For many laypersons who cannot (or do not want to) spend money for a lawyer, the Internet seems like a good alternative to simply do it yourself.   Of course, those good intentions do not always end well.  That said, plenty of organizations are providing free and cheap services for non-lawyers to have the same electronic resources that were reserved for big-budget firms only 10 years ago.  A new entrant is the  Public Library of Law, which is partnered with the low-cost Westlaw/Lexis alternative, Fastcase. The PLoL provides searches of case law, statutes, regulations, court rules, and legal forms. The site appears to bring a Google simplicity to searching the law.  After briefly browsing the service, it appears that while searches are free, many of the cases require registration with the PLoL (free) or with FastCase (low fee), and many of the legal forms must be purchased from a third-party provider.

Notably, members of the Minnesota State Bar Association have free access to FastCase through the MSBA website. While it may not be as comprehensive as Westlaw or Lexis, it may serve as a good start for cost-sensitive or pro bono clients.

Lawyers will probably want to stay with their research tools of choice, but the Public Library of Law is worth noting, as a service that clients (or future clients) may be relying upon before seeking your advice.

Public Library of Law