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MSL Introduction to Legal Research: Databases

Legal research assistance for MSL students writing seminar papers.

Database Tips

No matter the database, always look for the Advanced Search option, find ways to limit your search, seek to understand the search language, and use the table of contents and other tools to clarify the context of your results.

Premium/Full Service Databases

Westlaw. I have chosen to focus on Westlaw because you are using TWEN for this class and so everyone has registered their password. In addition, most people find Westlaw more intuitive than the other premium services.

LexisNexis. Its content and capabilities are very similar to Westlaw. In New Mexico, it is found more frequently in administrative agencies than Westlaw.

Bloomberg. A newer and less developed premium database. It distinguishes itself with excellent business-related content and court dockets.

The premium databases contain an amazing amount and array of content, excellent search engines, and have tied the information together in ways that help you readily identify what you need. They are meant to be able to meet almost all of your  legal research needs. Though you will likely not have access to them post-graduation, it would be foolish to deprive yourself of them while engaging in scholarly writing.

Free Research

Post-graduation, when you no longer have access to the law school's databases, you can still complete a great deal of free online research.

  • Statutes. Most jurisdictions offer free, but unannotated, statutes.
  • Case Law. Google Scholar includes court opinions from all state & all federal courts.
  • Regulations. Federal govt & states provide current regulations.
  • Agency-specific material. See agency websites.
  • Law Review articles. Use Google Scholar's Advanced Search for best results.

For more info, see Free Legal Resources by Subject.

Specialized/Niche Databases

A-Z Research Databases
An annotated list of the databases supported the library.

Research guides
Written by our librarians, the guides provide assistance in identifying the best databases for your specific research needs.

Personal Assistance
You can set up an individualized research consultation with a librarian (set up by email) or visit the Reference Desk during regular business hours.

Print Research

Most legal research is done online. For seminar papers the most likely exception is scholarly books on specialized topics. These are identified by using the library catalog and through careful examination of your resources' footnotes. Another exception, but probably less likely to be used for a seminar paper, are historic and rare documents and books.

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