Save Time on Comparative State Statutory Research with 50 State Surveys

Last week in our Advanced Legal Research course at UW Law, we delved into the topic of legislative research including 50 state surveys.  Inevitably, there are a few students every year who have been tasked with compiling and comparing laws across states and spent hours searching the laws of each state.

Then we show them the various 50 state survey tools and they shake their heads at the amount of time they could have saved if they had known about them.  50 state surveys are tools whereby an expert has already compiled the law from every state on a specific topic – or through which the user can customize their own spreadsheet.  If you can find one on your topic, they can save you an inordinate amount of time

  • Subscription Databases
    • Lexis and Westlaw offer 50 state statutory – and regulatory – surveys on hundreds of topics. Just start typing 50 state survey… and select the suggested source from the dropdown list.
    • Practical Law (via Westlaw Precision) and Practical Guidance (via Lexis Advance) both offer customizable statutory comparison tools – select only the states and topics that are of interest to you.  For both tools, go to the menu on the right.  In Practical Law look for Quick Compare and in Practice Guidance it’s called the State Law Comparison Tool.
    • Bloomberg Law also offers customizable State Law chart builders on many topics.  Go to Practitioner Tools, then select Chart Builders.
    • Hein Online offers two statutory comparison resources:  the National Survey of State Laws provides state-by-state comparisons of current state laws on selected topics and the Subject Compilation of State Laws indexes articles, books, etc. that contain comparisons of state laws.  The latter source is especially useful if you can’t find a 50-state survey that’s already been compiled.
  • Free


Here’s an example of a 50 State Survey on the Use of AI in the Practice of Law from Westlaw Precision.

Screen shot of a 50 state survey from Westlaw