Conducting legal research
Committee member Katie Rich shares her pointers for getting the most from your research
- Know how to use paper and electronic resources. Paper resources are often cheaper to access and do not produce a truncated search, as is often the case with online databases.
- If you’re researching a specific topic, Halsbury’s Laws is a good starting point as it will provide a summary of the law in a particular area. The footnotes will also point you to further research sources such as cases and statutes.
- If you’re not sure where to start looking, Justcite is a search engine which is neutral of any legal publisher. Consequently, it searches all legal research sources and provides citations, summaries and related case law related to the topic searched. It’s especially useful if you know the subject of a case but not the name.
- If you need to research in depth on the law in a particular area, practitioner texts can be very useful. Don’t forget to check that they are up to date though!
- If you’re researching statutes, the most comprehensive source is Halbury’s Statutes of England, accessible in paper version or online in LexisNexis Butterworths. If you’re using the paper version, remember to check the Cumulative Supplement and Noter Up for amendments.
- To check commencement of a statute, check Halsbury’s ‘Is It In Force’ (part of Halsbury’s Statutes of England). Also you can check for amendments in the Current Law Legislation Citator
- To research European Law, useful general sources are Eur-Lex, Europa and (in paper version) European Current Law. To avoid a truncated search, you’ll need to use different Boolean connectors: for ‘and’ substitute ‘with’, for ‘or’, separate search terms with a comma and for ‘not’ substitute ‘except’.Useful sources for researching precedents are Atkins court forms (available in paper or online at LexisNexis Butterworths) and the Encyclopedia of Forms and Precedents. Start by searching for your topic in the consolidated index and then locating the relevant volume and paragraph. Don’t forget to check for amendments in the looseleaf service binders.
- If you know the name of a case but not the citation, the Current Law Case Citator lists all cases since 1947 by party name. For very recent cases, look in the cumulative table of cases in the latest issue of the Monthly Digest. As if this wasn’t enough, the citator will also refer you to a summary of the case in the relevant Current Law Year Book.
- If you need to record your research in a report, present your results clearly using subheadings and don’t forget to note down how you found your results.