Useful open access websites for legal research

The following table replicates and extends Table 2.2 from Chapter 2 of Learning Legal Rules, with live links to the resources described.

Legislation

  • legislation.gov.uk/
    Full text of all public Acts of the UK Parliament from 1988. Acts of the Scottish Parliament (1999–) and Northern Ireland Assembly (2000–), and Welsh Assembly Acts (2011-) and Measures (2007–11). UK SIs from 1987; Northern Irish statutory orders (1991–), Scottish and Welsh SIs (1999–). Most earlier primary legislation from the UK Parliament and from the English Parliament (1267–1706), and the pre-Union Scottish and Irish Parliaments are also held in some form, though not necessarily in updated or revised versions.
  • BAILII
    The British and Irish Legal Information Institute’s full text database of UK statutes (1988–), Northern Irish statutes (1945–), Irish statutes (Republic) (1922–), Acts of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly Measures. Also a range of English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh SIs.
  • Parliament Bills
    Full text of Bills presented before Parliament in the current session, and Bills from previous sessions since 2001–2.

Case law

  • BAILII
    Full text of decisions of the Supreme Court (2009–), HL, PC, CA (all complete from 1996–) and the High Court (from various start dates). Also decisions of the Scottish Court of Session (1998–) and High Court (1998–), and of the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal (1998–). ECJ decisions since 1954; all CFI decisions. A range of reported tribunal decisions. Content is being added regularly to earlier years.
  • Supreme Court
    Full text of Supreme Court decisions (from October 2009).
  • House of Lords Judgments archive
    Full text versions of all House of Lords’ judgments from 14 November 1996–30 July 2009.
  • ICLR
    Incorporated Council of Law Reporting site, containing its ‘WLR Daily’ feature. This service, updated daily Monday–Friday, provides summaries of important new decisions of the ECJ, HL, CA, and High Court prior to their appearing in the published Law Reports series.
  • CJEU
    Court of Justice of the European Communities: contains documentation relating to the ECJ, all cases decided by the ECJ and CFI since June 1997 (searchable through the InfoCuria interface), and a weekly list of recent proceedings (opinions and judgments).
  • ECHR
    European Court of Human Rights: searchable full-text database of cases. Also has full text of the Rules of the Court and the ECHR and its Protocols.

UK Parliament

  • UK Parliament
    Gateway to House of Lords and House of Commons websites, with information on their functions and activities, and access to the Information Offices of both Houses. Can also be used to access parliamentary publications.
  • Hansard
    Full text of the House of Lords Hansard (debates, oral and written questions) from November 1995 and Historic Hansard from 1803. Full text of House of Commons Hansard (debates, oral and written questions); complete from the start of session in November 1988.

Journals

Most academic legal journals are paywalled, so you need membership of a university library to access paper or electronic copies. The following websites offer some free-to-view resources.

  • SSRN
    SSRN (Social Science Research Network) is a large US-based research repository which includes a large number of university law school working and research paper series (predominantly US, but with other jurisdictions increasingly represented), many of which contain published journal articles and book chapters, as well as material than may not be available elsewhere. The database can be searched by author and/or keywords.
  • Law Review Commons
    Law Review Commons contains archives and current issues for over 250 law reviews (approx. 185,000 papers), predominantly from the US. Some major reviews (eg.. from Harvard, NYU, UCLA are not included).
  • WorldLII
    The WorldLII database contains the full text of currently 53 law journals, predominantly from Australia and New Zealand, including a number of leading law reviews in those jurisdictions. Journal runs tend not to be complete, generally starting from the mid-90s and early 2000s through to the present.

There is a small but growing number of exclusively online or e-journals with either a specialist or general law focus. These include:

Other useful sources

  • WorldLII
    899 databases of legal information from 123 countries and territories including the UK and Ireland (based on the BAILII databases), the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australasia, and the South Pacific. Also provides access to over 20,000 journal articles, chiefly from Australasia (see above).
  • gov.uk
    Gateway to a vast range of sites created by UK central government departments (including the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office), government agencies and local authorities. Of variable utility.
  • Law Commission
    UK government’s Law Commission site: contains useful information on law reform projects and hosts LawCom-supported research publications.
  • European Union
    Gateway to the multilingual EU website. Contains information, statistics, and extensive documentation on the EU, its legislation, and institutions, including the courts.
  • Courts and Tribunals Judiciary
    Judiciary of England and Wales site. Includes statistics, judicial biographies, practice directions, and guidance.