How to Search Legal Opinions on Google Scholar

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Google has updated their Google Scholar search system to allow users to specify individual U.S. Federal or State Courts while searching for legal opinions. This change makes searching more streamlined and offers hope that the product is being more actively developed than its relatively dormant cousin, Google Patents. Originally announced on the Google Scholar Blog, this development is presented as a curiosity, but as you’ll see in this post, can be used as an alternative to other free legal resources such as lexisONE®.

Read on as we describe how to search within Google Scholar and how this addition specifically stacks up to lexisONE.


To specify a Court to search, it’s as easy as opening up the Advanced Scholar Search page of Google Scholar, scrolling down to the Courts section and using the drop down menus to choose a venue. Should the user prefer to be more granular, there’s an option to pick and choose certain State or Federal Courts instead of the State or Federal Circuit at large.

This is but a tenth of all the Courts available, but includes one that readers of this blog might be especially interested in: The Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, a precursor to the CAFC.

It’s not completely apparent how the coverage of Google Scholar stacks up to lexisONE. Judging from the individual court listings on Google Scholar compared to the coverage specified by lexisONE, it can be seen that there are differences that make both free solutions worth consulting (e.g. Google Scholar reporting coverage for the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which is unavailable in lexisONE). Additionally, lexisONE provides case law for the last ten years only (excepting the full coverage for the U.S. Supreme Court), while the coverage of Google Scholar is listed as follows (Thanks to reader James for pointing this out!)

Which court opinions do you include?

Currently, Google Scholar allows you to search and read opinions for US state appellate and supreme court cases since 1950, US federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923 and US Supreme Court cases since 1791. In addition, it includes citations for cases cited by indexed opinions or journal articles which allows you to find influential cases (usually older or international) which are not yet online or publicly available.

Legal opinions in Google Scholar are provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed lawyer. Google does not warrant that the information is complete or accurate.

How frequently do you update Google Scholar?

We normally add new papers several times a week. However, updates to existing records take 3-6 months to a year or longer, because in order to update our records, we need to first recrawl them from the source website. For many larger websites, the speed at which we can update their records is limited by the crawl rate that they allow.

Given this coverage information for Google Scholar, it’s still hard to say how reliable the data really is (is it updated several times a week or 3-6 months after the fact?), but it does give us insight that opinions are available from a much wider range of dates than lexisONE.

Have you given this Google Scholar tweak a try? What system do you prefer to use to look up legal opinions? We’d love to hear from you in our comments below!

Patent Information from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.

4 Responses

  1. The article states that “the coverage of Google Scholar is unspecified in its completeness”.

    Google Scholar does state its coverage (though not in a prominent location) as at least:

    “US state appellate and supreme court cases since 1950, US federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923 and US Supreme Court cases since 1791”

    as quoted from:

    http://scholar.google.com/intl/en/scholar/help.html

  2. […] week I profiled how to use Google Scholar to research legal opinions. This week I’ll show how I used Google Scholar (in conjunction with Google Patents) to do […]

  3. […] data yet. One area that Google Scholar excels in is searching legal opinions, which we detailed in a previous Intellogist Blog post. Additionally, the Google Scholar search results interface more often has excerpted text with […]

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