Legal Research Tournament! Round 1, Game 2: HeinOnline vs. Books in the Library

Welcome to Round 1 of the Legal Research Tournament, where 8 teams (or legal research resources) will begin the competition to answer the question: If you had to pick just one resource to use for all of your legal research, which one would be the best? For a description of the rules of the tournament, the teams competing and the tournament seedings and bracket, please see our previous post, The Legal Research Tournament Begins!

[Opinions expressed during this completely objective competition are solely my own, and not those of the UVA Law Library, UVA Law School, or former and still champion LawDawgs softball team.]

And on to the second of this week’s four matchups!:

(3) HeinOnline vs. (6) Books in the Library.

HeinOnline is of course the journal cite-checker’s best friend, providing PDFs taken from the original source of Supreme Court Opinions, law journal articles, UN Documents including major treaties and International Court of Justice Opinions, state and federal statutes and much more—often going back in time to the first run of these documents. It’s a great, one-stop shopping experience that can help you collect the documents you need for your cite check before the weekend even begins! In addition, Hein has partnered with Fastcase to provide access to all federal and state cases (having previously only provided U.S. Supreme Court cases) either by plugging in a citation or linking from another Hein document. It’s a smart partnership by two niche providers of legal research services, although for law students, it’s really not a game changer.

Hein remains a nice depository of PDFs for cite checkers, but not a general legal research database. Even with the Fastcase feature, you still cannot do full-text keyword searching of any cases except for the Supreme Court opinions. Hein also has no annotated codes, case headnotes, or other features found in the major legal research databases like WestlawNext or LexisAdvance. It’s a great place to go to pull up an original document when you have a citation already, but not really a general legal research resource.

The Books in the Library, on the other hand, are the original legal research resource. Yes, they are slower and more cumbersome to use than WestlawNext, for example, but this is a head-to-head matchup so we’re not concerned with WestlawNext at the moment. All the mainstays of legal research, such as treatises, annotated codes, published cases, and case digests, originated in the books and can still be found there. It’s true that in these days of instant, online research feedback, using the books seems like a step backward. In this matchup, though, books have the advantage over Hein’s online database. If you need to do some basic research on a topic of Virginia law—finding relevant statutes, regulations or cases—and your choice of sources is between HeinOnline and the Books in the Library, you’ll be much more successful with the books.

                Winner: Books in the Library.

Tomorrow’s match-up: (2) Lexis Advance vs. (7) Critical Thinking. 

– Ben Doherty 

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Ben Doherty

Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.

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