UK Law Research Guide

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Maureen Garmon
Faculty Services Librarian

Introduction | Statutes and Legislation | Cases | Regulations
Citators | Indexes/Digests | Guides to the UK Legal System | Online Resources
Legal Abbreviation Guides


The focus of this guide is the laws of England and the UK and where to find them in the College of Law Library's print collection. Much of this collection is old and reflects varying time periods in English/UK history, so there may be some confusion as to what jurisdictions are included in which sources. Older sources may refer only to England or to England and Wales with their shared legal system. Others include references to Ireland (pre-partition) or to Scotland and Northern Ireland. More recent materials incorporate references to European Union law, as UK's membership in the EU continues to shape certain areas of UK law. More recent events, such as the process of devolution and constitutional reform are probably too recent to be included in all but a few of the library's print materials, but see the Online Guides to the UK Legal System section for a selection of materials which discuss many of these recent developments.

The user should also note that while several of the primary titles in this collection have been canceled due to recent budget cuts, these sources can generally be updated by the wealth of materials now available online, both fee-based subscription services and free, web-based ones.

English and UK legal materials are found in the Commonwealth Collection in the lower level of the library as part of our Foreign and International Collection.

Finding Statutes and Legislation

Researchers familiar with U.S. statutory research should approach English statutory research with a couple of caveats: 1) there is no official subject codification of English law comparable to the United States Code; 2) laws found in some of the sources below may not actually be in effect. One should always check updating services.

  • Halsbury's Statutes of England and Wales, 4th—KD135 .H3 1985. Legal abbreviation: Halsbury, or Halsbury's Statutes

    While there is no official codification of English statutes, Halsbury's serves as one of the chief print compilations of the laws of England and Wales. It contains the text of all currently in-force statutes arranged by subject. The Law Library has the 2nd through the 4th editions (1948-current). This annotated set is updated by an annual cumulative supplement and a Current Statutes Service, which updates the bound statute volumes with the text of all public general acts passed since publication of those volumes. The arrangement of these Current Statutes Service volumes (currently six) replicates the subject arrangement of the main set. There is also a Tables of Statutes and Consolidated Index issued annually, which contains both alphabetical and chronological lists of statutes contained in the set, as well as an index.

    Is It in Force? is another annual addition to the service. This tool indicates which public acts are actually in force as of the date of issue of this supplement.

    The Noter-Up volume, issued six times/year, updates the main set, the Current Statutes Service volumes, and the Is It in Force? volume. It describes the effect of newly-enacted legislation on the acts printed in the set.

    Also included as part of Halsbury's Statutes service are Destination Tables indicating when previous legislation has been "consolidated" into subsequent legislation and where the older law may be found in the new act.

    Please note that the Law Library's subscription to Halsbury's Statutes was canceled in July 2002. Use online sources for updating.

  • Current Law Statutes—KD135 .C8, Legal abbreviation: C.L. Stats

    Known as Current Law Statutes Annotated until 1993, these hardcover annual volumes contain a full-text, chronological arrangement of all Public General Acts, Private Acts, Acts of the Scottish Parliament, and Commencement Orders issued during that year. They include extensive annotations. Each annual set (usually four volumes) contains an index in the fourth volume, as well as a citator. See the Service File volumes for legislation passed since issuance of the hard bound volumes. The Law Library has coverage from 1983.

  • Law Reports Statutes—KD135 .C8, Legal abbreviation: L.R. Stat.

    This is a commercially-produced, verbatim reprint of the official Public General Acts and General Synod Measures (session laws). The official HMSO publication, not owned by the Law Library, covers 1831 to date. The Law Library's coverage through the commercial version from the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting begins in 1866 and runs to 1999 (title canceled). This set is updated annually by the Chronological Table of the Statutes and Index to the Statutes in Force, but the Law Library does not receive these. The most current indexes owned by the library are quite old, covering the dates 1235-1981 and 1235-1952, respectively. (KD142.3 .C5 and KD142.4 .I15)

  • Her Majesty's Stationary Office (HMSO)

    Now part of the Office of Public Sector Information web page, the official home page for publications of the Crown contains the full-text of all Public Acts from the UK parliament from 1988, Local Acts from 1991.

  • Westlaw (password required)

    The UK-ST database contains all in-force laws from 1267 to present. UK-LEGISLOC contains the text of all acts. Various other databases offer access to laws in particular subject areas.

  • Lexis (password required)

    Generally, follow Legal → Legal (excluding U.S.) → United Kingdom. The STAT file contains Butterworth's Statutes of England and Wales and updates within one week of publication. Other files provide access to statutes in particular legal subject areas (e.g. tax, environment).

The following statutory titles may be useful for historical research:

  • Statutes of the Realm—KD130 1101 and Microfiche 10, Legal abbreviation: Stat. Realm.

    Covering the time period 1215-1713, Statutes of the Realm includes both alphabetical and chronological index volumes. The years 1642-1660 are not included here, but legislation covering that time period may be found in Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum.

  • Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum—KD130 1642, Legal abbreviation: Acts and Ords. Interregnum

    These are laws from the period of the Civil War (1642-49 and the Protectorate under Cromwell (1649-1660). Arrangement is chronological with an index at the end of volume three of this three-volume set.

  • Statutes at Large—KD130 1225, Legal abbreviation: For vols 1-14, cite as Ruff.; for vols. 15-40, cite as Runn.; for remaining vols, or generally, use Stat. or Stat. at L., or St. at Large.

    The Law Library contains the complete set of the statutes (1215-1866), arranged by monarch. Volume ten is an index to the first nine volumes (Magna Carta through Geo. III). Subsequent volumes of this forty-five volume set include an alphabetical index for those volumes.

  • Acts of the Privy Council, Colonial Series—KD4460 .A3 1966, Legal abbreviation: Act. Pr. C. Col. S

    The Law Library has the six-volume set covering the years 1613-1783.

For bills and bill tracking:

  • UK Parliament

    This official web site contains the text of all public bills currently before Parliament. Where a bill has recently been passed into law there is a link to the text of the new law on the TSO web site. The bill tracking service follows draft legislation through each step of the process. The parliamentary site also contains a link to the Weekly Information Bulletin which includes lists of all public and private bills being considered in the current legislative session. For a discussion of the various types of bills, check here.

  • Westlaw and Lexis (passwords required)

    Westlaw's UKCA-BILLS database gives an abstract and shows the latest action on current bills before Parliament. For Lexis follow Legal (excluding U.S.) → United Kingdom → Legislation and Regulations → Halsbury's Laws of England Monthly Review → Bills. Enter the search: to(bills in progress). The resulting cite list should consist of all current bills in alphabetical order and a short description of status.

Finding Cases

If you have a citation to a case, chances are it will be easy enough to find in one of the Law Library's print case reporters in the Commonwealth Collection. For students and faculty at the College of Law with passwords to Westlaw and Lexis, those databases, as well as the free, web-based BAILII database, are probably the best place to start. Some of the print reporters owned by the Law Library are little used and are duplicative. If using print, you should probably stick with The Law Reports or the All-England Law Reports.

  • Law Reports—KD275.4 - KD279.4, Legal abbreviation: L.R. or Law. Rep. The court-specific subsets are abbreviated as Q.B. or L.R.Q.B., for example.

    This chronologically-arranged reporter covers the opinions from all English courts from 1866 to date and is the preferred case reporter for citation purposes. Each individual volume contains a case table and subject index for that year, and a Cases Judicially Considered volume which lists earlier cases that are cited to by the cases in that particular volume. The Law Reports is actually a series of smaller sets from specific courts (e.g. king's Bench, Chancery, Family Division, etc.). There is a multi-volume subject index (currently five volumes) at the end of the Weekly Law Reports (below) for use with both titles.

  • Weekly Law Reports—KD282 .W43, Legal abbreviation: W.L.R.

    Coverage from 1953. Weekly publication giving advance notice of cases that will appear in The Law Reports. However, the Law Library has only the annual hard-bound volumes, not the weekly advance sheet version. The Law Library's subscription to this title and to The Law Reports was canceled in 2001.

  • All-England Law Reports—KD288 .A64 ; (Reprint) KD288 .A6, Legal abbreviations: All E.R. or All E.R.Rep

    The reprint contains opinions dating from 1558 to 1935 and is accompanied by a one-volume index and case table. The All-England Law Reports is an annotated set covering the years 1936 to date. This later set has a three-volume Consolidated Case Tables and Index (1936-1976) followed by individual annual pamphlet indexes from 1977 to present. The Annual Review (KD288 .A646) contains articles written by legal scholars analyzing the opinions included in the Reports. The Law Library's subscription was canceled in August 2002.

  • English Reports—KD270 .I220 .E56 1990, Legal abbreviation: E.R. or Eng. Rep.

    Full reprint of the decisions of all English courts from 1220 to 1866. Comprises 176 volumes and a two volume case table, but no subject index. The Index Chart for the English Reports at the end of the set indicates where in the E.R. to find a case when you have only the citation to the original, nominative reporter (e.g. Atkyns Reports).

  • Law Times Reports—KD288 .A34, Legal abbreviation: L.T.R.

    177-volume set covering the years 1859-1947. It contains all cases from all major and specialized courts in England and, for certain years, selected decisions from Superior Courts in ireland and Scotland.

  • Great Britain Times Law Reports / Times Law Reports—KD288.A5, Legal abbreviation: The Times L. R. or T.L.R.

    Covering the years 1880-1940 and 1940-1952 respectively, these opinions are a reprinting of those published in The Times and are selected from major courts only.

  • Lloyd's Law Reports—KD1815 .A2 .L78, Legal abbreviation: Lloyd's L. Rep. or Lloyd, L.R.; Lloyd's List

    This case reporter covers maritime and commercial decisions beginning with Lloyd's List Law Reports (1919-1967) and Lloyd's Law Reports (1968 to date). The Law Library canceled the title in 1991. There is a Digest covering the years 1966-1990.


    For current case law from all UK jurisdictions, the easiest route is probably through the web site of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII). Dates of coverage vary by jurisdiction but generally, opinions are from mid 1990s to present and are keyword searchable.

  • House of Lords

    Here are judgments dating from November 1996. Opinions appear here within two hours of delivery in the House.

  • Westlaw and Lexis

    Each of these providers has multiple case databases. For Westlaw, the UK-RPTS-ALL database is comprehensive. On Lexis, the CASES and ALLCAS files include opinions from courts in England/Wales, and England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland respectively. There is also a file for The Law Reports: ICLR.

    Both Lexis and Westlaw also include the text of unreported decisions from major courts. For Westlaw check the UK-CASELOC database; for Lexis, unreported decisions are included in the CASES file.

  • Hein Online

    This database contains the full English Reports series covering the years 1220-1865. Resulting cases are in pdf format. There is also a chart tool showing citations for original nominative report and location in the reprint series.

Finding Administrative Regulations

In the UK, these are called Statutory Instruments (SIs). They are referred to as delegated, or subordinate, legislation. The official print source, Statutory Instruments, is not owned by the Law Library. Instead, the researcher should check the commercially-produced Halsbury's Laws of England (KD310 .H34) with coverage from 1973 or, for more recent SIs, one of the online sources below.

  • HMSO

    Full-text of all published statutory instruments is available here dating from 1987 and it is keyword- searchable. This site also contains the text of draft statutory instruments from 1997.

  • Westlaw and Lexis

    Westlaw offers SIs in several subject area databases, as well as in the more general UK-LEGISLOC. Coverage if from 1948. For Lexis, both the SI and STATIS files provide full-text of statutory instruments currently in force.


In the U.S., legal researchers rely on Lexis' Shepard's (print or online) or Westlaw's Keycite to update cases and other primary law and legislation. While not exactly comparable to Shepard's, Current Law's various citators, a multi-part service published by Sweet & Maxwell, contain several individual titles which can help update your citation and which are owned by the Law Library:

  • Current Law Case Citator—KD296 .C843 (1947-76, 1977-88, and 1989-95)
  • Current Law Statute Citator—KD141 .C842 (1947-1971)
  • Current Law Legislation Citator—KD141 .C843 (2 v. 1972-1988 & 1989-1993)
  • Current Law Statutory Instruments Citator—KD141 .C844 (1996-1999)

The case citator consists of three volumes indexing decisions from 1947 to present and can be used for 'shepardizing' cases. Jurisdictions covered: UK, England, Wales & European Union, Northern Ireland & Scotland. Alphabetical arrangement. Citations are to the Current Law Year Book (KD296 .C82), described below. For online case citating, try searching the Lexis English caselaw database (ENGGEN) and CASES file for other cases that have cited your case.

The statute, statutory instrument, and legislative citators provide tables of statutes, legislation, and statutory instruments whether in force/not in force, amended, consolidated, or judicially considered. For more recent changes, check the looseleaf binders for Current Law Statutes.

Indexes, Digests, and Encyclopedias

  • Halsbury's Laws of England—KD310 .H34, Legal abbreviation: Halsbury or Halsbury L. Eng.

    The Law Library owns the current fifty-six-volume 4th edition of this title (1973-present), an encyclopedic work digesting statutes, statutory instruments, and court decisions. It is organized alphabetically by area of law, from Administrative Law to Wills. Volumes 51 and 52 contain laws of the EU and there is selective coverage of case law from Commonwealth jurisdictions as well. In addition to a case table in the front of each volume, court decisions are referenced in footnotes throughout the discussion of law on that topic area. There is an annual cumulative supplement updating the current set as well as a two-volume Current Service/Noter-Up looseleaf set to complete the annual supplementation. The Annual Abridgment (KD310 .H346) contains tables of cases, statutes, SIs, and a subject index. In addition to coverage of primary law, Halsbury's draws on secondary sources such as legal periodicals and government reports to give an exhaustive treatment of the development of the law for any given year. The Law Library has the Abridgement from 1974.

  • Current Law—KD296 .C82 and .C822, Legal abbreviation: C.L.Y.B or Curr. L. Y.B.; C.L.M.

    Research tool consisting of Current Law Monthly Digest (KD296 .C82) and Current Law Year Book (KD296 .C822) and the various citating tools described previously in this document. The Year Book provides subject access to developments in the law within the given year. The Law Library has coverage from 1980 to date. The Monthly Digest is an update of very recent developments and is retained only until the Year Book is received.

  • The Digest—KD296 .E52, Legal abbreviation: Dig

    The Law Library does not own the two earlier editions of this title (1st edition and "Blue Band" editions) covering the period between 1919 and 1970. The current fifty-two-volume "Green Band" edition in the library is a subject arrangement of case law covering the UK, Commonwealth, and the EU from 1971, and is updated by annual cumulative supplements and a Quarterly Survey issued between annual supplements. In addition to digesting opinions, The Digest also serves as a case citator by providing annotations of cases which have cited your case and the nature of those references.

Online Guides to the UK Legal System

  • A Guide to the UK Legal System

    This  Globalex guide, most recently revised in 2015 describes the legal system of the UK as a whole and as separate component jurisdictions with varying degrees of law-making authority. Discusses primary and secondary sources of law, the legal profession, legal education, and a selected bibliography of useful texts and treatises in specific legal subject areas.

  • The Electronic Parliament: Resources for Tracking U.K. Legislation

    An in-depth discussion of the law-making process of the UK parliament written by Stephen Young, law librarian currently at Catholic University of America. (2001)

  • Devolution in the United Kingdom: A Revolution in Online Legal Research

    Another guide by Stephen Young. Offers an excellent discussion of the process of devolution, or transfer of power, to the individual countries of the UK in the late '90s, and the varying degrees of authority granted to each of these jurisdictions in different constitutional areas. (2001)

Other Online Resources

  • Department for Consitutional Affairs

    The Department for Constitutional Affairs contains command papers and discussion on many issues relating to constitutional reform, including the July 2003 proposal for the establishment of a new Supreme Court independent of the House of Lords.

  • LawLinks

    LawLinks is a comprehensive web site containing links to UK law and resources, international law web sites, EU law and much more.

Legal Abbreviation Guides

  • The Cardiff Guide to Legal Abbreviations

    This is an online guide to legal abbreviations covering many jurisdictions, including England and Wales, international materials, the EU, and many former Commonwealth countries. Published in the summer of 2003 by the Cardiff Law Library at Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, the guide is searchable by abbreviation or title. Cardiff staff plan quarterly updates to this publication.

  • Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations, 5th. Prince, Mary Miles (William S. Hein & Co., Inc. Buffalo, NY 2000)

    This well-known reference tool is located in the Law Library's reference section at KF 246 .B46 2000.

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