The City

This is your library – Law Society library services

Lyn Burden, library services manager at the Law Society, explains what services the library provides members, and how the team can help members access our hard copy and virtual legal documents.

Law Society library

Established in 1832, the Law Society library provides members with free access to one of the most comprehensive printed collections of law material in England and Wales.

The library provides three key services to members to support your legal research needs:

  • an enquiry and research service, for which we can use major legal research databases on your behalf
  • access to a vast collection of legal resources
  • a quick, efficient document delivery service

Use by members in the City

Around 15% of enquiries come from members based in the City, and we would like to hear more on what you would find beneficial from our library service.

We're also keen to hear from our in-house members on how we can best support your needs.

Though larger law firms often have their own library collection, our services are still used by them and their library staff, for several reasons.

We hold a unique print collection, and keep older material (such as old editions of books) that our members can access.

Use of our Lawdocs service accounts for nearly a third of our enquiries from members based in the City. These requests are likely to increase as firms look to reduce their printed materials to save money and space – not everything is available online.

After document delivery, the most popular enquiries are:

  • requests for research from our experienced librarians (of which the first 30 minutes is free)
  • copies of precedents
  • requests for specific legal texts

The most popular topic is residential leases, followed by personal injury, then queries relating to wills and probate.

The library is currently open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10am to 4pm.

We continually monitor footfall to help inform decisions on library opening hours in the future.

Pandemic – new catalogue

During lockdown, the library team were able to operate a remote research and document delivery service.

Now, with the easing of restrictions, staff have returned to the library to deliver member document requests that could only be fulfilled with our hard copy material.

Lockdown enabled the library team to focus on the implementation of our new Law Society Library catalogue, including carrying out a substantial data clean-up to make sure our 33,000 records were accurate.

This new catalogue went live on 9 September and brought a more up-to-date look, easier search function for accessing the library collection, and the ability to highlight features such as the Law Society Historical Archive.

Further information on our services

Law Society library research service

The library receives around 9,000 member enquiries each year, including a wide range of legal queries from providing point-in-time legislation, locating precedents, searching for case law and parliamentary material to finding journal articles.

We also trace past solicitors and law firms to help locate lost wills and deeds.

Enquiries come from members working in all types of legal organisations; from sole practitioners to those practising in the Top 100, in-house, retired solicitors and government bodies.

Enquiries cover diverse subject matters and come in from all over the UK and abroad.

The last year has included enquiries from members in Australia, the USA, Portugal, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Kazakhstan.

We also receive queries from non-members who can come in and use the library by paying for a day pass.

There is no charge for the majority of research carried out by our experienced law librarians.

Charges only apply if research takes longer than 30 minutes and you'll be notified in advance if that's likely to happen.

If you need some research-based help, call us on 020 7320 5946 or email library@lawsociety.org.uk.

Telephone and email enquiry lines are open 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

Our collection

The printed law collection is one of the most comprehensive in England and Wales and has material not readily available elsewhere.

It's a reference-only collection made up of:

  • precedents – including Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents, Atkins and textbooks
  • law reports – as well as a range of law reports for England and Wales, we have collections covering other British jurisdictions and a small collection of Commonwealth law reports
  • legislation – public general acts, local and private acts, plus access to both original and amended legislation
  • journals – a large collection of journal indexes and legal journals
  • parliamentary – House of Commons papers from 1801 and Hansard debates from 1804
  • commentary – an extensive collection of up-to-date practitioner textbooks and looseleafs to find commentary relevant to your query

In the library, Law Society members can use Lexis, Lexis PSL, Westlaw, Justis and Public Information Online (PIO – parliamentary publications).

Document delivery

Lawdocs is the library's reasonably priced, pay-as-you-go document delivery service.

Fast and efficient, if you need legal information in a hurry, we can provide you with copies of precedents, law reports, legislation, journal articles and law book extracts on the same day.

The documents can be scanned and emailed straight to your inbox. We can also provide some content directly from databases. Alternatively, copies can be posted.

The service is often used when documents are required for current judicial proceedings.

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