Learning the law

This page includes resources for those studying law. Other pages in this section are Careers in law and Law courses.

Legal research

The Law Society’s library team have published 16 Research Guides on specific legal research topics. They are provided in pdf and can be downloaded from the Law Society site individually, depending on your requirements.

01 How to find journal articles
02 How to find law reports
03 How to find Public General Acts
04 How to find Local and Personal Acts
05 How to find statutory instruments
06 How to research parliamentary debate
07 How to find bills
08 How to find precedents
09 How to find official publications
10 How to find Scottish law
11 How to find Northern Irish law
12 How to find Republic of Ireland law
13 How to find Isle of Man and Channel Islands law
14 How to find treaties
15 How to trace past solicitors and law firms
16 How to dispose of your library

The Lawyers Portal is a newly launched site which provides free guides and events for aspiring lawyers, created by industry professionals in collaboration with leading law firms. The content is written by professional lawyers and education experts, with input from major law firms as well as professional bodies including The Bar Council, The Law Society and The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. The site has information on different routes into the legal profession, different areas of law, and various courses suitable for young people at different stages of their education. The site also describes other sources of online information which can help a young person understand what it is that they are really interested in.

The Judicial System of England and Wales is a new guide published by The International Team of the Judicial Office. The guide is introduced by Lady Justice Arden, Head of International Relations for the Judiciary of England and Wales with the following words: “What you see today has evolved over 1,000 years; the judiciary is continuing to change and develop to meet the needs of our society and is widely regarded as one of the best and most independent in the world. To meet the needs of society, our legal system is also complex. The International Team of the Judicial Office has produced a Visitors’ Guide to bring together a wealth of information about our judiciary and legal system. It also provides an introduction to the work of organisations, such as the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service which support the justice system.” The guide is quite substantial – a downloadable pdf of 52 pages. Although billed as a Visitors Guide for International Judiciary it would be just as useful to law students or anyone else prepared to do a bit of serious reading on the subject.

The legislative process of the UK Parliament is a straight forward description of how a bill originates, types of bill, stages through Parliament, green and white papers, and associated vital facts. There is also a summary of various proposals for improving/changing the process. The article, written by Zenaira Khan, is part of the Justis blog. Other posts include “Legal Research and Revision”, designed for law students, and the impact that technology has had on diversifying the provision of legal services.

Current Awareness from the Inner Temple Library provides up-to-date information regarding new case law, changes in legislation, and legal news, which Library Staff think will be of interest to lawyers practising in England and Wales. The content is selected and updated daily by information professionals from the Inner Temple Library in London. There are many entries on just about every day. This is a major current awareness resource, set up as a blog, so you can subscribe with RSS and get alerts every day. You can also receive “normal” email alerts, follow the blog on Twitter, get the Widget or follow on Facebook. (The Inner Temple Library is one of the four Inns of Court Libraries, which serve barristers, judges and bar students in England and Wales.)

The Guardian Law Section is a selection from the main Guardian news and editorial content related to law – and since the Guardian follows legal developments in considerable depth (both from an individual citizen’s viewpoint and form the viewpoint of society as a whole) this leads to quite a large section of the paper ending up in the law section every day. You can access previous days’ news selections down the page or you can search by topic, e.g. UK criminal justice, Human rights, Health, Prisons and probation.

Halsbury’s Law Exchange is a legal think tank, hosted by LexisNexis. It aims to communicate ideas on reform or legal direction to decision makers and the legal sector and promote debate through papers, reports, events and media pieces. As it says about itself “Through our legal white papers and current projects, it seeks to be a legal think tank in the true sense of the term; to debate the legal issues of the day without political or commercial agenda and to influence and prompt change.” There are in-depth papers on most areas of law (rather than a rapid fire approach of short items) and an opportunity to comment and debate online. The Law Exchange is run by a Board consisting of leading lawyers, with a wide range of contributors and chaired by Joshua Rozenberg.

lawbore from Emily Allbon of City University Law School, is a A-Z video guide to starting a law course and there is lots of other good stuff on their site too including Topic-themed guides to the legal web and Multimedia law tutorials & features.
See also Emily Allbon’s article on lawbore for the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers here.

GOV.UK is the Government’s over-arching portal for (eventually) all Government services and information. This is designed to replace the hundreds of existing Government sites with a consistent interface, comprehensive search facilities and user-focused experience.

The Supreme Court has launched its own YouTube channel showing videos of judgments being handed down. There are around 30 judgments on there now, from 2013, as well as some older ones from the latter part of 2012.

Varying Degrees of Assault is an information paper from Nick Titchener of Lawtons Solicitors, respected defence solicitors in London. The opening paragraph says: “Assault is a complex area of law. Each case is different and depend on the parties involved, the location, possible motivations and the events that unfold. It’s up to the police and prosecutors to interpret the details of these cases and to initially assess the severity of the case and what type of assault may have been committed.” The paper outlines the severity of common violent crime types and how they measure against each other in the eyes of the law. It’s a good source of information for those learning about the law or involved in an accusation.

The UK supreme court: an interactive history comes from the Guardian’s Law Section. The history starts in 1399 (the time of Henry Bollingbroke) and continues to the present day, with more recent periods described with a Summary of the key judgments emanating from that time.

The Scottish Council of Law Reporting (SCLR) is a “not for profit” charitable company limited by guarantee, established by the Scottish legal profession to manage publication of Session Cases and other materials intended to help promote the best practice of Scots law. The Council makes its publications available to as wide an audience as possible, at as low a cost as possible. Now the SCLR is bringing this admirable aim into the internet age! It has commissioned a series of five linked short films about law reporting in Scotland and the place of law reports in Scottish legal practice and made these available on You Tube. The celebrated case of Donoghue v. Stevenson provides a useful theme as the role of precedent in the work of lawyers and the courts is explained. The films are presented as a free educational resource, especially useful for those seeking to understand the role of law reports as a primary source of law. The five films are:

Suitable (for example) for sixth form students, students of law (in the early stages) and the general public (if interested). And the standard of the films is very high – comparable to well produced TV programmes. The films would be just as useful to non-Scottish students, incidentally, as a general introduction to the role and use of precedent, and the role of court reporting in general.

data.gov.uk is a new site launched by the Government to provide free access to all the data currently held by government (and therefore created by our taxes) which may be of use to individuals or organisations. This has been the culmination of a study of several years length, advised by (amongst others) Tim Berners-Lee. The site uses open standards, open source and open data: these are the core elements of a modular, sustainable system. You can browse the data sets (listed alphabetically) or search them by key word. There is further information about the semantic web – putting out data in a form which can be understood by other applications. And seealso the USA site Data.gov.

vLex offers free legal research handbooks for both the England & Wales and Irish legal systems, as well as free guides for treatment types, and an online legal research proficiency test. The PDF handbooks cover topics such as The role of the UK Supreme Court; Court structure; What is a law report? Which reports should be used? Getting Started with Legal Research, and much more. Visit vLex’s resources page to view all free learning materials.

Introductory material

Nicholas Nicol, Barrister & Mediator of 1 Pump Court, specialises in housing, property and public law and offers case briefings and articles in those areas, plus an introduction to the English legal system (in both English and Spanish).

Clickdocs provides legal documents online. There is a useful glossary of legal terms on the site, with straightforward descriptions of both Latin and English terms.

Glossary of legal terms from Fylde Law, a firm of solicitors in Blackpool, Lytham St Annes and Thornton Cleveleys. Useful for checking up on a new legal term.

Learn Law is a provider of online learning tools for law courses in England and Wales. They offer an online multi-choice assessment tool for GCSE Law students consisting of interactive revision tests enabling students to revise and apply their knowledge to over 15 areas of Law. Class reports provide teachers with instant feedback on how a group of students have performed on the revision tests. From September 2005 they are also offering the multi-choice assessment tool for students studying AS Law for the AQA and OCR examination boards. There will also soon be complete distance learning courses in GCSE (covering 15 subjects), AS, A2 and the National Association of Paralegals.

Out of date now (originally published in 2001) but still useful background reading
A Guide to the UK Legal System by Sarah Carter, previously Law Librarian at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and Guide to Irish Law by Dr. Darius Whelan, lecturer in law at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Dublin, are two comprehensive and innovative papers published on the USA LLRX Librarian’s site. The papers describe the respective legal systems as if to a lawyer or student of law from another country, making full use of legal sources and resources on the web.

The Legal System of Scotland (4th edition) has been produced by The Stationery Office in Scotland. The book provides a comprehensive guide to the Scottish legal system written in plain English for non-lawyers. It provides an overview of various aspects of the legal system such as: origins and sources of Scots law; the civil and criminal courts; tribunals; the personnel of the law; administration of the Scottish legal system; legal aid and protection of the public. The book in paperback costs £3.95.

City Law School is one of London’s major law schools and offers an impressive range of academic and professional courses. They offer particularly good online resources (mostly available to all law students rather than “just” their own students) including:

LawBore, regularly updated topic guides compiled by the professional law librarian. Topics include Core subjects – Constitutional, Contract, Criminal, English Legal System, Equity & Trusts, EU, Land/Property, Legal Method, Tort – as well as many elective subjects

Minitrial is an initiative from Scottish Lawyers to help secondary schools find out more about the Scottish legal system. Students take part in a reconstruction of a ciminal jury trial. The site shows an interactive court scene and describes the participants, then shows some of the “papers” for the assault trial. There are various materials for further work (including a minitrial starter pack) which can be downloaded. The site does not try to be too clever but is straightforward and informative.

Resources designed for students

This one is for if you need a little rest from serious legal work….
BabyBarista has now moved to this new site having spent the last 3 years on the Times. A new feature is a series of excellent cartoons by Hollywood animator Alex Williams (see Queen’s Counsel, his cartoon satire on law and lawyers for the Times, with more than 750 cartoons going back over fifteen years). Now we know what OldRuin, OldSmoothie, BusyBody and TheVamp actually look like! This new series will be published in due course if you miss the blog (or even if you have not missed the blog). Two series of blog entries have now been published.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools is a USA site with information and resources on the best criminal justice schools and associated degrees, as well as profiles on 80+ criminal justice careers. There are new articles published each week and an extensive section of Criminal Justice Resources which would be a very useful starting point for anyone looking to compare the UK and USA systems.

Criminal Law Online provides presentations and recorded lectures in criminal law for LLB and GDL students. These presentations, viewed online, are not free but they are low cost and good value. Topics available so far include Defences, Subject Areas, Fraud Act 2006, Homicide, Theft Act 1968 and Non Fatal Offences. The lectures, presentations and articles are produced by Norman Baird.

elawstudent.com is a small company developing law courses and in particular, so far, AS/A2 English & Welsh Law. This is a very dense site with a lot of materials but not a very good direction to finding your way around.

Insite Law Magazine (“daily online law news and law blogs”) is a project initiated by long time legal educator and innovator Mike Semple-Piggot. The aim is to assist law students by providing text and recorded lectures completely free, together with other materials (news, podcasts, law reports) prepared by Mike and other legal experts. Plans are now well advanced to provide completely free text and materials course books, with recorded lectures, in Contract, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Tort, Intellectual Property, European Union Law, Competition Law, Employment Law and Family Law. These texts and lectures are designed around the requirements of traditional university syllabuses for qualifying law degrees. There are a number of news feeds to which the student (or practitioner) can subscribe.

Judiciary of England and Wales is the website of the judges, magistrates and tribunal members in England and Wales. It is not part of Government, MoJ or Parliament but prides itself on being strictly independent. The site is designed as an information resource and covers the functions of the judiciary with information on who the judges are, when they site, judgments, sentencing, practice directions and many related topics, together with news of current issues, news items and reports. There are interviews, surveys and even a quiz.
Here is what it says it provides:

Members of the public: Find out how the justice system works, what the different judges do, what to expect in court and how sentences are decided on.

Teachers and tutors: Find out how the judicial system evolved, where different judges sit and what they do, and hear judges talk about their working lives.

Legal professionals: Find out about judicial work-shadowing, applying for judicial appointment, key judgments, practice directions and speeches.

Journalists and researchers: Visit our Media and Publications section for the latest judgments, media releases, speeches and publications.

JUSTICE is the well known and respected human rights and law reform charity and now there is also a JUSTICE student human rights network. The group is aims to create a lively, interactive network for all those studying the law who are interested in human rights. There is a mailing list, electronic bulletins, successful seminars at the Guardian Newsroom and other events being planned. One particular feature of the site is a very comprehensive list of links to resources and organisations involved with human rights and covering Asylum, Criminal Justice, Equality, EU Justice and Home Affairs, Human Rights, International Human Rights, Legal Systems and Privacy.

LawsBlog is a blog designed for Law, Government & Politics, and Citizenship studies students of Dr Peter Jepson, Strode’s College, Egham. This blog provides a useful resource of law information and lesson materials.

Law School Online is a new website offering study advice and exam tips for law students in the form of articles, links, mind maps and test yourself quizzes, as well as a Law Tutor’s blog. Resources are free and updated regularly, with subjects covered including Land law, Equity and Trusts, Criminal law, Contract Law and Tort. The site is aimed mainly at LLB/GDL/ILEX students, but some topics will also be of use to those studying A levels and other courses. Future paid services will focus on a series of short revision courses and online tutoring packages. However, they are very clear that they do not offer any form of custom essay writing service which they think is akin to cheating!

LawDictionaries.com provides links to free online law dictionaries and other useful tools for law students and practitioners including translation tools.

Legal Studies Master’s Degrees is a USA site covering Online Master’s of Legal Studies Degrees. The site provides a breakdown of scholarship opportunities in the USA, potential careers/salaries in the field, and how to market a Master’s of Legal Studies to employers. In addition, visitors can find specifics on this program’s curriculum and concentrations, and what a student should expect when enrolling in an online Master’s of Legal Studies program.

LexisNexis Academic site provides students with a route into their online services and materials as well as information on current cases and legislation and their possible educational and career paths.

QED Law Courses provide revision lectures in the core subjects – criminal law, law of contract, legal system, public law, law of tort, equity and trusts, land law and european union law. The revision lectures are for students on university LLB and GDL / CPE courses. These are “real” lectures – not viewed online. Lectures take place in the Chadwick Lecture Theatre in the Chadwick Building and the Pearson Lecture Theatres in the Pearson Building at UCL. There is a schedule of lectures on the web site. A (modest) charge is made for attendance at the lectures.

SCL Student Bytes is an online content hub covering technology law, policy and regulation; and LawTech/LegalTech. It is run by and aimed at students and recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in law. Student Bytes is part of the SCL student programme.

As well as ongoing contributed content there is a Glossary and an explainer of the difference between LawTech and Tech Law. Posts are categorised as one or other or as Audiovisual content.

Roll on Friday – news and lighter material and also leisure suggestions, a currency converter and a translator.

The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR), the non-profit-making body which publishes The Law Reports and The Weekly Law Reports, provides a weekly roundup of legal news and current awareness on its Weekly Notes blog. The blog also has book reviews, case comments and other content on legal matters of interest. The main site contains case summaries of recent cases likely to be reported in full. A Knowledge section was added to the site in 2018. It is aimed at both students and practitioners, or even interested members of the public, with articles about the legal system and law reporting. The content, which is being added to regularly, is arranged under Case Law, Legislation, Topics, Guides, FAQs and a Glossary of legal terms and concepts.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674-1913 is “A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.” And more…”The Proceedings contain accounts of trials which took place at the Old Bailey. The first published collection of trials at the Old Bailey dates from 1674, and from 1678 accounts of the trials at each sessions (meeting of the Court) were regularly published. Inexpensive, and targeted initially at a popular audience, the Proceedings were produced shortly after the conclusion of each sessions and were initially a commercial success. But with the growth of newspapers and increasing publication costs the audience narrowed by the nineteenth century to a combination of lawyers and public officials. With few exceptions, this periodical was regularly published each time the sessions met (eight times a year until 1834, and then ten to twelve times a year) for 239 years, when publication came to a sudden halt in April 1913.” The site is beautifully prepared, with the full text available as well as digital images of the original reports. There are also some pictures from legal material of the time together with an extensive Introduction. The project is a collaboration between the Open University and the Universities of Hertfordshire and Sheffield.

Washminster is written for everyone interested in the work of Britain’s Parliament and the US Congress. (Washington and Westminster – get it?) It covers Practice, Procedure, History and current issues. The blog is written by David Morgan, who tutors in Law for both Leicester University and the Open University. There are also iphone apps and a quiz.