This guide lists some major English legal materials that undergraduates will need to use. It is not a comprehensive list, and should be used in conjunction with the Library search engine. A wealth of further guidance on how to find cases and statutes, how to use reference works, etc. can be found in a number of books including:
CLINCH, P. Using a law library: a student's guide to legal research skills. 2nd ed. 2001 KD 392
KNOWLES, JOHN & THOMAS, PHILIP, A. Effective legal research. 3rd ed 2012 KD 392.K6
FINCH, EMILY and FAFINSKI, STEFAN, Legal skills 4th edition 2013 KD 442.F5
Please be aware this guide covers English law only.
For information about the legal literature of other jurisdictions, see: The Albert Sloman Library Law Web.
BRADNEY, A. [... et al.] How to study law. 7th ed. 2014. KD 442.H6
WILLIAMS, Glanville L. Learning the law. 15th ed. 2013. KD 442.W5
ASKEY, SIMON and MCLEOD, IAN, Studying law. 4th ed. 2014. KD 442.A7
FOSTER, STEVE, How to write better law essays : tools and techniques for success in exams and assignments. 2013. KD 442.F6
WEBLEY, LISA, Legal writing. 3rd ed.2013. KD 442.W4
RAISTRICK, D. Index to legal citations and abbreviations. 3rd ed. 2008. Law Ref. K 51
The nearest thing to a complete encyclopaedia of English law is:
Halsbury's laws is arranged under broad subject headings.
need a definition of a particular term or an explanation of a
particular concept, it is easier to look in one of the law
dictionaries shelved at Law Ref. KD 313. A few examples are listed
CURZON, L.B.& RICHARDS, P.H. The Longman Dictionary of law. 8th ed. 2011. Law Ref. KD 313
WOODLEY, M. Osborn's concise law dictionary. 12th edition. 2013. Law Ref. KD 313
* The law reference section is at the start of the law collection on Floor 4.
Cases are the decisions of the law courts and are known as 'judge-made' law. Thousands of cases are heard each year in England and Wales and only a fraction are "reported" i.e. published. As a rule only those cases that develop the law, its application or interpretation are included which means all Supreme Court cases are published, but only a small proportion from the Court Of Appeal, High Court and specialist courts. You may find transcripts of some 'unreported' cases but the remainder are not recorded at all.
Practically all reported case-law and some unreported case-law is available online but understanding how the printed reports are organised can help you to understand the system of law reporting. Since 1865 the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting has produced series of law reports in a standardised form. Although there is no official series of law reports but these series, known collectively as 'The Law Reports', are considered as 'semi-official' because these reports are approved by judges. They are the preferred report to use in court, contain arguments by counsel and are regarded as the most 'authoritative' texts. Other reports are published by commercial publishers such as, Lexis or Sweet and Maxwell, and can be general and specialist (or topic based) series.
Many cases are reported in more than one series of reports; if you have a reading-list reference to, for example, the Weekly law reports but are unable to find the volume you require, you can often find other sources which will provide an identical report. There are two points to watch out for:
(a) Not all reports of cases give the full text of the judgment: those in, for example, the Times, the Solicitors' journal or the New law journal are merely summaries.
(b) If a case has been heard in more than one court, say in the High Court and then in the Court of Appeal, the various stages of the action may be reported in different series of reports, or in different volumes of the same series. Make sure that you have found the case that you really want.
Most citations to case reports (and also many law journals) are given in abbreviated form. There are two main systems of case citations.
These citations generally look as follows:
a. Vandervell v IRC  2 AC 291
b. R v Miller  2 QB 282
a. Is interpreted as the names of the parties concerned (Vandervell v IRC), the year the case was reported (1967), volume number (2), the abbreviated title of the law report series (AC = Appeal Cases), and page number (291).
b. Is interpreted as the names of the parties concerned (R v Miller - all criminal cases in the UK are 'The Queen' or Regina versus the defendant), the year the case was reported (1954), the volume number (2), the abbreviated title of the law report series (QB = Queens Bench), and the page number (282).
These were introduced in 2001 and do not refer to any one series of law reports but are aimed at making it easier to locate judgment on the internet. The term 'neutral' is intended to show that it is independent of any published report ('media neutral'). They look as follows:
Attia v British Gas  EWCA Civ 8
This is interpreted as party (or case) names (Attia v British Gas), year of judgement (1987), abbreviation of the court where the case was heard (EWCA Civ = England and Wales Court of Appeal, Civil Division) and a unique case number (8).
The neutral citation format does not use page numbers as internet pages do not have page numbers. Neutral citations instead use a paragraph number in square brackets as so:
Attia v British Gas  EWCA 8 at 
To find out what the abbreviations mean there are two major reference tools:
Raistrick, D Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations. 3rd ed. 2008. Law Ref. K 51
Most case-law is available in electronic format either on a subscription service such as Lexis Library, Westlaw or LawTel or more recent cases are available via free websites such as BIALLI.
Both Lexis and Westlaw provide the facility to search via citation just click on Cases and using the Find by citation field, just type in the citation. N.B. you do not need square brackets or capitalisation.
Click on Cases and search using the Party Names field.
Click on Cases and search by the Case Name field.
Tip: if you are unsure of the spelling of the names you can use a wildcard character to replace one or two letters you are unsure of e.g. bernst**n will find berntein and bernstien.
Westlaw - click on Cases and enter your terms in the Subject/Keyword field or go to Advanced search and choose terms from the List of Terms
Lexis - click on Cases and enter your keywords in the Search Terms field.
Tip: You can expand or reduce your results by using connectors, proximity searching or phrase searching. [More Information]
The library has a large collection of printed law reports and some of the main series are listed below. Other more specialised series can be found by searching the library search engine using the title of the series or abbreviation. Alternatively if you are unsure of the title you can use the keyword search using the topic/subject and the words 'Law reports'.
ENGLISH AND IRISH APPEALS (L.R.H.L.) 1866-1875. KD 275
SCOTCH & DIVORCE APPEALS (L.R.Sc.& Div.) 1866-1875. KD 275.2
PRIVY COUNCIL APPEALS (L.R.P.C.) 1865-1875. KD 275.3
After 1875 these merge to form:
APPEAL CASES (App.Cas.) 1875-1890. KD 275.4
APPEAL CASES (A.C.) 1891- KD 275.4
CHANCERY APPEALS (L.R.Ch.App.) 1865-1875. KD 276.3
EQUITY CASES (L.R.Eq.) 1865-1875. KD 276.2
After 1875 these merge to form:
CHANCERY DIVISION (Ch.D.) 1875-1890. KD 276.3
CHANCERY DIVISION (Ch.) 1891- KD 276.
COMMON PLEAS CASES (L.R.C.P.) 1865-1875. KD 277.3
COMMON PLEAS DIVISION (C.P.D.) 1875-1880. KD 277.3
CROWN CASES RESERVED (L.R.C.C.R.) 1865-1875. KD 277.2
EXCHEQUER CASES (L.R.Exch.) 1865-1875. KD 277.5
EXCHEQUER DIVISION (Ex.D.) 1875-1880. KD 277.5
QUEEN'S BENCH CASES (L.R.Q.B.) 1865-1875. KD 277.7
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION (Q.B.D.) 1875-1890.KD 277.7
QUEEN'S [KING'S] BENCH DIVISION (Q.B.,K.B.) 1891 - KD 277.7
ADMIRALTY AND ECCLESIASTICAL CASES (L.R.A.& E.) 1865-1875.KD 279.2
PROBATE AND DIVORCE CASES (L.R.P.& D.) 1865-1875.KD 279.3
After 1875 these merge to form:
PROBATE DIVISION (P.D.) 1876-1890. KD 279.3
PROBATE DIVISION (P.) 1891-1971. KD 279.3
FAMILY DIVISION (Fam.) 1972- KD 279.3
INDUSTRIAL COURT REPORTS (I.C.R.) 1972-1974. KD 279.4
INDUSTRIAL CASES REPORTS (I.C.R.) 1975- KD 279.4
The Law Reports: Appeal Cases (AC)
The Law Reports: Queens (Kings) Bench Division (KB or QB) KD 277.7
The Law Reports: Chancery Division (Ch or Ch.D) KD 276.3
The Law Reports: Family Division (Fam.) KD 279.3 (prior to 1971 this series was known as (The Law Reports: Probate Division (PD))
Industrial Cases Reports KD 279.4
All England Law Reports (ALLER) KD 288.A1
Weekly Law Reports (WLR) KD 282
The earliest law reports are known as 'Yearbooks': they cover the period from the late thirteenth to mid-sixteenth centuries. They are written in 'law French', and it is unlikely that you will ever need to refer to them. Some Yearbooks have been reprinted with translations and commentaries in the Publications of the Selden Society (K 1.S4) and there is a full photographic reprint of the edition published between 1678 and 1680 (the so-called Folio or Vulgate edition) available at KD 193.
If you do need to refer to the Yearbooks (or to any other text in law French), you will find the following work useful:
BAKER, John H. Manual of law French. 2nd ed. 1990. Law Ref. KD 313
Between the mid-sixteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries law reports were usually (though not invariably) known by the name of the reporter(s) or compiler(s) who produced them, e.g. Coke's reports, Durnford and East's reports. For this reason they are sometimes referred to as 'nominate reports'. The best source for pre-1865 English law reports is a modern reprint:
This series contains the text of all the major series of nominate reports. A two-volume index (vols. 177-178) lists cases in alphabetical order and you can also search via the case name or citation using one of the subscription services listed on the English Resources page.
Original editions of many of the reports contained in the English reports are kept in Store A (classmarks KD 270.A4 and KD 270.Y6). To see volumes of these works apply at the Service Desk. Many of these early editions are in fragile condition, and it is preferable to use the English reports whenever possible. This is particularly important if you intend to make photocopies: by using the English reports not only will you save our older reports from damage, but you will save money - up to four pages of the original editions are reprinted on a single page of the English reports.
BRITISH TAX REPORTER (B.T.R.) 1984-1998. KD 5356.5
BUILDING LAW REPORTS (B.L.R.) 1976-1996. KD 288.B8
BUTTERWORTHS COMPANY LAW CASES (B.C.L.C.) 1985- KD 288.B9
COMMERCIAL LAW REPORTS (Com.L.R.) 1981-1983. KD 288.C55
CONSTRUCTION LAW REPORTS. Vol. 1, 1985 - KD 288.C56
COX'S CRIMINAL LAW CASES (Cox C.C.) Vols.1-31, 1846-1941. KD 288.C6
CRIMINAL APPEAL REPORTS (Cr.App.R.) Vol.1, 1908- KD 288.C7
CRIMINAL APPEAL REPORTS (SENTENCING) (Cr.App.R.(S)) Vol.1, 1979- KD 288.C71
ESTATES GAZETTE LAW REPORTS (E.G.L.R.) 1985- KD 288.E7
FAMILY LAW REPORTS (F.L.R.) Vol.1, 1980- KD 288.F2
HOUSING LAW REPORTS (H.L.R.) Vol.1, 1981- KD 288.H6
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS LAW REPORTS (I.R.L.R.) Vol.1, 1972- KD 288.I6
LLOYD'S LAW REPORTS (Lloyd's Rep., LL.L.R., or LL.R.) 1919- From 1919 to 1967 entitled Lloyd's list law reports. KD 288.L6
PROPERTY, PLANNING AND COMPENSATION REPORTS (P.& C.R. or P.P.& C.R.) Vol.1, 1949- KD 288.P7
REPORTS OF PATENT CASES (R.P.C.) Vol. 1, 1884- KD 288.R3
REPORTS OF TAX CASES (R.T.C. or T.C.) Vol.1, 1875- KD 288.R4
ROAD TRAFFIC REPORTS (R.T.R.) 1970- KD 288.R6
Enter some of the words from the party names in the Search box and click on Search. Or choose the Case Law search option. Or browse using the A-Z index or year.
A very useful site for finding HL cases quickly if you know the date, the site contains judgments from 1996 to the present.
Cases from July 2009 onwards.
Daily case summaries from the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting
Daily updated index of unreported cases, with summaries back 20 years; index of articles from major UK legal publications; legislation and case citator; statute summaries and legislation tracking service (commencement and repeals, Bills and Command Papers) and jobs.
UK legislation can be divided into two main types:
Primary Legislation in the UK is known as 'Acts of Parliament' or 'Statutes' and is made by the legislative branch of government.
Secondary Legislation is also called 'subordinate' or 'delegated legislation' and is law made by an executive authority under powers given to them by primary legislation in order to implement and administer the requirements of the acts. Secondary legislation includes statutory instruments and byelaws.
The officially published series of UK Statutes is called 'Public General Acts' and is located in the Library on Floor 4 at the classmark KD 125. The library has a complete set of Acts from the year 1798 to the present but also some earlier years.
Much legislation can also be found on the web. The website www.legislation.gov.uk is managed by The National Archives on behalf of HM Government & is the official site for UK legislation on the web. The British and Irish Legal Information Institute also provides legislation on the web.
The links below distinguish between revised legislation (sometimes called 'Consolidated') and the text of acts as they were published (original/historic texts). This is because overtime an original Act can be altered as parts or sections are repealed or amended by later Acts. Revised legislation is thus the complete revised text and includes all amendments and repeals.
Held in the Library from 1798 onwards
Public General Acts - complete set from 1988 onwards and most primary legislation pre-1988
This database contains both the full text of unconsolidated United Kingdom Statutes from 1988 onwards to date and the full text of Primary legislation of the following types as held and maintained on legslation.gov website : Public General Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament (1801 to 1900); Acts of the Parliament of Great Britain (1707 - 1800); Acts of the English Parliament (1267 - 1706); Acts of the pre-UK Parliaments (1424 - 1707); Acts of the Irish Parliament (1495 - 1800). The statutes are arranged chronologically or alphabetically.
Official revised version of all in force UK legislation.
Contains the full, amended (consolidated) text of all Acts of Parliament in force from 1266, the file is updated daily (Monday to Friday) and the texts appear within 2 days of publication. Also includes, summaries of UK Acts. Allows searching by title (or name), section, keyword or topic.
Contains consolidated law in force from 1267. Allows searching by title (or name), section, keyword or topic.
Is an authoritative source for statute law in England and Wales. It provides an up-to-date version of the amended text of every Public General Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Measure of the Welsh Assembly, or Church of England Measure currently in force in England and Wales (and to various extents in Scotland and Northern Ireland), as well as a number of private and local Acts, with detailed annotations to each section and Schedule. It incorporates the effects of new Acts of Parliament and secondary legislation into existing legislation to provide an "as amended" version for easy reference. The complete set consists of the main volumes, the index, tables of statutes, secondary legislation and cases, the annual Cumulative Supplement and the quarterly loose-leaf Service.
Contains the full, amended (consolidated) text of all in force Acts of Parliament from 1266, the file is updated daily (Monday to Friday) and the texts appear within 2 days of publication. To search for legislation by topic, click on the Legislation tab at the top of the Lexis start page, and enter your keywords in the Search Term(s) and click the search button.
TIP: Use connectors to show the relation between terms, i.e. combine terms using the connector AND e.g. human AND rights, this means that your search will return all documents that contain both of those words not just instances where the words appear together. Or search for a phrase using speech marks e.g. "human rights", this means that your search will only return documents where the words appear together. Click on the search tips link for more information on terms and connectors. Other useful features include proximity searching i.e. words in the same sentence or paragraph and truncation which searches for alternate endings to words e.g. fir! finds fires and firing.
Contains consolidated law in force from 1267. Click on legislation and enter your keywords in the Free text or Subject/Keyword box, and click the search button.
TIP: Use connectors to show the relation between terms, i.e. combine terms using the connector AND e.g. directors AND duties, this means that your search will return all documents that contain both of those words -not just instances where the words appear together. Or search for a phrase using speech marks e.g. "directors duties", this means that your search will only return documents where the words appear together. Click on the List of connectors link for more information on terms and connectors. Other useful features include proximity searching i.e. words in the same sentence or paragraph and truncation which searches for alternate endings to words e.g. acqui! finds acquires and acquisition and acquiring.
Is the authoritative source for statute law in England and Wales. It incorporates the effects of new Acts of Parliament and secondary legislation into existing legislation to provide an "as amended" version for easy reference. Halsbury's Statutes is arranged in volumes via subject and the complete set consists of the main volumes, the index, tables of statutes, secondary legislation and cases, the annual Cumulative Supplement and the quarterly loose-leaf Service.
Statutory instruments (SI) are located in the Law Collection on Floor 4 at classmark KD 166. To find a particular SI in the official series you need to know the year and the sequential number i.e. SI 2006/236. If you do not know the number you can use a subject based guide, such as Halsbury's Statutory Instruments, or consult an A to Z list, or search by topic and keywords on Lexis or Westlaw (see below).
from 1987 onwards
from 1987 onwards
A subject based encyclopedia.
The source contains the full, amended text of all public general SIs that are currently in force from 1786 onwards. Legislation that has been recently enacted but is not yet in force is also included. SI's can be browsed by year or searched by title (or name), section, keyword or topic and the Halsbury's SI citator allows browsing alphabetically by topic. Lexis Library also contains summaries of SI's.
Statutory instruments currently in force in the United Kingdom from 1992 onwards and a selection of UK SI's of general application published between 1948 and 1991.Westlaw allows searching by title (or name), section, keyword or topic and browsing by year or alphabetically.
An annual supplement to Halsbury's Statutes called Is it in force? enables you to establish whether an act (or section of an act) has come into force. Is it in force? is shelved at the end of Halsbury's Statutes at KD 135.H3. It covers all acts of general application in England and Wales (and all General Synod measures) passed in the last 25 years.
Is it in Force? Is also available online on Lexis Library - from the default home page, under the section My Bookshelf > Halsbury's Is It In Force? > choose to search or browse.
Click on Legislation link at the top, choose the act you wish to look at by browsing by year or title, click on 'Overview Document' on the left-hand side of the screen.
This document provides a summary of important information about the whole Act or SI detailing: All Amendments pending (i.e. those amendments not yet incorporated into the full text); All Commencement information pertaining to an Act/SI (except pre-1991 commencement information for Acts); All Amendments made to the full text (except amendments to pre-1991 amendments to Acts); All SIs enabled under authority of an Act; Any EU Law implemented by an Act or SI.
Whenever you want to look for something in the Library, the Library search http://encore.essex.ac.uk/ should be your first port of call. The library search engine contains details of all materials held by the Library, whether printed, electronic, audio-visual or microform.
To find a particular book in the Library, use the library search engine and search using words from the title or author, if you want to see what books the Library has on a specific topic, use subject keywords. Once you have found a relevant title you need to look at the full record for that book in order to be able to find it in the Library.
The full record provides information about the author, title, publication details and physical description of the book, as well as information about the number of copies held by the Library, whether they are currently available and where they are shelved. To find a book, you need to make a note of the classmark, availability and shelved at information.
Journals are publications which are issued at regular intervals, rather than being complete in just one issue, as most books are. They may also be called serials or periodicals for this reason. Examples of journals might be a daily newspaper, a weekly tv guide or an annual yearbook.
Academic journals are a distinct group within the world of serial publishing, and usually contain articles, commentaries and debates on particular topics which have been written by academics for a scholarly audience. Articles within these types of journal have often been through a "peer-review" process in which they have been checked for quality and accuracy by other academics. They are therefore an extremely useful source of high quality, scholarly information for your studies, whether you are researching a topic in advance of a weekly seminar, or writing a PhD thesis.
Because of the way in which they are published, journal issues are usually numbered sequentially. They may just have a volume number, if only one part is issued a year, e.g. Vol. 56, 2008. More often, several parts may be issued in any one year and each part will have not only a volume number but also an issue number, e.g. Vol. 56 (4), 2008. The page numbering for issues which make up a single volume is often sequential.
There are two main types of resource: abstracting and indexing resources and full text resources and major legal resources such as Westlaw and Lexis Library are a combination of both an index and full text, whereas HeinOnline is mostly a full text legal archive.
You can use both types of resource to search for articles, but abstracting and indexing resources will only tell you where a particular article is published (sometimes called a citation or a reference), rather than providing access to the article itself. They may also provide a summary of the article which you can use to help you to decide whether it is worth reading the whole thing (this is usually called an abstract).
Using an abstracting and indexing resource is therefore a two stage process - you use the resource to find references to articles that you may be interested in reading, and then you go to a different resource, usually the Library search engine, to find out whether you can get hold of the article itself through the Library.
Full text resources vary in terms of whether all or only some of the searchable articles are provided in full text through the resource. HeinOnline is an example of a legal resource where all of the content which you can search can be accessed in full text.
Indexes usually to cover a greater amount of titles than full text resources, i.e. the full text file on Westlaw has approximately 100 journals whilst the Legal Journals Index on Westlaw covers over 400 journals. So to ensure you are searching the whole of the literature written in your chosen field an index is better, you can always find the full text on a full text resource once you have the reference.
Click on Journals and you will be presented with a search form which searches both the Legal Journals Index and the full text journal file and allows you to search for keywords in Free text, Article title and Author.
Use the Free Text field to look for terms or phrases relating to the subject you want to find and Westlaw UK will search for these within the entire text of the article or abstract or title.
TIP: Both the basic and the advanced search use what are called Terms and Connectors. If you enter a number of separate terms, Westlaw UK will automatically use the '&' (AND) connector with them. This means that your search will return all documents that contain both of those words - not just instances where the words appear together. Or if you want to search for a phrase, you should enter it in speech marks e.g. "domain name". Click on the link List of Connectors to find out more about using terms and connectors, other useful features within this are searching using proximity searching i.e. words in the same sentence or paragraph and truncation which searches for alternate endings to words e.g. acqui! finds acquires and acquisition and acquiring.
Click on Journals and you will be presented with a search form which searches Lexis UK journals. From here you can search using one or number of fields such as, Search terms, Article title, Article author, etc. Use the Search terms box to search for terms or phrases relating to your subject and click the search button to start your search.
TIP: Use connectors to show the relation between terms, i.e. combine terms using the connector AND e.g. directors AND duties, this means that your search will return all documents that contain both of those words, not just instances where the words appear together. Or search for a phrase using speech marks e.g. "directors duties", this means that your search will only return documents where the words appear together. Click on the search tips link for more information on terms and connectors, other useful features within this are searching using proximity searching i.e. words in the same sentence or paragraph and truncation which searches for alternate endings to words e.g. fir! finds fires and firing.
Using the pull-down menu next to the search box, choose which field you wish to search e.g. text, article title etc. Enter your keywords in the box and click search.
BUSINESS LAW REVIEW (Bus.L.R. or B.L.R.) Vol.1, 1980- K 1.B8
CURRENT LEGAL PROBLEMS (C.L.P.) Vol. 1, 1948- K 1.C8
FAMILY LAW (Fam.L. or F.L.) Vol.1, 1971- K 1.F2
JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WELFARE LAW (J.S.W.L.) 1978- K 1.J67
Government publications are primary sources of information for law and are comprised of documents and information produced by government departments and central government organisations. They include parliamentary publications, legislation, policy documents, statistics and reports.
These documents are published either by The Stationery Office (TSO) or by the department or organisation itself.
Parliamentary papers are not generally catalogued individually and so do not appear in the Library search engine. See Finding Parliamentary Papers for more information.
The Law Commission is the statutory independent body created by the Law Commissions Act 1965 to keep the law under review and to recommend reform where it's needed.
Law Commission Reports appear as Parliamentary papers.
Contains full text e-copies of its reports from 1995 to the present and consultation papers from 1996 to the present.
This list is maintained by the Library and provides the parliamentary paper details for the Law Commission reports.