First, let’s dispel a persistent myth — that all recent case law is freely available on the Web. Many jurisdictions have improved case law access, both published and “unpublished,” by offering opinions on their Web sites. Even state courts, which as a group tend to lag behind federal courts in technology adoption, are succeeding in providing access to high court opinions, and often appellate court decisions as well.

For easy access to the free case law that is out there, your best option is to go to a site that aggregates as much of it as possible. For example, LexisNexis’ LexisOne allows searching by jurisdiction and combining multiple jurisdictions together. Thomson-Findlaw contains links to court Web sites that may have opinions on them, as well as a search against case summaries from federal appellate courts and California and New York state appellate courts.

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