I am often heard to exclaim that a particular research website is one of my favorites. My favorites undoubtedly depend on what I’m researching at any given moment (fickleness I suppose), but there are a few that I return to often. The three noted here make my list because they are free but more than that because in being free, they promote the development of law and justice.
Animal Legal & Historical Center: Although animals have always been a subject of law, animal law is a relatively new legal discipline. Society’s attitudes about animals are evolving, but not necessarily consistently. As law struggles to keep up, the Animal Legal & Historical Center provides researchers with federal, state and local animal laws arranged by topic and jurisdiction. The site provides researchers with extensive access to both primary law and expert analysis. The Animal Legal & Historical Center has a crucial role in the development of animal law — it provides drafters with laws they can use as models, and advocates with analysis they can use to make creative arguments, which is exactly how law will develop to keep up with evolving attitudes.
Google Scholar: Google Scholar has been the subject of previous posts on this blog. I admit I was initially a skeptic: case law has for so long been tied to print reporters and commercial vendors that free, comprehensive access to case law was too much to hope for. I am however, both convinced and enthusiastic. After hearing one of the Google Scholar developers speak, I am convinced not only that Google Scholar’s case law database is comprehensive but that its developers thoughtfully built search algorithms that take into account not only how lawyers research but also how non-lawyers look for cases. This makes Google Scholar a game changer; not only can lawyers do more cost effective research, but non-lawyers can now do research they simply couldn’t do at all before. Legal research is too crucial to justice for it to be restricted to only those who can afford it.
Digital Commons Network: Institutional scholarship repositories have changed the face of research across disciplines. Where scholarship used to be published primarily in subscription-based journals, institutions are now making their faculty’s scholarship available on open source platforms for all researchers to access. The Scholarly Forum @ Montana Law is an example of how institutions not only highlight their faculty’s scholarship but also contribute to the worldwide body of scholarship. (For more about the Scholarly Forum, see my post about its launch.) Digital Commons Network is an aggregator of individual scholarship repositories that opens interdisciplinary scholarship to all researchers, allowing every subject to be informed by viewpoints from other disciplines.