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Case Law: How to find and use case law: Structure of a law report
What is case law? Where can you find Scottish and English case law? How can you check the status of case law?
A law report is divided into distinct sections. The most important of these is the judgment, or opinion, which is the text of the judge’s reasoning. However, other sections added by the editor assist in understanding the case and assessing its likely impact.
Sections usually found in a report are:
Parties’ names – that is the parties involved in the case.
Court - before which the case was heard.
Date of the hearing – often some time before it is reported.
Judges' names - who heard the case.
Keywords or subject terms.
Headnote (or rubric) – this a summary of the case outlining the material facts, legal issues and decision.
Judicial history – that is details of the case’s history (in inferior courts).
Authorities referred to – a list of cases, legislation and textbooks referred to in the case.
Opinion or judgment of the court – the judge’s decision and reasoning. Judgments of superior courts are now divided into numbered paragraphs for ease of reference (numbers are in square brackets).
The outcome of the case.
Representation – the solicitors and advocates (or barristers) who represented the parties.
Online sources of case law
WestlawWestlaw provides full-text access to a variety of legal information, including many UK cases, UK and Scottish legislation, a number of UK legal journals and EU materials. Westlaw's Journals search provides abstracts from articles from UK-published journals, including articles not available in full-text on Westlaw. Non-UK material is available by following the link to 'Westlaw International' from the homepage.
When accessing the new Westlaw UK platform for the first time you will additionally be required to provide name and email. Please enter your University of Strathclyde email address. Thomson Reuter’s privacy statement is available via a link at the bottom of this 'Add personal information' page.
Lexis LibraryLexis Library provides full-text access to legal, tax and accountancy information. This includes many U.K. reported and unreported cases, legislation, and a number of U.K. legal journals. Commentary includes the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia and Halsbury’s Laws of England. In force legislation relating to England and Wales as well as that from the Scottish Parliament is included, but some pre-devolution U.K. legislation applying solely to Scotland is excluded. Material from non-U.K. jurisdictions is available under the ‘Sources’ tab. The service includes Lexis Tax & Accountancy (formerly Butterworths Tax News Online and Tax Libraries Online). Connect to Lexis Library and choose the 'Practice Areas' tab. Then click on the Tax & Accountancy option.
JustisOneJustisOne is a legal research platform which provides access to case law and legislation as well as supplementary information.
JustisOne's search and analysis tools enable you to find cases and legislation from across many other services and publishers, including Westlaw, Lexis Library, HeinOnline, and BAILLI.
We have access to the UK core module, Session Cases Archive (1821-1872) and Immigration Appeal Reports on JustisOne.
HeinOnlineHeinOnline is a legal research database. The University’s subscription includes access to the ‘Law Journal Library’, ‘Scottish Legal History’ and ‘English Reports, Full Reprint’ databases. All content within HeinOnline is image-based in PDF format and fully searchable.