Legal research is “the process of identifying and retrieving information necessary to support legal decision-making. In its broadest sense, legal research includes each step of a course of action that begins with an analysis of the facts of a problem and concludes with the application and communication of the results of the investigation.”
The processes of legal research vary according to the country and the legal system involved. However, legal research generally involves tasks such as: 1) finding primary sources of law, or primary authority, in a given jurisdiction (cases, statutes, regulations, etc.); 2) searching secondary authority (for example, law reviews, legal dictionaries, legal treatises, and legal encyclopedias such as American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum), for background information about a legal topic; and 3) searching non-legal sources for investigative or supporting information.
Legal research is performed by anyone with a need for legal information, including lawyers, law librarians, and paralegals. Sources of legal information range from printed books, to free legal research websites (like Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, Findlaw.com, Martindale Hubbell, Lawyers.com, HG.org and CanLII) and information portals to fee database vendors such as Wolters Kluwer, Chancery Law Chronicles, LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law. Law libraries around the world provide research services to help their patrons find the legal information they need in law schools, law firms and other research environments. Many law libraries and institutions provide free access to legal information on the web, either individually or via collective action, such as with the Free Access to Law Movement.