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Fee-Based U.S. Legal Research Databases: LexisNexis

This guide is created based on the research guide I have updated in NYU Globalex. It describes several providers of legal research databases, focusing on fee-based sources, both high-cost and low-cost


LexisNexis, owned by Reed Elsevier, is one of the two largest providers of U.S. legal information.  The legal information division of LexisNexis is often referred to as “Lexis.”  Outside of the U.S., LexisNexis provides non-U.S. legal information through country-specific websites, for example, LexisNexis- France; LexisNexis - Germany; LexisNexis- Austria; and LexisNexis- United Kingdom.


What LexisNexis Offers

Like Westlaw (see below), LexisNexis offers a full range of U.S. legal information, including materials from all 50 states.  In the U.S., primary authority consists of the constitution, statutes, administrative regulations, and cases.  LexisNexis gives the researcher access to all of these sources.  In addition, LexisNexis has large databases of secondary sources ­– commentary on law contained in legal treatises, law journal articles, legal encyclopedias, and legal digests.  Although commentaries are not primary sources of law in the U.S. legal system, consulting these secondary sources is often an efficient and effective approach to research.  Secondary sources usually explain the law more clearly than statutes and cases, while providing references to the applicable primary sources.  Examples of secondary materials, to name a few, include: encyclopedias, such as American Jurisprudence 2d, California Jurisprudence 3d, New York Jurisprudence 2d, Illinois Jurisprudence, Florida Jurisprudence, etc.; American Law Reports (ALR); Restatements of general principles of common law; continuing legal education (CLE) materials for practicing bar members; and U.S. law review and journal articles. 


LexisNexis offers thousands of individual databases.  Some databases combine the contents of several databases.  For example, researchers can choose a database of New York court decisions, or search all state court cases at once.  Usually, it is cheapest and most efficient to search the smallest database that contains all of the information needed.


In its databases of cases, LexisNexis generally offers complete coverage back to the earliest case. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court cases date back to January 1790, and cases from the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the U.S. District Courts go back to 1789.  Its statutes databases offer current, frequently updated laws, and offer both codified statutes like United States Code Service arranged by 51 subject titles and uncodified public laws published chronologically.  Because researchers sometimes need earlier versions of statutes, LexisNexis also has “archived” versions of statute databases, most of which extend back to 1991.  LexisNexis offers a free, searchable list of its databases.


Currency and Updating Tools

Primary authorities such as statutes, cases, administrative regulations and decisions are current and updated regularly.  For example, the most recent public laws are available within 24 to 48 hours after a law is passed, U.S. Code Service is updated several times per month, Federal Register is updated daily, and Code of Federal Regulations is updated weekly.


Researchers also monitor new cases, new statutes, news, and more, using LexisNexis Alerts.  After retrieving satisfactory search results and clicking on “Save as Alert,” researchers can receive email updates on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis.  LexisNexis offers Shepard's Citations Service in order to enable researchers to determine whether they are employing “good law.”  Furthermore, Shepard's Alert allows subscribes to receive regular updates on citing authorities that could potentially affect the validity of a law.  Lastly, LexisNexis provides legal news databases.  Researchers can search by practice area, jurisdiction, and publisher, such as BNA, Mealey's, Tax Analysts, American Lawyer Media, Dolan Media Company, etc.


How its Databases are Organized

LexisNexis organizes its databases in a hierarchical structure.  Major headings include:

·       jurisdictions (e.g., federal, states, country, and region);

·       types of documents (e.g., cases, court records, briefs, filings, legislation, secondary legal materials, legal news, 50 state survey, and reference); and

·       legal subjects (e.g., taxation, bankruptcy, and labor & employment).


For a typical U.S. state, LexisNexis divides its database offerings under several major headings.  For example, California databases are divided into Cases, Court Records, Briefs and Filings, Expert Witness Analysis, Jury Verdicts & Settlements, Statutes & Regulations, Administrative Materials & Court Rules, Forms & Drafting Instructions, Analysis & CLE Materials, General News, Legal News, Public Records [[1]], Filings [[2]], Legal Reference Materials [[3]], Jury Instructions [[4]], and Verdicts [[5]].


Within a category, such as Cases, the researcher can choose from several databases.  For California, LexisNexis offers a database of cases from the California Supreme Court, a database of cases from the California Courts of Appeals, a database that combines these two, and a database that combines them with federal cases relating to California – these federal cases are those from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and lower federal courts within that circuit.



Overall, searching in LexisNexis is not intuitive for the beginners.  Thus, it is highly recommended that researchers complete LexisNexis Training & Tutorials available here .


Basically, Researchers should choose an appropriate database(s) by the "Find a Source" function or by browsing by jurisdiction, types of documents, or topic.  Then, they can search by terms after selecting search type among Terms & Connectors, Natural Language, or Easy Search.  If Researchers have a citation(s), a party name(s), or docket number(s), they can retrieve by the "Get a Document" function.



The design of LexisNexis has become much simpler since its change in November 2010, but is still complex since users have to browse the contents instead of using a search box in the beginning.  Once you log in to LexisNexis, unlike the recently launched Lexis Advance platform, the traditional LexisNexis does not provide a search box upfront.  Researchers either have to choose what type of search they will begin with from the navigation bars on the top-left hand side, or from the main middle page, browse by jurisdiction, type of documents, and topic to find an appropriate database by clicking several times.  Sub-tabs under the navigation bar allow users quickly access to the databases by a topical tab.


In the U.S., LexisNexis launched the new Lexis Advance platform in May 2012.  This new platform is much more usable and intuitive than Lexis, and allows users to do Google-like search and find the relevant answers by their unique content classification technology.  Lexis Advance is not yet available in foreign markets.



LexisNexis offers a bewildering variety of subscription plans.  Some plans are based on hourly usage and database cost.  Others are based on the number of searches conducted (“transactional” pricing), and others are based on a discounted rate for specified databases.   The cost of databases differs considerably, depending on factors such as the size of the database and whether the underlying data comes from another vendor.  Additional charges for printing, downloading, or emailing documents may apply.


LexisNexis does not offer free trials.  But, LexisNexis offers 10 years of free unenhanced federal and state case law as well as a wide variety of legal and business online communities at this website.


Technical Information

LexisNexis recommends technical specifications that can be found here.  LexisNexis offers toll-free technical help for non-U.S. customers, regardless of location.