Free Resources and Tips for Researching State, Federal, and Local Law


At this year’s Annual Conference of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, research librarians and attorneys shared information on the best free resources for researching local, state, and federal law. These resources may be helpful for county elected officials and county employees seeking information about comparative laws in other jurisdictions, or researching federal laws and regulations that have an effect on local practices.

Here are a few resources that were shared at the Conference:

State and Federal Case Law

Google Scholar is a great resource for US Supreme Court decisions, and state and federal case law.  Good Scholar allows the user to search all federal courts, and state courts of appeal and supreme courts.  The site has a built-in case citator.

Federal Law

The Office of the Law Revision Council’s version of the US Code includes current and past editions of the Code, and shows pending updates to the Code.  The search tool allows for smart searches, such as proximity connectors.

Federal Regulations

e-CRF provides a currently updated version of the Code of Federal Regulations. If you sign up with, you may receive email alerts when a specific agency is about to issue a new rule.

Additional Research

Several libraries provide research guides for state and local law.  In Maryland, resources include The Maryland State Law Library’s Gateway to Maryland Law, the Thurgood Marshall Law Library’s Maryland Research Guide, and Georgetown Law Library’s Maryland Resources In-Depth.  The UCLA Law Library provides links to online municipal codes in every state. The Harvard Law Library provides several resources for legal and law-related research.

Google Scholar also provides a search tool for academic journal articles.  When articles require registered access to publication or research databases, attorneys may ask their alma maters for remote access to scholarly articles and other publications via their university’s law library.  Alternatively, searching for the article’s author may yield a free version of the article on the author’s own personal website.