How to find law reports

This guide explains how to find law reports in our library and online.

Understanding citations

A citation usually has three or four parts after the case name, for example: [1976] 3 All ER 312. This breaks down into:

  • year
  • volume number (if any)
  • abbreviation of the report title
  • page or paragraph number

To find out what the abbreviation for the report title stands for you can use:

  • Cardiff Index of Legal Abbreviations – this is a free online database
  • Raistrick, Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations – ask library staff
  • Halsbury’s Laws of England, 5th edition: Consolidated table of cases – this is in our library in Bay 59

A neutral citation, for example EWCA Civ, is a citation assigned to cases since 2001 in the:

  • High Court
  • Court of Appeal
  • House of Lords
  • Supreme Court
  • Privy Council

These citations do not refer to a printed source, but they identify the case and may be used to search online databases for case reports. A neutral citation does not guarantee that a case was reported online or in print.

Tools to find where a case is reported

LexisLibrary is an online subscription database. It contains basic case information and citations, plus full text reports and transcripts where available.

You can search by:

  • case name
  • key words
  • citation
  • date
  • court
  • judge
  • counsel

Its appeal tracker indicates if a case is going to appeal and there’s a search for personal injury damages.

LexisLibrary is available in the library. Ask library staff for access.

Westlaw UK is an online subscription database. You can use it to search for a case by:

  • party name
  • free text
  • citation
  • legislative provision
  • court
  • judge
  • date
  • cases cited

Its case analysis will tell you where the case was reported, with a summary and links to law reports if available. It also lists journal articles and books mentioning the case.

Westlaw UK is available in the library. Ask library staff for access.

JustisOne is an online subscription database. It provides access to case judgments and legislation.

You can search it by:

  • party name
  • court
  • year
  • keywords
  • citation

Case information includes:

  • where the case was reported
  • subsequent judicial treatment
  • references to journal articles discussing the case

JustisOne is available in the library. Ask library staff for access.

The Digest is a printed source, useful for older, Commonwealth and Scottish cases. Some case summaries also have subsequent judicial treatment annotations.

To search it, start with The Consolidated Table of Cases – a three-volume index by party name, held in Bay D. It refers you to the relevant volume number and subject title in The Digest. Then look in the case index at the front of the appropriate Digest volume for the paragraph number of the case summary.

The Digest is held in the library in Bays A and C. The library stopped subscribing to it at the end of 2011.


Current Law Case Citators are printed case citators for UK cases after 1946.

This is in the library in Bay D.

The Law Reports Indexes cover the official series of law reports and other major series from 1951 onwards.

This is in the library in Bay A.

You can search for cases online using:

  • BAILII – a free database with the widest coverage of case transcripts
  • LawCite – a free database giving citation information for cases
  • CommonLII – a free database indexing cases from former Commonwealth countries

Finding a case by subject

To find a case by subject you can use keyword searches in:

  • Westlaw UK
  • JustisOne
  • LexisLibrary

If you know the subject area, check individual tables in:

  • The Law Reports Index volumes
  • specialist law reports
  • specialist textbooks

For example:

  • company law cases – check Butterworths Company Law Cases and British Company Cases
  • property cases – check Property and Compensation Law Reports or the relevant textbook collection section
  • personal injury quantum – use Kemp and Kemp (looseleaf)

Updating a case

To find out whether a case has been reversed or considered in later cases, use:

  • Westlaw UK and LexisLibrary – they have icons next to the case name on the list of cases, with more detail in the case analysis and overview documents
  • The Law Reports Indexes and other law reports series – these have tables of cases judicially considered
  • The Digest – many entries have annotations about subsequent judicial treatment

Finding cases on specific legislation

To find cases on a specific section of a statute see the how to find public general acts guide.

To find cases on a specific provision in a statutory instrument see the how to find statutory instruments guide.

Getting transcripts

BAILII has the widest coverage of transcripts freely available online. To find other sources, see Transcripts of Judicial Proceedings in England and Wales: A Guide to Sources (2011), kept behind the library enquiry desk.

We hold a collection of Court of Appeal transcripts on microfiche for cases heard from 1951 to 1980. These are in the library in filing cabinet H.

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