Law librarians publish Free Internet Legal Research

Stetson Law News recently asked law librarians and adjunct professors Sally Waters and Wanita Scroggs to participate in a Q & A about their new book, Free Internet Legal Research, a guide attorneys can use to find and effectively use the best free legal sites.

(L-R): Adjunct professors and law librarians Sally Waters and Wanita Scroggs.

(L-R): Adjunct professors and law librarians Sally Waters and Wanita Scroggs were given Stetson hats to celebrate the publication of their new book.

Scroggs is Stetson’s Foreign and International Law Librarian. Waters is Stetson Law’s self-proclaimed “Queen of Reference.” Both Scroggs and Waters teach courses in Advanced Legal Research and have presented to professional groups, librarians and others about research methods and sources.

Stetson Law News: Tell us what inspired you to write Free Internet Legal Research?

Waters & Scroggs: We know from our experience here that attorneys don’t have time to learn the new resources like we do. But we also know that there are so many useful resources, we just can’t keep them to ourselves.

Stetson Law News: Who are the audiences for this book?

Waters & Scroggs: We originally wrote this with practicing attorneys in mind. However, we have heard from law students, professors and other librarians that they are enjoying it too. And we know of at least one Australian library that has the book.

Stetson Law News: How much of today’s legal research is done on the internet? How many legal research resources are out there and available and free?

Waters & Scroggs: Like everything else, it seems that legal research has gone digital. There is a myriad of legal resources out there freely available on the internet from city or county ordinances all the way through international laws. Because practice doesn’t involve only law, we also talk about how to find other types of information.

Stetson Law News: How does this book help guide people to free legal sites on the internet?

Waters & Scroggs: We not only introduce specific legal resources and websites, we also talk a lot about search strategy. Because websites change so frequently, that is both the advantage and disadvantage of electronic research. It helps to know how to find online resources for yourself.

Stetson Law News: Do most people know about all the free legal sites out there?

Waters & Scroggs: We constantly hear from attorneys how surprising it is to them that legal resources are available online for free. So, no, people don’t realize what’s out there.

Stetson Law News: You both work in a law library with many legal research tools available—how does the internet add to research methods and sources?

Waters & Scroggs: The internet is an essential part of legal research. It has wonderfully transformed the practice of law. Having said that, the content available is limited to the “digital age” or post 1980s, which means older materials can still best be found in print. Also, practical materials such as forms, practice manuals and other analytical material can be difficult to find for free online.

Stetson Law News: You teach a course on Advanced Legal Research—is internet research part of the curriculum?

Waters & Scroggs: Sally’s class meets in person and while the majority of the class deals with online sources, she still familiarizes students with print and why print resources still matter. Wanita’s class is held 100 percent online so she mentions print, but concentrates on electronic sources. For both of us, since our goal is to prepare students for law practice, we show them the most efficient and cost effective methods of research, whether print or electronic.

Stetson Law News: What is the most important takeaway you want people to remember from this book?

Waters & Scroggs: Don’t pay for stuff that you don’t have to, if you don’t have to.

Stetson Law News: Finally, tell us why you are wearing Stetson hats in your photo outside the Dolly & Homer Hand Law Library?

Waters & Scroggs: We received the hats as a congratulations from our colleagues on having published our book. We are wearing them because (tongue in cheek) as the song suggests, we have always dreamed of being cowgirls, but we’re afraid of cows.