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Legal research and writing

This guide provides an introduction to legal research and writing for law students.

About This Page

This page explains how to find case law by database or citation searches.

About Finding Case Law

Browsing or searching subject-classified case digest services to find case law is explained on another page in this section.

Similarly, other sections explain how to find case law by reference to other secondary sources and by searching for judicial consideration of legislation.

Researchers can also find cases relevant to their issues by delving into the body of case law, and following up the results in different ways:

  • searching free and subscription-based databases of case law
  • reading cases for references to other ones
  • noting up cases - or searching for judicial consideration of them
  • current awareness services and automated searches.

Searching case law databases

Case law can be accessed via periodically published indexes or digests of cases reported in reporter volumes, organized by topic.

Many of these indexes are available electronically, with links to the full text of cases classified in them. These indexes are usually part of subscription-based research resources.

One can also find cases by conducting full text searches of case law databases. Some of these resources are available only by subscription, but others are free.

Further consideration of cases - "Noting Up"

Research does not stop when some relevant cases are found.

Reading those cases can lead to citations of other relevant precedent the court or tribunal considered in deciding the case. These cited precedents might lead to better or more relevant case authorities and should also be read.

Like statutes, one must ensure the currency of a relevant case before relying on it. Case citators are used to find judicial treatment of a case.

Some databases also allow researchers to set up notifications for any later decisions considering a particular case. Similarly, searches can be saved and set to automatically run regularly, with the results pushed to the researcher by email, RSS feed, or a similar update method.

Finally, subscription-based current awareness services provide regular updates on various topics.

Free Case Databases

Free case databases include

Subscription Case Databases

Subscription case databases include

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