Westlaw and Lexis contain a larger variety of legal commentary besides treatises and law review articles. Both cover legal encyclopedias, such as American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum, and well as the hybrid called the American Law Reports. The newest kid on the block of legal research, BloombergLaw.com, a fee-based database which has impressed its users with its menu-driven approach, collaboration features, and docket search functions, may become the sole repository of BNA products, a highly sophisticated set of newsletter-type of publication. Among them, US Law Week is a must for anybody interested in learning about the most recently litigated topics.

Spindle Law, the free-of-charge database conceived as a loose-leaf treatment of the law by Columbia Law School graduates, has become highly irrelevant because its authors stopped providing new content. Its premise remains useful, though and we wish Spindle Law a quick recovery.

There are other more successful free-of charge repositories of secondary sources, such as FindLaw, LexisNexis Communities Portal, SSRN, and Bepress. In addtion, various individual universities have their own academic commons.

FindLaw Professionals: Legal News and Legal Commentaries
FindLaw Professionals” present themselves as a “group of well-respected authorities in their legal practice areas.” While promoting Westlaw as the legal research tool to use, this site also provides some legal summaries advertised to help any “individual legal consumer” learn more about the legal system. Since this book was first published, the database has improved both its search capabilities and its content. Now, you can search for both legal analysis, called a law firm article or a legal news article, and a legal commentary. The latter seems to be a blog-like commentary, whose usefulness is mostly given by its currency.

Much like FindLaw Professionals, this free-advertising product for Lexis offers some legal commentary on various topics of the day.

SSRN: A Recipient of Legal Secondary Sources
The Social Science Research Network, SSRN, available at ssrn.com, is another way to locate texts on current and obscure issues of law. SSRN is composed of a number of specialized research networks in social sciences, including law. The SSRN eLibrary consists of a Full Text and an Abstract Database.
SSRN's objective is to provide worldwide distribution of research to authors and their readers and to facilitate communication among them at the lowest possible cost. We allow authors to upload papers without charge, and any paper an author uploads to SSRN is downloadable for free, worldwide. SSRN also provides free subscriptions to all of our eJournals to users in developing countries on request. We allow publishers and other institutions to charge users for downloads, but insist that the price for such papers on SSRN cannot exceed the lowest non-subscriber price for these papers anywhere on the web. The vast majority of downloads of papers from the SSRN eLibrary are free.

The Legal Scholarship Network is directed by law faculty members Bernard Black and Ronald Gilson and offers unique access to many academic papers.

The first digital commons repository, since 1999, BePress remains a pioneer in free access to academic papers.

  • Other academic commons

Today most academic institutions encourage their faculty to publish their work in a manner freely accessible. For example, the latest edition of Introduction to U.S. Law and Legal Research (Bacilio Mendez, II digital editor, 2011) is available from Columbia University’s Academic Commons.

Finally, remember that more and more members of the academe make their published law review articles available from their own web sites. Additionally, there are numerous web logs where you can find useful information on a current legal topic, so even simple searches may help you with a reliable research start as long as you can discern the repository of the information you receive. Usually, .gov and .edu are the most reliable and authoritative repositories of legal information.