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The Library: Law

Civil Law is based on cases between individuals or organisations. These cases are reported in Law Reports.

Key databases

Neutral citations

All judgments since 2001 have a neutral citation which is a unique reference to the court and case number. These can be used to search for cases (and are included in references). For example:

[2023] EWCA Civ 112

refers to case number 112 of 2023 of the England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division).

Check if law is current

Finding Employment Law

Finding historical case law

Finding Law Reports

  • Law Reports are published written summary of the case proceedings and include a summary of the counsel’s arguments, abstract, judgment, etc. The judge approves the report before it's published.
  • Not published in a uniform way – done by private publishers/edited by barristers – and so content will vary according to report series.
  • The Law Reports – the most authoritative series of reports – are published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR). If a case is reported in this series then this must be the report you cite. If it is not reported in The Law Reports, then use the report that is the most authoritative (see list below).
  • Always a good idea to search for a case on both Westlaw and Lexis as they don’t both always have the same reports (you can then compare to see which has the most authoritative report for the case).

The hierarchy of law reports

  1. The Law Reports: Appeal Cases (AC), Queen's Bench (QB) / King's Bench (KB), Family (Fam), Chancery (Ch). Available on Lexis+ Library and Westlaw UK.
  2. The Weekly Law Reports (WLR). Available on Lexis+ Library and Westlaw UK.
  3. All England Law Reports (All ER). Available on Lexis+ Library and Westlaw UK.
  4. Subject-based or specialist series, such as the Construction Law Reports (Con LR), Reports of Patent Cases (RPC), and Lloyd's Law Reports (Lloyd's Rep).
  5. Journals and newspapers, such as The Times, The Independent, New Law Journal, Solicitors Journal. See the Books & Journals page and News Resources.

You can identify which is the most authoritative report for a case on both Lexis and Westlaw, as the record for the case contains the reports in hierarchical order. Here is the record for the Thomas v Edmonson case:

Thomas v Edmonson

Case Analysis | [2014] EWHC 1494 (Ch) | [2015] 1 W.L.R. 1395 | [2014] 3 All E.R. 976 | [2014] 5 WLUK 344 | [2014] B.P.I.R. 1070 | Judgment

The most authoritative report of this case is the Weekly Law Reports - we know this because it is the first report listed after the case analysis and neutral citation. Note: Westlaw add their own unique numbering system to cases so watch out for these as they are not needed for citations or identifying law reports (e.g. [2014]  WLUK 344). 

Finding Case Transcripts and Judgments

If a case is unreported in a law report then you may be able to find some information about it from a transcript or judgment text.


  • This is the verbatim text of an oral judgment (or proceedings).
  • If this is available, and there is no published judgment, it can be used as a source but it is not considered authoritative.
  • There are archived transcripts on Lexis+ Library and some on the National Archives Case Law pages.


Tips for finding Case Law

Always check the unique neutral citation, court, and date. Keyword and subject can also help with identification.

If you can’t find a case it might be because:

  • Not all cases are reported
  • If it’s a tribunal it might not be on Lexis or Westlaw, so look on BAILII instead
  • Companies are often abbreviated
  • There may be multiple judgments (Westlaw’s Graphical History is useful for seeing these)
  • Names are often reversed on appeal
  • Some cases are combined and so only one would be in the title, e.g. if multiple cases for the same claims go to court, sometimes only one case is included in the report title
  • Report citations are the year the report was published, not the year of judgment (sometimes this is the year after, by the time it’s published).

Finding cases by topic or subject

Finding cases interpreting legislation

  • On both Lexis and Westlaw, an Act’s record will tell you what cases have cited it:
    • On Lexis look at Related Documents > Cases > View all
    • On Westlaw look at Primary References > Key Cases Citing > Sort by Court
  • Vice versa, if you have a case the record will cross-link to legislation cited
  • Law databases index different cases and use different algorithms to link legislation and case law – so do a search on both Lexis and Westlaw as you will often find different results.

Training videos

Find that case!

A brief introduction to case law research using both online databases and hard copy reference works, produced by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR).

Searching Cases and Legislation in Lexis+ UK

How to find, access and analyse case law content on Westlaw UK