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Law: QuickStart Guide

This guide is intended to serve as a starting point for finding legal information and is intended for public library users and librarians.

Basic Legal Information Needs

Whether in Massachusetts or beyond, these sites provide valuable information links.


American Association of Law Libraries.  Public Library Toolkit. Beginning with a section on general legal research, scroll down for STATE-SPECIFIC PUBLIC LIBRARY TOOLKITS.  Click on the state you need, example: Massachusetts

Website Charts

Whether teaching a class or needing to transition away from the expense of legal databases, consult this chart of free legal websites for finding legal information.

Legal Search Engines

First find Google Scholar under "More" at  Click on Advanced Scholar Search.  Keywords are entered at the top, but before submitting the search, scroll down to the bottom green section, Legal Opinions and Journals where cases can be searched. Select one of the bullets: Search all legal opinions and journals; Search opinions of all [federal] courts; Search opinions of [state] courts.  For Federal Courts: set to all federal courts, or select a court, such as United States Supreme Court, or 1st Circuit: Appeals & District.  For State Courts: set to a state, such as Massachusetts.

Legal Citations

How to read a legal citation with this brief guide from Boston College Law School.

Legal Glossary

Consult this easy to use web site to define a legal term.  Use both search bars for maximum understanding of a term, or if the term is not found in the Enter a Legal Term search bar.

Librarian Blogs

Tool Kits

In addition to the information and instructional aides found in this Legal Resources Self Help Center guide, the American Association of Law Libraries has posted guides to assist your research.  Massachusetts is not covered, but the Four Great Websites in the box heading this column cover Massachusetts-specific legal information.

Massachusetts Library Association Conference Materials

Public librarians teamed up with Trial Court law librarians and MassLegalHelp web content in 2010 provider to introduce legal reference skills to Massachusetts nonlaw librarians.

PowerPoint Classes

Bookmarks & Posters for Access to Justice Help

These LegalHelp and Access to Justice bookmarks and poster were developed by the Massachusetts team and law librarians with mini grant funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Train the Trainer sessions at the Public Libraries and Access to Justice Conference in Austin, Texas, January 11-12, 2010.  There are generic and customize templates for our two-sided LegalHelp bookmarks, both in black and white and color.  Libraries may insert their own institutions and contact information in the customize templates.  There is also an Access to Justice small poster.

Public Libraries and Access to Justice

Read about the Access to Justice national initiative, conference, and efforts of the Massachusetts team to help train nonlaw librarians to assist the public with legal information and referrals.

Books on Legal Research is one of three statewide websites that make up the Massachusetts Legal Websites Project. The project is a collaborative effort of the civil legal aid community of Massachusetts. We are funded by Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation.

Other websites included in this project are:

  • offers resources about legal issues facing lower-income Massachusetts residents to advocates and social service professionals; and 
  • support to other legal services programs across the state with their websites.

The mission of  is to improve access to justice for low income and disadvantaged persons through innovative use of the Web.  We are working to  connect, support, and educate advocates and the general public. The content of the website is written by people within the legal services community.

Expert Witnesses

Presenting scientific evidence and interviewing expert witnesses in areas such as neuroscience, exposure science, mental health, and forensic science are covered in this new 3rd edition of a manual on presenting scientific evidence.

Save with Public Libraries

Civics Education

Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor, Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice   »Read Bio

"Last year, I founded the iCivics program (at to engage students through online games and interactive resources. On this free website, students can step into the roles of government actors and can find ways to participate in real-world civic action. For teachers, we provide lesson plans and curriculum units that are aligned to standards in every state and in the District of Columbia."

Legal Research Basics