I stumbled across an article the other day while flipping through the latest issue of “Lawyers Journal” critiquing Google’s new Legal Database.  That’s right, Google has decided to enter the online legal database market and, as Google does best, it is free.  In the realm of online legal searches, it is not the best or most functioning, but for free.  It beats Findlaw, Justia, FindaCase, Public Library of Law, and Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute.  The search engine will search legal opinions, legal articles, and journals back to the 1950’s and is updated to 2009.  You use the search option like any other Google Search and it is returns the results with the highest number of relevant hits for your request.

So, what are the drawbacks?  For attorneys, there is no Shepardizing, although Google does provide a “How Cited” list where you can see summaries of other cases who have cited to the case you are reviewing. There are no headnotes in the cases and it is a little tricky to find exactly what you are looking for using Google’s search options.  Finally, it is still a limited database.

Bottom line, I can’t complain.  It is free after all and fairly extensive for my purposes.  I have not stopped using LexisNexis, but I have started performing the same searches in Google after I find what I am looking for in Lexis to see how similar they are.  So far, the cases I am looking for show up in Google, but not as high in priority as I would like.

Check out the Beta Version Here.