2017 Update: Life After Free Access to Premium Legal Research Tools

A couple of years ago, I wrote a short guide to help other recent law school grads learn about free resources available to supplement costly legal research platforms we so easily took for granted during law school. Now, it’s time to expand upon the resources I previously touched on and share with you some additional tools I’ve found!

ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress

The ABA is a gigantic organization with many moving parts and it’s nearly impossible to know about all the resources available. I like to think of it as Christmas morning happening at least once a week when I discover new benefits and resources they provide. That’s why I’m excited to have learned about the ABA Division for Public Services. Specifically, within the Division for Public Services there is the “Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress.”  A standing committee is essentially a permanently established committee with a specific purpose. In this instance, the committee “serves as the Association’s connection to and voice of the legal profession concerning the continued development and effective operation of the Law Library of Congress (LLC).”
Why is this important? Because you should check out the Resources section of the committee’s website!  There are many valuable links they’ve compiled, including some of the ones I touched on in my previous blog post. Check out the website by clicking here and notice the links on the right-hand side of the site. Best of all, it doesn’t appear to require any login or membership to access this website and the resources available. Take a look around and explore the other parts of the site. Let me know in the comments if you find anything else worth calling out for others!

Library of Congress

One of the links from the website above, and also the topic of a recent of episode of the “ABA Law Student Podcast” on The Legal Talk Network, is the excellent resource “How To Conduct FREE Legal Research Online” by Barbara Bavis, provided by the Library of Congress. I highly recommend downloading the 2016 PowerPoint slide deck from the presentation and giving it a read as it walks you through the Library’s resources. You can also listen to the full podcast episode (with Barbara Bavis) through the embed below, or by clicking here.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t taken the time to watch this entire video recording, but you can also check out the 2014 presentation from the ABA’s MidYear Meeting (embedded below, or by clicking here). I’m not sure how much has changed since this was filmed, but it may still be useful for those wanting an audiovisual element to this material.


There are some well-known websites with public form agreements, such as oneCLE, that pull content from SEC’s EDGAR. However, I discovered midway through 2016 the website ContractStandards.com that takes it a step further. Contract Standards is a wonderful resource if you’re stuck on drafting a clause and need somewhere to start. It’s easy to search, browse by contract or clause name, or simply consult a pre-built checklist.
I’m a sucker for legal operations and established processes when it comes to running a legal department. That’s why I love the Resources section of ContractStandards, too. The Framework and Style Guide are the perfect starting point for anyone looking to bring some level of sophistication and order to any legal department or contract drafting process.
Lastly, they’ve also developed a powerful tool called “Contract Assembly” that pulls together the saved clauses in your account. I haven’t used this feature personally, so let me know if you end up trying it out.
Best of all, it’s all FREE! They offer paid tiers with additional services, but you should find plenty to grab with their publicly available tier.

Common Draft

Thanks to Lawyer Slack, I’ve recently learned about another great contracts drafting resource called Common Draft. Common Draft is a website run by attorney-professor D. C. Toedt III and provides an annotated guide to short- and long-form contracts, plus additional notes, insights and resources to assist in the contract drafting process. It’s extremely helpful when trying to pull together a new clause or check the language a third party has sent over.
You can also check out D. C. Toedt’s blog, On Contracts, and subscribe to receive frequent blog articles and stay up to date on recent developments in contract law.

Additional Resources

Let me know in the comments if you have any additional resources, tools or general guidance to share when it comes to improving access to free legal research after law school.
Image credit: Franklin Graves (© 2017), utilizing ‘resorting to paper…‘ by Catherine Cronin (© 2014). Licensed, modified and made available under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).