Legal Research on Google Scholar

Google Scholar is almost a year old. In the September edition of Young Lawyer (ABA Young Lawyers Division), Douglas R. Miller explains how Google Scholar might be used instead of Lexis or Westlaw.

  • Searching cases is really fast although the database does not go back as far as Lexis and/or Westlaw (all U.S. Supreme Court cases but other federal courts since 1923 and state courts since 1950).
  • There is a “how cited” service to retrieve subsequent citing decisions but it does not have the various features of the citation services KeyCite or Shepard’s.
  • No human analysis like headnotes, indexes and digests.

Douglas suggests using Google Scholar at the beginning of a research project when you’re not sure what there is to find. Find a few relevant cases, look at the opinions cited in those cases, and then retrieve new cases with “how cited.” Plug these cases into Westlaw or Lexis to retrieve unpublished opinions, law review articles citing the case, or to expand your research with the “one good case” method.

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