The availability of legal materials on the Internet has changed rapidly over the last 15 years. As legal materials have been digitized, or produced in digital formats, their availability on the Internet has increased expotentially. Many legal practicioners rely upon the availabily of electronic legal materials via major vendors such as Lexis and Westlaw. These vendors have added editorial content, finding aids, and metadata to primary legal materials which have made them easier to find, use, and implement in practice. The cost of these vendors, however, may be impractical or prohibitive depending upon the area of practice and the client's ability to pay.
In reponse, an effort has been made to make primary legal materials available for free online or at low-cost. These materials will often lack the additional content added by major vendors and must be independently evaluated for their currentness, authority, and accuracy. As they lack finding aids and extensive metadata, they are also more difficult to find.
When evaluating free, or low-cost, online legal materials a practicioner must carefully evaluate the following: