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

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


HeinOnline is owned by William S. Hein & Co., Inc. (“Hein”).  Hein’s primary market for HeinOnline is U.S. law school libraries and large law firms.   HeinOnline has subscribers in over 150 countries.


What HeinOnline Offers

HeinOnline, a product of William S. Hein & Co., Inc., includes over 70 million pages of legal history available in an online, fully searchable, image-based format.  It provides comprehensive coverage from inception of more than 1,600 law and law-related periodicals.  HeinOnline provides PDF images of documents as they appear in print, ensuring authenticity of the original copy.       


HeinOnline offers a variety of materials.  For the most part, it does not have core legal research resources (statutes and cases) like those offered by the other vendors in this guide.  HeinOnline’s main components are U.S. Supreme Court opinions from the beginning of the Court; a large collection of U.S. law journals, with coverage back to the earliest volume; a “Treaties and Agreements” library including the Treaties and International Acts Series, and U.S. Treaties and Other International Acts; and the Federal Register.  Further descriptions of its collection are available here


HeinOnline has been successful in part because it provides high-quality image-based PDF replicas of original documents.  Also, most of its Federal Register and law journals collection is not available electronically from other vendors.  Although HeinOnline is popular in academic law libraries, researchers use it primarily to retrieve known documents.  Its full-text search capabilities are much less powerful than those of Westlaw, Lexis, or other commercial database providers.  Users can search by phrase, and can use the Boolean “and” connector (by selecting the “all words” option).  HeinOnline offers a very limited Boolean “or” connector option (by selecting “any words”), which cannot be combined with other terms.  But users cannot create proximity searches, grammatical connector searches, or natural language searches.  They can, however, restrict searches by date.


The Librarian’s Corner of HeinOnline offers various materials for libraries to market the products: logos, brand identity guidelines, posters, graphic banners for webpages, the law journal library citation widget, new library press release announcements, as well as a description of HeinOnline and its libraries.  Moreover, the American Association of Law Libraries (“AALL”) makes its entire archive available to its members through HeinOnline.


How its Databases are Organized

HeinOnline is divided into various “Collections” (sometimes referred to as “Libraries”).  Users access collections within their respective institution’s subscription.  These include, amongst others: Law Journal Library; Intellectual Property Library; HeinOnline PoliSci; Foreign and International Law Resources Database (FILRD); English Reports 1220-1865 (full reprint); Digital Session Laws; New York Court of Appeals Records and Briefs; European Center for Minority Issues (ECMI); International Law Association Reports (ILA); U.S. Code of Federal Regulations; Federal Register; Legal Classics Library; Philip C. Jessup Library; World Trials Collection; Treaties and Agreements Library; U.S. Supreme Court Library; U.S. Federal Legislative History Library; U.S. Attorney General Opinions Library; U.S. Statutes at Large Library; and U.S. Presidential Library.  The scope notes in the index provide useful summaries of the content of each library.  In each scope note, a list of titles can be downloaded in CSV and KBART formats.



Hein’s pricing model is to sell unlimited access to a “Collection” or package of Collections (“library modules”).  Hein offers differing subscription prices based on the size and nature of the subscribing institution and whether the institution subscribes to the entire collection or to one or more of its library modules.  License agreements also vary depending on the type of institution.  Hein offers a core subscription package and a-la-carte subscription options.  Subscriptions are annual.  Trial access to a sample of the HeinOnline collection is available at Hein’s discretion; see here.


Technical information

HeinOnline recommends that users have a dedicated internet connection.  For PDF printing, HeinOnline recommends Adobe Acrobat Reader, version 6.0 or later. More system requirements and recommendations are listed here.  HeinOnline provides technical support by email.  A toll-free technical assistance number is available for U.S. customers.