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Legal Research Process

What is the Office of the Law Revision Counsel (OLRC)?

The Office of the Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) is a division within the U.S. House of Representatives charged with preparing and publishing the United States Code, and offers the USC online.

When to Use OLRC's USC

By this point in the legal research process, you will have looked at various secondary sources that have indicated whether and to what extent federal statutes are at issue. If you already have some sense then of what are the relevant USC citations for your project, the next steps are double checking that they are indeed relevant by looking them up, checking their currency, and working from these citations to find any other relevant statutes you missed earlier.

In searching for federal statutes online, there are two good free options (LII and OLRC) and two standard licensed options (Lexis and West). After searching a free, online version you should turn to the annotated codes, Lexis' USCS and West's USCA, whether in print or online, for more thorough research.

Another reason to use ORLC is that it is put together by the office that codifies the USC and may be more up to date than Lexis and Westlaw.

How to Use the OLRC's USC

There are five primary ways to search the OLRC site:

  1. Natural language: do a simple search from the homepage or use the advanced option;
  2. Terms and connectors;
  3. by citation;
  4. by browsing the Table of Contents; and,
  5. by Popular Name

Unfortunately, it does not include an index.


In some ways, the OLRC's main appeal is as a currency tool to double check what is on Lexis and Westlaw. Here are the main currency features:

  • When you bring up an individual USC section, if Congress has passed legislation that is too new to have been codified yet, there will be a notice of "Pending Updates" at the top of the screen. The pending update will provide information about the public law passed affecting that USC section.
  • You can enter a USC citation into the Cite Checker (under Other OLRC Tables and Tools) to see if there is any information about public law provisions that have been classified to the section or a note under the section but are not yet reflected in the Code.
  • Coming at it from the other end, you can use the Classification Tables to see where newly enacted legislation will be codified, sorted in public law or USC order.
  • You can also follow the OLRC on Twitter to find out where the latest laws passed by Congress have been codified.

Strengths & Weakness of the OLRC's USC


Because the OLRC is the office that puts the USC together, it can be more current than Lexis' USCS or West's USCA. Unlike LII, it provides several tables beyond that for popular names, such as for executive orders and where sections of the Statutes at Large have been codified into the USC.


Like LII, one weakness of the OLRC is that it does not include an index for subject searching. And like LII, another major disadvantage is that it is unannotated, and thus does not include citations to related secondary authority or case law involving a statute. Moreover, it has no citator equivalent to Shepard's or KeyCite, and does not allow you to see whether the statute is still good law. For instance, a statute could be declared unconstitutional, but it remains in the text until Congress repeals or amends it. So, before relying on any statute found through the OLRC, it is important to use annotated versions of the code, such as the USCS or USCA, and Shepard's or KeyCite to check if the statute is still good law. While the OLRC tweets about changes to the code, there is no RSS feed option for individual titles such as what LII offers.