December 01 2023

How do you research the law?

How do you research the law?

There is a wealth of online information about legal rights, notably Citizens Advice’s Advice Guide (www.adviceguide.org.uk), Advice Now (http://advicenow.org.uk), and Direct.gov.uk. One of the purposes of this site is an ongoing project to list those organsations that provide good, clear online information.

A word of warning: if you are relying on Internet searches stick to reliable and recognizable organizations. There is a very uneven provision of online legal advice – some good sites, some pretty awful sites and they are run by claims companies and law firms .

You can access legislation at the government’s legislation website (not up to date) and case law at www.bailii.org (not up to date and not terribly user-friendly). There is an interesting article here (http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/jul/26/tort-law-access-legal-aid).

The Ministry of Justice has published a leaflet entitled Legal Resources for Litigants in Person (available in the library of the Royal Courts of Justice, not online). It lists the following online resources:


Legislation and Case Law

  • Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (http://www.ait.gov.uk/) for procedures and judgments relating to appeals against decisions made by the Home Office in matters of asylum, immigration and nationality.
  • The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) (http://www.bailii.org) for free access to cases and legislation.
  • British Library’s Electronic Resources Guide For Law (http://www.bl.uk/eresources/socsci/law.html) which has a collection of links to sites freely available on the Internet and subscription services which are only available in the British Library Reading Rooms.
  • Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations (http://www.legalabbrevs.cardiff.ac.uk) which has a useful free citation tool. Enter the title of a law publication to find an abbreviation or enter an abbreviation to find the law publication title.
  • Delia Venables (http://www.venables.co.uk/) which has a set of links to legal resources designed for the legal community in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
  • Employment Appeal Tribunal (http://www.employmentappeals.gov.uk/) for practice directions and judgments relating to appeals from decisions made at Employment Tribunals.
  • Office of Public Sector Information (http://www.opsi.gov.uk) for United Kingdom legislation.
  • Privy Council (http://www.privycouncil.gov.uk/output/Page31.asp) for selected judgments prior to 1999 and all judgments from 1999 onwards made by the Judicial Committee.
  • UK Parliament (http://www.parliament.uk) for House of Commons and House of Lords information and House of Lords judgments delivered since 14 November 1996.


Government Websites

  • Ministry of Justice (http://www.justice.gov.uk) for the Civil Procedure Rules, consultation papers and press releases.
  • Directgov (http://www.direct.gov.uk) which is the Government Information Service containing links to all government services and departments.
  • Her Majesty’s Court Service (http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/), the government department responsible for the administration of civil, family and criminal courts in England and Wales. The site includes a wide range of information including, small claims, divorce proceedings, civil partnership dissolution, adoption, wills and probate.
  • Home Office (http//www.homeoffice.gov.uk/), the government department responsible for leading the national effort to protect the public from terrorism, crime and anti-social behaviour. The site contains information about crime and victims, security, passports and immigration, anti-social behaviour, drugs and the police.


European Legislation and Case Law


For litigants-in person, the MoJ lists various resources for unrepresented claimants including the following London libraries:

  • The British Library’s Social Sciences Reading Room (96 Euston Road London NW1 2DB, www.bl.uk) for its access to legislation, Law reports, standard texts and online databases such as LexisNexis and WestLaw. You need a reader’s ticket to access to room, check the web site.
  • The City Business Library (1, Brewers Hall Garden, off Aldermanbury Square, London EC2V 5BX, www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/citybusinesslibrary). For details, see the ‘I need some legal information’ guide on their website.
  • The Guildhall Library (City of London Corporation, Aldermanbury, Off Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HH, www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/guildhalllibrary) which has a selection of major law report series .
  • Westminster Reference Library (Ground Floor 35 St Martin’s Street London, WC2H 7HP, www.westminster.gov.uk/libraries/findalibrary/westref.cfm) which has an online database (LexisNexis) of legal information and a selection of paper copy legal journals, legal texts, law report series, UK official publications including legislation, statistics, reports and papers, with parliamentary publications and records of parliamentary debates (Hansard).
  • The MoJ leaflet also cites document delivery services which supply copies of articles, legislation and law reports for a fee: DocDel, Sweet & Maxwell’s document delivery service (www.sweetandmaxwell.co.uk/online/docdel.html; 01422 888 019) and the British Library Document Supply (www.bl.uk/reshelp/atyourdesk/docsupply/index.html; 01937 546 060).