in February 2016. Here a single search box lets you explore many collections simultaneously. Filter options in search results allow you to find results in areas as diverse as Congressional Bills, GAO Reports, and Public Papers of the Presidents.
We know that University of Richmond students work for many employers that rely on Virginia legal resources. Thankfully, there’s a Virginia Law Portal, which provides the Virginia Code, Virginia Administrative Code, and Constitution of Virginia. The Virginia’s Judicial System site provides information about courts here in the Commonwealth.
If you’re a University of Richmond law student and you need help this summer, feel free to reach out to us through our new online chat services, linked on the William Taylor Muse Law Library home page.