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How attorneys can be like herlock Holmes

As an attorney, you probably wear many different hats: legal advisor, counselor, psychiatrist, negotiator, accountant and manager. But at one point or another in your legal career, you will need to put on your fedora.

Unlike the days of Sherlock Holmes, you are no longer bound to quick wit and sharp observational skills to gather information. And you don’t need a legendary intuition or trademark instincts either.

In today’s day and age, you can utilize the power of the Internet to gather facts and information, in a fraction of the time it took Mr. Holmes to make his own deduction.

Without further ado, here’s our list of 81 research links for attorneys to summon their inner Sherlock Holmes:

Court Searches / Public Records

Court records and public records can provide valuable insight into the character of a witness, expert witness or even your own client.

1. TLO ($): While this tool is used extensively by law enforcement, financial institutions, government and licensed investigators, attorney’s may not know that they can access this powerful database as well. TLO offers a wide array of asset information, phone numbers, addresses, and it’s surprisingly simple to use and effective.
2. LexisNexis ($): LexisNexis is a staple at nearly every law firm, but aside from its vast catalog of case law, there there is a vast source of public records and other information that you are probably not using.
3. Westlaw ($): Like LexisNexis, Westlaw has an incredibly powerful database of public information and historical periodicals, which you may or may not have access to.
4. LexisNexis CourtLink ($): CourtLink provides docket research and access to the one of largest collections of federal, state, and local court records (not just case law).
5. PACER ($): This is probably not new to you, but Pacer provides civil, criminal and bankruptcy case and docket information from federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts.
6. BRB Publications, Inc.: BRB’s has more than 3,500 vendors who maintain, search or retrieve public records directly from the court.
7. Search Systems: You may be able to access one of the more than 55,000 links to free public record databases online by type and location.
8. The United States Tax Court: If the IRS has determined that an individual has a tax deficiency, the taxpayer or his / her attorney can dispute the deficiency in US Tax Court.
9. Search Systems Criminal Record Search ($): Provides searches to more than 450 million criminal records in the U.S.
10. Secretaries of State: Find officers, directors and shareholders information from any corporation or LLC.

State Specific Courts

Don’t be confused – none of the court databases cover all of the jurisdictions in the United States. What better way to search for court records than at the source itself?

11. Los Angeles Superior Court ($): Provides an index of defendants in criminal cases as well as searches for Civil court matters in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
12. Connecticut Courts: Access Superior Court records for Connecticut dating back 10 years.
13. Court PC of CT ($): Third-party resource for Connecticut Court records dating back to the 1980s.
14. Virginia Courts: Access the General District and Circuit Court records for Virginia
15. Wisconsin Courts: Access to the Wisconsin Circuit Courts
16. Maryland Courts: Maryland judiciary case search
17. Missouri Courts: Case management system for Missouri state courts
18. Texas Secretary of State ($): Texas corporate records and UCC filings are available to lawyers on the Texas Secretary of State Website.
19. Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County: Access to Civil, Law, Chancery, and Domestic Relations in Cook County, Illinois (Chicago)

Search Engines

While you may think that all search engines are created equal, they aren’t. While Google is the 1,000 pound gorilla, there are a few specialized search engines and new up and comers, that (this may surprise you) provide different results than Google.

20. Google: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and it is a pretty good place to start any research.
21. Bing: Not every search engine is created equally. Bing provides alternative search results, so be sure to search here.
22. DuckDuckGo: For anonymous searches and unique search results, DuckDuckGo is a great source.
23. Google Search Operators: Because typing a straight search string is not enough.
24. Spokeo: The people search engine organizes whitepages, public records and social media networks all in one place.
25. TinEye: Interested in seeing if an image has been used or published on the Internet?

Financial and Government Regulatory

If you are dealing with any individual or company in the financial industry, here are a few places to start.

26. FINRA Broker Check: If you’re a looking into the background of registered investment professionals, this is where you want to start.
27. Investment Adviser Search: Information about current and certain former Investment Adviser Representatives, Investment Adviser firms registered with the SEC and/or state securities regulators.
28. FINRA Arbitration & Mediation: Current and historical arbitration and mediation awards for FINRA Cases can be searched in this database.
29. North American Securities Administrators Association: Did you know that some historical (and even some current information) about brokers and investment advisers can only be obtained through the state?
30. National Futures Association: Another self-regulatory body for the financial industry that oversees the U.S. Futures Industry.
31. Governmentattic: Provides electronic copies of thousands of interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Political Contributions

Would it be interesting for you to know that the witness you are about to cross-examine or the person sitting across from the deal table is politically connected?

32. Open Secrets: This third-party resource includes an extensive collection of political contributions and lobbyist records dating back to the 1990s.
33. Federal Election Commission: Federal political contribution records directly from the source.
34. Follow The Money: Search state political contribution records to confirm where plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses or even opposing counsels affiliation may be.

New York Specific Links

We are probably a bit bias, but we are based in New York and it just so happens to be the financial capital of the world.

35. New York City Department of Finance – Office of the City Register: Property records for the five boroughs of New York City.
36. New York City Property: Provides up to date tax information for properties in the five boroughs of New York City.
37. New York State – Department of State Division of Corporations, State Records and UCC: Search for New York State business and not-for-profit corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships, as well as other miscellaneous businesses.
38. New York State Campaign Financial Disclosure: New York State political contribution records.
39. The New York City Campaign Finance Board: New York City campaign contribution records.
40. The New York Unified Court System (UCS): Access to eCourts, which provides access to information on future court appearances in New York and limited historical cases.
41. New York Inmate Locator: Searches New York State Department of Correction records.
42. New York State Supreme Court and the County Clerk of New York: Online access to County of New York Supreme Court cases.
43. Westchester County Clerk ($): Access to legal records and land records for Westchester County, New York.
44. New York Attorney Search: Verify the license of a New York attorney.
45. New York Professional License Search: Search for professional licenses in the State of New York, like doctors, accountants and architects.
46. New York Department of State, Division of Licensing Services: Search for other professional licenses including notary public, security guard and private investigator.
47. New York Real Estate License Search: Verify a New York real estate license.

State Criminal Record Checks

Criminal records are always a good place to check when you are trying to dig up a little “dirt” on someone.

48. Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Computerized Criminal History (CCH) ($)
49. Connecticut Department of Public Safety ($)
50. Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Criminal History ($)
51. Georgia Felon Search ($)
52. Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center ($)
53. Idaho State Police Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) ($)
54. Illinois State Police ($)
55. Indiana State Police Limited Criminal History Search ($)
56. Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Criminal History Record Check ($)
57. Kentucky Court of Justice, Administrative Office of the courts ($)
58. Maine Criminal History Record ($)
59. Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS), Criminal Offender Record Information (iCori) ($)
60. Michigan State Police Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) ($)
61. Missouri Automated Criminal History Site (MACHS) ($)
62. Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation ($)
63. Nebraska State Patrol Criminal Identification Division (CID) ($)
64. New York State Office of Court Administration criminal record search ($)
65. Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation ($)
66. Oregon Open Records ($)
67. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Citizens Access to Criminal Histories (CATCH) ($)
68. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Open Records Information Services (TORIS) ($)
69. Texas Department of Public Safety Computerized Criminal History System (CCH) ($)
70. Vermont Criminal Information Center Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Justice Services ($)
71. Washington Access To Criminal History ($)

Miscellaneous

72. Internet Archive: Like a paper library, the Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. An absolutely priceless tool.
73. Domain Tools ($): Interested in getting historical information about the owner of a domain? Domain Tools not only offers information about current domain registrations, they also house an entire database of historical information, so you can track any changes that may occurred.
74. The U.S. Department of Justice: National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW): National source of sex offender data.
75. Federal Inmate Locator: U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate locator
76. Guidestar ($): If you are ever in need of information relating to to non-profit organizations, this is a good place to start.
77. Tape Recording Laws: Tape recording laws for all 50 states
78. Ancestry.com ($): There are hordes of genealogical sites out there, but Ancestry.com has the most robust database of historical ancestral records.
79. SpyDialer: SpyDialer lets you find out who is behind a cell phone number by stealthily capturing a voicemail recording.
80. Historical Military Records: Verify historical military records.
81. Active Military Status: Verify active military status with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Website.

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6 replies
  1. Ward Taylor
    Ward Taylor says:

    Hello Brian
    I always love to read your blogs. Really well done and informative.
    I’m reading your latest ‘Sherlock Holmes’ column and am always impressed with the sheer number of resources available to investigators – in the U.S anyway.
    I am in Ontario Canada and am always on the lookout for similar research materials/companies but there is a scarcity of them – either free or $.
    I believe that our privacy laws are somewhat stricter here in Canada and that makes it a little bit trickier for providers. There may also be the financial fact of simply being a much smaller market to serve.
    Anyway, I would certainly be appreciative of hearing about any services that you might be aware of that have info on Canadian persons. I’m referring to credit headers, asset locators, court searches etc.

    Love your blogs. Look forward to each one.

    Regards
    Ward

  2. Oliver Mackson
    Oliver Mackson says:

    Excellent compendium Brian, thank you.
    I’d add to the NY list SeeThroughNy.net, which has a vast treasure trove of pension, payroll and contract data.

  3. David Childe
    David Childe says:

    Doing the searches cleverly using a variety of keyword combinations is really critical – no matter which search engine is being used. Yet google’s search operators, in particular, do indeed make this job easier. Same can be said about facebook and linkedin searches. Use their advanced capabilities. It often pays to use google search to search within facebook and other social media sites. The algorithms are different, so the results may be as well. Excellent, highly helpful post – as usual. Keep them coming!

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