When you have a legal question, where do you go for answers? The internet is a great place to start, but it can be difficult to know which websites are reliable sources of information. Here we will discuss the different sources of legal information, and how to do legal research using those sources. We will also provide tips for finding the right answer to your question!
BOOKS OF AUTHORITY
They are sometimes older works created between the late 12th and mid-18th centuries, before the system of legal reporting was fully developed, are regarded as credible expositions of their era's law. Examples include Sir Edward Coke's Institutes of the Laws of England (1628-44) and William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765 -69).
But they are the books which are most frequently cited by the courts and legal commentators. The best known book of authority is Halsbury's Laws of England, but other well-known examples include Craies on Statute Law, Archbold: Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice, Chitty on Contracts, Clerk & Lindsell on Torts, and Renton & Parlett on Landlord and Tenant. These books are usually available in all good law libraries.
THE MODERN TEXTBOOK
Textbooks are an excellent place for students looking to learn about a legal subject, although these are not always essay to read and finding the information you need is not quick. Textbooks are written by academics for pupils and practitioners' books that resemble reference manuals are two examples of this. Many practitioners' guides may be found on Westlaw or Lexis Library, as well as being published in loose-leaf formats. Examples include:
Goff & Jones' The Law of Restitution (available on Westlaw)
Megarry & Wade's The Law of Real Property
Treitel' s Remedies for Breach of Contract
Smith & Hogan's Criminal Law
Other examples of practitioners' books include:
Benjamin's Sale of Goods
Bowstead and Reynolds on Agency
Chitty on Contracts
Clerk & Lindsell on Torts
McGregor on Damages
Palmer's Company Law
Woodfall's The Law of Landlord and Tenant
Casebooks are a great resource for students, providing summaries of cases on certain themes. The following are some examples:
Civil Liberties: Cases and Materials, Bailey, Harris & Ormerod
Cases and Materials on the Law of Restitution, Burrows & McKendrick
Cases and Materials on International Law, Harris
THE PARCTICE TEXTS AND BOOK
These are specialized handbooks, which include legislation and court rules with annotations on how to interpret and apply them in the courts' practice and procedure. The following is an example:
County Court Practice Handbook
Stone's Justices' Manual (available on Lexis Library)
Blackstone's Criminal Practice (available on Lexis Library)
Archbold's Pleading, Evidence & Practice in Criminal Cases (available on Westlaw)
Supreme Court Practice, known as The White Book (available on Westlaw)
THE PRECEDENTS BOOK
The most common types of precedent books are:
Rayden & Jackson on Divorce and Family Matters (Lexis Library)
The Conveyancer and Property Lawyer
Atkin's Encyclopaedia of Court Forms in Civil Proceedings (Lexis Library)
Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents (Lexis Library)
THE JOURNAL ARTICLE
When looking for a quick overview of the law on a particular topic, journal articles are an excellent place to start. You can find journal articles on legal databases such as Westlaw and Lexis Library, or in print form in your law library. Many journals are also available online through the library website. Some examples of legal journals are:
The Cambridge Law Journal
The Modern Law Review
The International and Comparative Law Quarterly
The Criminal Law Review
Legal periodicals are a great way to keep up to date with developments in the law. They often contain articles on topical legal issues, as well as case reports and book reviews. Some examples of legal periodicals are:
The Times Law Reports
The Law Society Gazette
New Law Journal
Legal Executive Journal
Student Law Review
The above are just a few examples of the sources of legal information available to you. With a little bit of research, you will be sure to find the right resource for your needs. Happy hunting!
OTHER LEGAL SOURCES
Other sources can be used to find out about the law, but these are not usually as reliable as the sources mentioned above. For example, you could read newspaper articles or listen to radio programmes which discuss legal issues. However, it is important to remember that these sources are not always accurate, and they may not give you the full picture. These include:
Legal encyclopaedias: these provide an overview of legal topics, and can be a good starting point for research.
Law dictionary: these can be helpful for understanding legal terms
Secondary sources: these include books and articles which discuss or analyse the law. These can be useful for finding out more about a particular legal issue.
Legal databases: these can be used to search for case law, legislation, and journal articles.
The internet: this can be a useful source of information, but it is important to be aware that not all websites are reliable.
When you are doing legal research on the internet, it is important to consider the reliability of your sources. This will help you to ensure that you are getting accurate and up-to-date information. If you are unsure about the reliability of a source, you should speak to your law tutor or a librarian for advice.
All publications required by Parliament to carry out its business are published by The Stationery Office. Some official publications are published by the government departments responsible.
Reports of royal commissions and other major inquiries are also published.
Reports of parliamentary committees (select committees) are available from the website of the House of Commons or House of Lords, as well as from The Stationery Office.
THE COMMAND PAPER
Command papers are documents issued by the government which are considered by Parliament. They include white, green and blue papers. White papers set out the government's proposals for new legislation, green papers seek views on a particular issue, and blue papers are issued after a bill has been introduced to Parliament. You can find reports and command papers on the website of The National Archives.
Cases are a major source of law. They can be used to establish the principles of law, as well as to find out how the law has been applied in specific circumstances. Cases can be found in reports, which are published by commercial legal publishers. The two main series of reports are the All England Law Reports and the Weekly Law Reports.
Some cases are also available on the internet, through databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. You can also find cases on the website of the House of Lords, as well as on the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) website.
Legislation is another major source of law. It is important to be aware that there are different types of legislation, which include primary and secondary legislation. Primary legislation is made by Parliament, and includes Acts of Parliament (also known as statutes). Secondary legislation is made by government ministers, and includes statutory instruments.
You can find legislation on the website of the UK Parliament, as well as on the website of the Scottish Parliament. You can also find legislation on the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) website.
There are a number of other websites which provide information about the law. These include:
The website of the UK Parliament, which provides information about parliamentary business, as well as copies of legislation and Hansard (the official record of parliamentary proceedings).
The website of the Scottish Parliament, which provides information about the work of the Scottish Parliament, as well as copies of legislation.
The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) website, which provides access to a range of legal information, including legislation, case law, and journal articles.
The National Archives website, which provides access to a range of government documents, including reports and command papers.
The websites of the House of Commons and House of Lords, which provide information about the work of each House, as well as copies of reports and Hansard.
The website of The Stationery Office, which provides access to a range of official publications.
The websites of government departments, which provide information about the work of each department, as well as copies of reports and command papers.
It is important to remember that not all websites are reliable sources of information. You should always check the date of the information, as well as the source.
This is the end of this post. Thank you for reading! I hope this has helped you to understand some of the different sources of legal information available. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.