The Internet Law Library is a free online resource for legal research. Created in 1995 by the U.S. House of Representatives’ House Information Resources, the law library also benefits from the contributions of dozens of individuals and groups. Envisioned as a way to “provide free public access to the basic documents of U.S. law,” this online resource is a great place for students to begin their research.
The law library is easily navigated using the links along its left-hand side (in the pink section).
U.S. Federal Laws
Under U.S. Federal laws, legal researchers can find links to nearly all of the laws of the United States, including several different versions of the federal statutes (laws passed by Congress and codified as the U.S. Code).
Students of history and political science use the links to the Constitution and other important documents, like the Federalist Papers. Scholars also value the archives of legislative history provided, like those available through The Library of Congress.
Another major component of American law, common law, comes from court decisions. The federal courts are comprised of the dozens of district courts, the 13 circuit courts and the Supreme Court, as well as a variety of specialized courts. Legal researchers find access to many of the most prominent decisions at the law library.
Administrative agencies implement federal laws by creating regulations and rules that guide their efforts. These regulations are collectively known as the Code of Federal Regulations. Rich with the details on how to comply with federal laws, administrative regulations can be unwieldy and difficult to research. The tools provided through the library, however, help students in law and business navigate the rules that govern their clients and industries.
U.S. State Laws
The United States was founded on principles of federalism, and as such, there is shared power among the states and the federal government. Most of the laws that individuals come into contact with come from their state governments, rather than Uncle Sam. As with federal law, each state has a code of statutes, common law and state regulations. The law library helps legal researchers find free access to state statutes and regulations (state opinions can be more difficult to obtain).
Researchers from a variety of disciplines find that having every state’s laws easily accessible from one location can be very convenient. Political scientists, for example, frequently need to compare laws across states, such as the drunk driving standards and penalties in states as diverse as Kentucky and Minnesota. Working from one site, with a few clicks, the research is complete.
International Laws and Treaties
Many of the resources available on the law library appeal to interests outside the law. Historians and political scientists reference the variety of treaties and other historical documents available, such as the North Atlantic Treaty (which founded NATO) and Continental Congress documents from the 18th century.
Students of international economic relations will appreciate links to resources such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), as well as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
Of particular interest to prospective and current law students are the numerous links to law schools and their libraries, including several overseas schools like Germany’s University of Saarland. Business and law students looking for clerkships will find the links to various law firms and professional directories, like Martindale-Hubbell, helpful with their job searches.
Legal research can be overwhelming. And although there are a number of excellent resources available on the web, it is difficult for the novice to identify the most reliable sources. The collection of legal resources provided by the Internet Law Library helps students and legal scholars alike conduct thorough research with relative ease.