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Finding and Using Legal Sources On the Web

In your work as a paralegal, a lot of your time is going to be spent looking up legal statutes, case law, court records, and other similar documentation. Some websites are specifically tailored towards legal professionals, enabling them to look up just about every ongoing or resolved case, both on a state and federal basis. Unfortunately, a lot of these websites require a subscription and can even cost users fees just to look at documents close up. While working towards a paralegal degree at George Washington University Online, research is critical. To help prevent you from needing to spend hundreds of dollars on legal research, you have to learn what online legal resources are both free and reputable.

Individual Courthouse Online Record Archives

Most United States courthouses save, at a minimum, basic court information online. If you are a party to a case or at least know the details pertaining to an ongoing or resolved court case, you may be able to find more details online for free. Now, not all courthouses allow access to online records, but the vast majority do. If your goal is to get accurate and up to date case information, you should start with the official government website in the state where the case occurred.

Web-Based Legal Data Aggregators

When accurate and timely data isn't available via an official government website, paralegal professionals are best served by checking a free data aggregator. Many times, court opinions and even complete case histories can be found online. So, if you are helping an attorney who is working on an ongoing bankruptcy case, you should be able to look up all pertinent information by entering the name of the parties. In most cases, several online resources relating to the case will appear within the internet search results.

Searching Legal Records By Volume, Petition, Judge, Jurisdiction, or Date

Perhaps you need to do some research for a class that you are taking at George Washington University, or you may need to find a recent Supreme Court ruling for an attorney. By looking in the right places, you can get access to full transcripts, petitions, answers to motions, court injunctions, and findings of the court via search. Enter all of the information that you know about a particular case, including the involved parties, the names of their attorneys, and the city, state, and county that the proceedings were held in. Once you get a petition or file number, you can often look up more information that is recorded as public record. If you have an adequate amount of information available in relation to a case, you can almost certainly find official court records online without needing to pay.

As a legal professional, the internet will be perhaps your most valuable and instantly accessible resource. Prior to filling out legal documents, it makes sense to double check your facts and review case laws and statutes that are available on the web. A quick five-minute internet search can potentially reveal a wealth of useful and verifiable information.

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