Law reports and digests are the main sources for case law and printed sources are arranged in the IALS Library according to jurisdiction. Law reports are identified by the letter G in the middle of the classmark and digests by the letter H. For example;
GP1.G.12 Federal reporter, 2nd series
GD1.H.1 Australian digest
GA2.H.10 Halsburys laws of England
If you are unsure of the location of the classmark in the library, check the floor directory or the guide to Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library.
There are a number of different ways to find law reports from a particular jurisdiction in the library.
Consult the guide to Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library to find the general classmark for the country you are interested in. Law reports are identified by the letter G in the middle of the classmark and digests by the letter H. For example;
ENGLAND. Law reports GA2.G
AUSTRALIA. Digests GD1.H
Once you know the general classmark you can then run a classmark search on the Library Catalogue to find out the names of the series of the law reports held in the library. Note down the full classmark to find the series on the shelves.
Run a subject heading search on the Library Catalogue for law reports digests etc and the jurisdiction. For example;
law reports Canada
This will let you view all of the law reports and digests we hold for a particular jurisdiction and give you the classmark.
Check the relevant Jurisdiction Research Guide, or International Law Research Guide if available, as they will introduce you to the key series of law reports. When you have the title of the series, run a Title search on the Library Catalogue to see if it is held in the library. The catalogue record will give you the classmark and also indicate whether that law report series is available electronically on any of the databases IALS Library subscribes to.
The Library has a wide range of electronic law reports available via its Law Database page. For instance Lexis Library contains full text law reports from many jurisdictions including the USA, UK, EU, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Westlaw provides full text law reports from the USA, UK, Canada and EU.
If you aren't sure which database covers your jurisdiction:
For help using specific databases, refer to the Quick Guides to Key Databases and the help pages for individual databases.
1. If your citation includes an abbreviation, e.g. All E.R., the first step is to find out what the abbreviation stands for. To do this, try:
2. Once you know the title of the series of law reports, search for it on the Library Catalogue.
3. If your search is successful note down the classmark. The catalogue record will also indicate whether the law report series is available electronically on any of the databases IALS Library subscribes to.
4. If your search is unsuccessful try an electronic resource instead or refer to the section below on Finding cases in law reports not held in the library.
The Library has a wide range of electronic law reports available via its Law Databases page. For instance Lexis Library contains full text law reports from many jurisdictions including the USA, UK, EU, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Westlaw provides full text law reports from the USA, UK, Canada and EU. A full list of our electronic resources is available on the Law Databases page.
If you aren't sure which database covers the jurisdiction you are interested in:
Once you have logged in to your chosen database:
1. Select the relevant section of the database and use the search options provided to search for your case. If you have the party names this is often an easy and reliable way to search. Refer to the Quick Guides to Key Databases and the help pages for individual databases on the Law Databases page as necessary.
2. If you are unable to locate the case:
If you are looking for cases on a particular subject area in printed series of law reports you may like to try some of the following:
1. Run a Keyword search on the Library Catalogue for the word digests or law reports and your chosen subject. For example;
international law digests
arbitration law reports
2. Check the Subject Guides to find the name of some key law reports for different areas of law.
3. Browse or use the indexes of subject specific series of reports.
4. Use the subject indexes of general series of law reports.
5. Check digests, encyclopaedias and case citators which list cases by subject and provide full citations to the series in which they are reported.
If you aren't sure which database covers your subject:
Once you have logged in to your chosen database:
1. Select the relevant section of the database and use the search options provided to search for your case. Search by subject term or keywords and type in words relevant to your subject area. Be aware that databases search in different ways for words so use the search help options in the database to help you to construct your search. Refer to the Quick Guides to Key Databases and the help pages for individual databases on the Law Databases page as necessary.
2. If you are unsuccessful:
3. If you get too many results:
If you need to locate a case from a series of law reports that is not available at IALS Library in either printed or electronic form, here are some suggestions for tracking it down elsewhere:
Check one of the many catalogues on the web which include the holdings of more than one library. This will save you time as you do not have to search many separate catalogues. You may need to visit another library to obtain the material which you need. Alternatively you may be able to obtain titles from libraries using interlibrary loan and document delivery services offered by the library at your own college, university or organisation. Here are some suggestions:
To locate cases for a particular foreign jurisdiction try the FLAG Foreign Law Guide database. This is an inventory database of the holdings of primary legal materials for foreign jurisdictions of academic and national libraries around the UK.
Check the Eagle-i internet portal to see whether there are any freely available reports or judgments on the web;
Check WorldLII for links to freely available online reports and judgments.
Use a case citator or digest to check whether a case is still "good law". This will tell you:
Case citators in the library are found in either the law report sequence on the shelves or in the digest sequence, e.g. for Canada look in GC1.G (the law reports sequence) or GC1.H (the digest sequence). Examples include:
GA2.H.7 Current law case citator
GD1.H.1 Australian case citator
GP1.G.102 Shepard's California reporter citations
Many of the legal databases available in the Law Databases page allow you to check the status of a case. Remember that different databases can indicate a different status for the same case. This is because deciding what constitutes positive, neutral or negative treatment is largely an editorial decision. It is always recommended to check more than one citator and to read the full law report rather than relying on the colour coded signals.
In addition to the electronic version of the Law Reports, available on Westlaw UK, there are two sets of The Law Reports in the library, located on the third floor arranged in the following order:
(NB The # is placed where a volume number would appear. The [ ] denotes a year as an essential part of the citation, where volume numbers are not used.)
APPELLATE SERIES (spine title colour and reprint binding colour: LIGHT BROWN)
L.R. # H.L. English & Irish Appeals (1866-1875)
L.R. # Sc. & Div. Scotch and Divorce Appeals (1866-1875)
L.R. # P.C. Privy Council Appeals (1865-1875)
# App.Cas. Appeal Cases (1875-1890)
[ ] A.C. Appeal Cases (1891- )
EQUITY SERIES (spine title colour and reprint binding colour: RED)
L.R. # Ch. or # Ch.App. Chancery Appeal Cases (1865-1875)
L.R. # Eq. Equity Cases (1866-1875)
# Ch.D. Chancery Division (1875-1890)
[ ] Ch. Chancery Division (1891- )
COMMON LAW SERIES (spine title colour and reprint binding colour: GREEN)
L.R. # C.P. Common Pleas Cases (1865-1875)
# C.P.D. Common Pleas Division (1875-1880)
L.R. # Ex. Exchequer Cases (1865-1875)
# Ex.D. Exchequer Division (1875-1880)
L.R. # C.C.R. Crown Cases Reserved (1865-1875)
L.R. # Q.B. Queen's Bench Cases (1865-1875)
# Q.B.D. Queen's Bench Division (1875-1890)
[ ] Q.B. (or K.B.) Queen's (or King's) Bench Division (1891- )
OTHER SERIES (spine title colour code: GREEN. Reprint binding colour: BLUE)
L.R. # A.& E. Admiralty and Ecclesiastical Cases (1865-1875)
L.R. # P.& D. Probate and Divorce Cases (1865-1875)
# P.D. Probate Division (1875-1890)
[ ] P. Probate Division (1891-1971)
[ ] Fam. Family Division (1972- )
L.R. # R.P.Restrictive Practices Cases (1957-1972) (ONE SET ONLY - shelved with 1st copy)
[ ] I.C.R.Industrial Court Reports (1972-1974), then Industrial Cases Reports (1975- )
The IALS Library does not collect transcripts or judgments of unreported cases in print. If you are looking for a UK judgment not reported in a published series of law reports, you can try various sources to see if the judgment is available online.
BAILII, the British and Irish Legal Information Institute, makes judgments freely available on the internet. Lexis Library and Westlaw UK also contain many unreported cases. Please note that only cases which contain an important point of law tend to get reported, and unreported cases are only available on the internet if a court has given its consent. If you are looking for cases from jurisdictions from outside the UK, try WorldLII or check the relevant jurisdiction guide for further information.