I'm a researcher in economics. For a project I am working on, I've realized I need a better understanding of NYC Real Estate law. I've realized in this pursuit that there is no easily accessible resources available that will teach someone the law they are ruled by.

As a citizen bound by law, I feel like I am in some way entitled to resources to help me understand that law if I choose to pursue it. I can scroll through Wikipedia articles for hours on just about anything I want, I should be able to do the same for the law.

What forces are stopping such a resource from being available? It seems like it would be a valuable use of government resources.


"Understanding the law" and the availability of information on law and in particular the real estate laws of NYC are different things.

There are many online resources for the law; Google "NYC Real Estate law" and look at Wikipedia, Findlaw, Justia, the Cornell and Stanford law sites, state and federal government sites that make codes available, etc.

But understanding the law takes your own effort and your skills at reading and critical thinking. It's your choice to read and think and take classes in the law if you choose, i.e. Law | edX. No one or any government is obligated to you in that respect.

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  • Yep - I could read many sources of information on economics and not "know" economics the same way the OP does. – Dale M Sep 24 '18 at 5:19

Legal information is more freely available than most other professional disciplines.

All federal, state and city ordinances are posted ("gazetted") by the relevant government and are available for anyone who wants to to read them. Most case law is also available online. These are definitive.

The same cannot be said for disciplines like medicine, physics, engineering or even economics - much of the information in those disciplines is proprietary or behind paywalls.

Of course, while finding the information in law is relatively easy, understanding it can be as difficult as say understanding medicine, physics, engineering or economics. Fortunately there is a whole profession available that can hep you understand the law - for a fee of course.

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First I would mention that ANY statute that governs a person residing in the U.S. is readily available on the internet. I do not know of any state that does not now publish its entire code via the internet. The United States Code, as well as the Code of Federal Regulations, is available online as well.

However, in the United States we have a common law system of government. Which means a significant percentage of law is evolved through "interpretation" of these statutes/constitutions by the state and federal courts. While this system is beneficial in that it allows for the law to evolve with society in a natural way, it can make our legal system seem largely foreign and inaccessible to the average citizen. It is this area of law, known as precedent, that is largely unavailable to the layman. There are systems that will search through indexes of thousands of court cases on a given subject but they are so expensive that they tend to be used exclusively by those that practice law as a profession.

I would not let this deter you though. For subjects such as yours there are generally books that will tell you the major cases that govern the law in a given area. When I want to know something about a particular area of law I generally will look for the book that is assigned for that course at a major law school and just buy it and read it on my own--either from the university's online bookstore or through amazon.

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