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Legal Research skills
Case law
Academic Support Librarian
October 2010
Why learn legal research skills?
 To understand your reading lists
 To go beyond your prescribed reading
 To widen your research for your essays and
dissertations
 Mooting
 Further study – Masters..and beyond..
 Job – law firms/chambers expect trainees to be able
to carry out legal research
Skills learnt now will continue to be useful to you in
any further law studies or career.
What are we talking about?
Terms you will come across
Primary sources
 Case law
 Law report
 Judgment
 Transcript
 Decision
 Opinion
Secondary sources
 Books
 Journal articles
Why is case law important?
 Where judicial precedent applied in courts by
judges interpreting statute law
 Large body of law within case judgments
Therefore:
 important to understand hierarchy of courts
 important to find fullest reports of judgments
 Law libraries will have access to collections of
law reports to enable research both in print and
electronically across several centuries
What are law reports?
 Published reports of cases
 Not all cases are ‘reported’ in UK
 Only a small proportion of all cases heard
published
 Why are some reported?
 Interprets/clarifies/reinforces statute law
 Overturns a previous judgment
 Editors of law reports series select what is to
be published
What are law reports?
 Several reports of the same case can exist
 Format might be different - judgment will be
the same in all
 NOTE: some law reports are more
authoritative and respected above others
particularly in court and in mooting practice
Reading a law report
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Names of parties
Dates of hearing in court
Judge/judges
Catchwords ; Headnote
Lists of cases cited in the judgment
Legislation cited
Summary of actions and facts
Judgments – full verbatim text
Solicitors ; Names of Counsel
Case citations
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Derry v Peek (1889) L.R. 14 App. Cas. 337
R v Lowe [1973] QB 702
Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] 1 AC 171
Re D (A Child) [2007] 1 A.C. 619
Party names - year - volume - law report
abbreviation - page
Tip: Follow this principle in many jurisdictions not
just UK
Abbreviations
Cardiff Index of Legal Abbreviations
http://www.legalabbrevs.cardiff.ac.uk
Or in print, Raistrick Index to Legal Abbreviations and Citations
[Reference Collection K50 R51 first floor]
- same abbreviation can refer to different law reports
- if in doubt check jurisdiction (i.e. UK/Canada/Australia)
Search for series title on Library Catalogue – will show
print and/or online version
Print - note classmark and location, e.g. KD275
Locate on first floor - ‘Law books and Law reports’ block
Or access Electronic version – use the link on the
Catalogue or go to E-Journals page
NB: no individual case name will be on the Library Catalogue
Is one report more
authoritative/official than another?
Indexes and databases usually list the
references in order of importance:
Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart, House of
Lords, 26 November 1992
Where Reported: [1993] A.C. 593; [1992] 3
W.L.R. 1032; [1993] 1 All E.R. 42;
[1992] S.T.C. 898; [1993] I.C.R. 291; [1993]
I.R.L.R. 33; [1993] R.V.R. 127; (1993)
143 N.L.J. 17; [1992] N.P.C. 154; Times,
November 30, 1992; Independent, November 26,
1992
The Law Reports, 1865  Several sequences representing different courts:
 AC, Ch. KB/QB, Fam.
 Authoritative series for England & Wales
 Judgments are approved by the judges before published
 Should be "cited in preference where there is a choice".
Where?
 Law Books and Law Reports KD275 – 279 1st floor
 Westlaw UK – select Cases; search by case name or
keywords in document text (free text)
 Justis – select Cases. Displays in original format
 Lexis Library – select Cases; search by case name;
keywords in document text
Other law reports
Weekly Law Reports (WLR) 1953 –
KD282 W39 first floor
Westlaw UK
Justis
All England Law Reports (AllER) 1936 –
KD288.A64 A41 first floor
Lexis Library
Specialised law reports series – many of these
Simon’s Tax Cases (STC);British Company Cases (BCC)…
 Use Library Catalogue for print / online
 Or use E-Journals web page to locate which
database to use – search by series title
Online resources for case law
Image Placeholder #1
Image: Screenshot of the ‘Cases’ search page of online legal
service Westlaw UK
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: No
Date: 2010
Image Placeholder #2
Image: Screenshot of the ‘Cases’ search page of online legal service
Justis
Subscription resource: Yes
Image Placeholder #3
Edited: No
Image: Screenshot of the ‘Cases’ search page of online legal service Lexis
Library
Date: 2010
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: No
Date: 2010
Finding by case name
If you have no citation just the party name(s):
 Online – use Cases option; one / both party names
Westlaw UK – case law from 1235 Lexis Library - case law from 1865 Justis / JustCite (The Law Reports, Weekly Law Reports)
 Print indexes/digests of cases
The Law Reports Index (first floor)
Current Law KD296.C8 C97 (first floor)
 Covers UK case law ‘reported’ since 1947
 Alphabetical Index by first party name
 Annual volumes – Current Law Yearbooks
Image Placeholder
Image: Screenshot of the ‘Cases’ search page of online legal service Westlaw UK
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: Yes
Amendments: The ‘cases’ tab in the top of the screen is circled in red
Date: 2010
Image Placeholder
Image: Screenshot of the ‘Cases’ search page of online legal service Westlaw UK
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: Yes
Amendments: In the 'Party Names' field, the names 'donoghue' and 'stevenson' are written. These names are circled in bold
red, and 'No need to add the 'V' is written to the side in large bold red text. In the 'Browse' section below, the hyperlinks
'Case Analysis Documents' and 'Law Reports and Official Transcripts' are circled in bold red. The text 'Browsing options if you
know the references' is written in large bold red text.
No need to add the ‘V’
Date: 2010
Image Placeholder
Image: Results screen for the Donoghue v Stevenson search described above, on Westlaw UK.
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: Yes
Amendments:
The search result is: Donoghue v Stevenson, House of Lords, 26 May 1932. The last field of the search result is called
'Documents'. The documents are listed as hyperlinks, called 'Case Analysis'; '[1932 A.C. 562]', '1932 S.C. (H.L.) 31'; '1932 S.L.T.
317'. These hyperlinks are circled in bold red text. Next to this, large bold read text reads 'Full text documents on Westlaw'.
Date: 2010
Finding cases by subject
 Online
 Westlaw UK – search by keywords in free text in Cases
Lexis Library – keywords in Search term box in Cases
 Justis – free text box in Cases
 Search by keyword, names, legislation or other
case names
 Print – use the subject indexes of:
– Current Law back to 1947 - KD296.C8 C97 (first floor)
– The Law Reports Index 1865 - KD285 L41 (first floor)
– The Digest - KD296.E52 E51
– Textbook collections
Case summaries
Westlaw UK – Case Analysis section
Lexis Library – CaseSearch section
JustCite
Lawtel UK – daily updates
WLR Daily – daily updates on latest cases in High courts
Newspaper reports, e.g. Times Law Reports (Lexis
Library)
 Law journals, e.g. Solicitor’s Journal, New Law Journal
 Current Law Yearbooks and Monthly issues, KD296.C8 C97
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Use for:
 keeping up to date
 reading key facts and outcome of decisions
Following history of a case
 Need history of a case to establish whether cases are still
‘good law’
 Judgment can:
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Be overturned by a later case;
Overturn an earlier judgment
Apply principles of a previous one;
Follow or approve a previous decision
Be followed by a later (subsequent) case
 Use
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Westlaw Case Analysis record
Lexis CaseSearch record
Justis – look at the tabs on a case display
Print: Current Law Citators and Current Law Yearbooks, first floor summaries and index note where a judgment has been followed,
applied, distinguished.
Case Analysis – Westlaw UK
Image Placeholder
Image: A screenshot of the screen displayed after clicking on the 'case analysis' hyperlink provided in the search
results screen, on Westlaw UK.
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: Yes
Amendments:
Text in the centre of the screen is circled in bold red. This reads 'Status: - Negative Judicial Consideration'; 'R. (on
the application of Purdy) v DPP'; 'Court of Appeal (Civil Division)'; '18 February 2001'; 'Case Analysis'. Next to this
selection is the bold red text: 'February Judgement noting that affected by another decision - see Appellate
History for details.
On the left of the screen, the hyperlinks underneath the title 'Case Analysis' are circled in bold red. The selected
text reads: Where Reported; Case Digest; Appellate History; Significant Cases Cited; Legislation Cited; Journal
Articles'.
Date: 2010
Appellate / Case History
Image Placeholder
Image: A screenshot of the screen displayed after clicking on the Appellate History' hyperlink described
above, on Westlaw UK.
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: Yes
Amendments:
Links to three documents are displayed on the right, in chronological order. In the centre of the screenshot,
large, bold red text reads February judgement was reversed by House of Lords judgement in July 2009
Date: 2010
Case searching on Lexis Library
Image Placeholder
Image: Screenshot of the ‘Cases’ search page of online legal service Lexis Library
Subscription resource: Yes
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: Yes
Amendments:
The search boxes ‘Case name’; ‘Sources’; and ‘Search terms’ at the top of the screen are circled in
bold red. Large, bold red text reads ‘Insert party names or key subject words’
Date: 2010
Image Placeholder
Image: A screen shot listing search results, having entered 'Purdy' into the 'Case Name' field of the
case search screen.
Subscription resource: Yes
Subscription resource: Yes
Full text official judgment
Edited: Yes
Amendments:
Three results are circled in bold red, to illustrate the different types of sources listed.
The 1st circled result is 'R (on the application of Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions'. Large, bold
red text above this reads 'full text official judgement'.
The 2nd circled result is 'R (on the application of Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions - 109 BMLR
153'. Large, red bold text to the side of this reads 'published law report'.
The 3rd circled result is 'R (on the applpication of Purdy) v DPP [2009] UKHL 45, [2009] WLR 403'.
Large, red bold text to the side reads 'CaseSearch provides notes about cases'.
Date: 2010
CaseSearch on Lexis
Image Placeholder
Image: A screen shot displaying the options available after clicking on a CaseSearch option described
above.
Subscription resource: Yes
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: Yes
Amendments:
A bold red line circles a table in the centre of the page, which has three entries in it. The table
column titles are 'Annotations'; 'Case Name'; 'Citations'; 'Court'; 'Date'; and 'Signal'. Large, bold, red
text above the table reads 'See annotations about a case plus links to other related decisions'.
Date: 2010
Justis
Image Placeholder
Image: A screen shot displaying an individual record, after searching for Purdy on the Justis case
search page.
Subscription resource: Yes
Subscription resource: Yes
Edited: Yes
Amendments:
A bold red circle highlights the tabs at the top of the page, which are ‘Outline’(in blue), ‘Also
Reported In’, ‘Cases Considered’, ‘Subsequent Cases’, ‘Legislation Cited’, and ‘Related Articles’. To
the side, large, red, bold text reads ‘Tabs with notes about case history, legislation, articles’
Date: 2010
Recent / unreported cases
 Only small number ‘reported’ so many
unreported
 All cases have ‘neutral citation’
 Can be confusing as abbreviation here does
NOT refer to a print copy law report
 Cases can be published on the internet
before they appear in a law report series
R v Herbert & Ors [2008] EWCA Crim 2501 (29 October 2008)
Name - year – jurisdiction - court - division - case
number - para
Finding recent / unreported cases
Locate online
Recent judgments:
 BAILII www.bailii.org.uk
 High Court judgments back to 1997
 Can be published within hours
 Westlaw UK
 For unreported cases look at Official Transcript
 Lexis Library
 Unreported cases back to 1980
Old cases
 ‘Modern’ law reporting began in 1865
 You will need to locate cases prior to this date, e.g.
Dalloway (1847) 2 Cox CC 273
 Use ‘Cardiff Index’
 Will be reprinted in English Reports, 1235 – 1865
 175 volumes, KD270 E51 first floor
 Easier to use online at any of these:
– Westlaw UK
– Justis
– Hein Online
– CommonLII
Tip: online versions make pre-1865 cases easier to find and
use. Search by keywords or name.
Why not use Google?
Much information is freely available but be aware:
 No quality standards or peer review
 Information can be moved, changed or removed without
warning, wrong, out of date and biased
 Law changes – being up to date is paramount.
 Know that you are looking at authoritative information,
e.g. official court or legislation websites e.g. BAILII,
EUR-Lex
 Won’t include information from law databases such as
Lexis or Westlaw therefore not a complete picture.
 Have a look at this Internet tutorial:
http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/tutorial/law/
 If rely only on Google searching, you will miss
crucial information and could be using inaccurate
information.
Electronic resources recap
 Electronic Resources via Library website
 Use the subject guides
 When know the database that you need, use
the Library Catalogue
 search by database name
 Law reports listed on E-Journals webpage –
will specify which database to use for a
series – search by series title
 Use LSE username and password to access
Further reading
 Use if you are researching a new topic or jurisdiction.
 All will cover both hard copy and electronic methods of
research. Note: some titles are a few years old but the
principles of legal research and hard copy materials remain
valid although online information resources may change.
 Bradney, A. Cownie, F. Masson, J. Neal, A. Newell,D How to
study law. Sweet & Maxwell, 5th edition. 2005
 Clinch, P. Using a law library OUP, 2nd edition. 2001
 Finch, E., Fafinski, S. Legal Skills OUP, 2007
 Holborn, G. Butterworths’ Legal Research Guide.
Butterworths. 2nd edition, 2001
 Knowles, J., Thomas, P Effective Legal Research. Sweet &
Maxwell, 1st edition 2006
Guidance and help
 Legal research books/guides: use when
covering new jurisdictions/subjects
 Law Library guide
 Internet for law tutorial

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