You can search the full text of hundreds of journals in the combined databases available in LexisNexis and Westlaw. (Bloomberg Law also has law journals, but its coverage is much more recent than Lexis or Westlaw.)
HeinOnline has the full text (and PDFs) of hundreds of journals. Its coverage goes back much further than that of Lexis or Westlaw—generally to volume 1 of each journal. If you are writing about a case that was decided six months ago or a statute that was just enacted, that early coverage might not be important to you. But for many topics you will want to know what scholars said years ago.
Note that HeinOnline's search connectors are a little different than Lexis and Westlaw's. Check the user guides.
The Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP) is a weekly index of recently published law journal issues. CILP also includes law review tables of contents and links to the articles in HeinOnline.
Looking at all the new articles published in a week can be overwhelming. But SmartCILP lets you create a profile to get just the alerts you want--say, new articles indexed under Criminal Law and Procedure or International Trade, plus the tables of contents of the Duke Law Journal and the Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society. I'm not sure what one researcher would want that combination, but that's the beauty of SmartCILP: you can select whatever you want and get alerts sent to your email each week.
We at the Gallagher Law Library are proud of our history with CILP. The law library began in the 1930s as a service for UW Law's own faculty. In the 1940s, the library made CILP available to other libraries via subscription. (Why should every law school create the same service for its faculty?)
As law journals proliferated in the last few decades, CILP grew, covering more and more specialty journals. See Alena Wolotira, From a Trickle to a Flood: A Case Study of the Current Index to Legal Periodicals to Examine the Swell of American Law Journals Published in the Last Fifty Years, 31 Legal Reference Servs. Q. 150 (2012), [HeinOnline].
The library embraced new technology through the years, moving from mail distribution to electronic delivery and developing the customized SmartCILP service. CILP moved to HeinOnline in fall 2019, with editors who had worked on it for years when it was published by the Gallagher Law Library..
The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (available on HeinOnline and linked from the law library's homepage) indexes journals that are not from the U.S., U.K., Canada, or Australia. It also indexes journals from those countries if they focus on international or comparative law. And it indexes some book chapters.
If you are writing on a topic focused on state or federal law, you probably will not need to check IFLP, but if you topic is comparative or international, you should.
If your topic crosses disciplines, you should check indexes from outside law. For instance, if you are writing about health and human rights or about privacy in genetic information, see whether there are relevant articles in public health or medical journals. Depending on your topic, you might check indexes for business, economics, political science, history, or other fields. An excellent way to find relevant databases is to visit the University Libraries Research Guides page. Databases that includes articles from a broad range for disciplines include:
The UW Libraries catalog gives you several options for searching. The broadest option, "Articles, Books + More," searches about 20 indexes, as well as library catalogs. With one search you can find books in the law library, books in other campus libraries, dissertations, and articles from many journals.
For example, searching for irs surveillance privacy turned up (in the first screen) articles from a law journal, a computer trade journal, a business magazine, and a newspaper.
Searching indexes as part of a catalog search can be a good, quick way to get a sense of the range of material on your topic.
But it is not as focused as searching an index directly. That is, if you know that you want sociology articles, you have more options using Sociological Abstracts than you do having Sociological Abstracts as one of many indexes searched through the catalog interface.