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Law - Key Legal Databases: Online Legal Research

A brief guide to online legal databases

Legal research has been transformed by the availability of sophisticated online search services.

Not only can you quickly and easily access the full text of key cases, journals, legislation etc. but you can also explore the law in context by viewing a case, commentary and related legislation, all at a click of a button.

It is worth building your research skills in the major legal databases so that you can take full advantage of this functionality


View the full Law Subject Guide for guidance on other legal materials

Browse all law databases list

Training & Certification

Legal Databases

A wide range of legal databases are available to you. Use the Law Databases in the Databases A-Z List to select the specific resource source you require.   

They provide full text access to books, journal articles, reports, case law, legislation, official publications and more. 

They can also help you see the law in context by showing how the law has developed overtime and linking you to related commentary, cases and legislation on the area you are researching

Three key multidisciplinary legal databases are flagged here: JustisOne. Lexis and Westlaw.  You will use these databases frequently for your legal research. 

There are many other databases available to you. Take a look at the full listing to discover all the resources.  As you move through your studies and research you will use other resources to meet particular research needs, e.g. you may need to use a specialist resource for a particular branch of law - e.g. maritime law or family law. or you may need to look at law from a particular jurisdiction such as French Law or German Law.  Specialist databases provide key resources in this area, beyond the content that you will find in databases such as Lexis and Westlaw. 

You may also find that you use databases from other disciplines, particularly if your research extends into wider social science disciplines. For example, you might want to explore databases for Criminology, Business, or Politics & International Relations.  You can find these and other in the A-Z Databases List. Just choose a subject to see all the recommended databases for that subject area.


***JustisOne is an enhanced legal platform which replaces the JustCite service***


JustisOne s a great starting point for finding the legal information you need.

It is a legal research platform that provides access to UK superior court judgments and legislation, and also quickly  and easily links you to law reports available in full text on other research platforms such as Lexis and Westlaw etc.

It has a number of useful research tools that help you to look at the law in context and explore related content.

For example when you are viewing case law it  shows you whether your case has been referred to in other cases and whether it has been upheld or overruled subsequently.  A very nice added value feature is the precedent map which shows you the context of your case in a visual way. It helps you visualise relationships between cases and find other cases related to your line of enquiry.

When you are looking at a piece of legislation you can see if there are related cases or journal articles, and check on the status of provisions to see if they are still in force or have been amended.

Plenty of online help is available.  It is recommended that you use the training materials to explore the database and then take the online proficiency test to build and test your skills. you'll gain an electronic certificate to acknowledge your new skills.

JustisOne: User Guide & Videos and Proficiency Test 

A very useful JustisOne Law Student Handbook is also available.  This handbook was created by law school graduates with help from law school academics to help you make the most of JustisOne and lean about the importance of legal research.

Lexis Library is a major legal database used in most large law practices as well as Universities.

It has the full text of UK case law, legislation and core journals published by Butterworths, plus a range of legal commentaries

You can search by subject, author or citation in order to find the material you require. 

You can also read reference works like Halsbury’s Laws of England and the  Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents. online. 

As well as UK material, you can access international material too. Use the Sources tab to explore the content from the various international jurisdictions. The Lexis guide on International Sources will assist you to find the content you need,

It is worth spending time building your skills in using Lexis so that you can search and find content in the most effective way.

Comprehensive online guidance is available for the database and you can also sit an online test to certify your legal research skills 

A complementary legal database is Lexis PSL which is a legal reference tool you can use to explore different practice areas in detail. 

Westlaw is a major legal database providing full text access to UK , US and international case law, legislation, journals. books and other legal information sources.  

Find out more on the Westlaw UK Libguide.

You can build your online legal research competencies with Westlaw's training and certification scheme

Practical Law

Practical Law is an online legal know-how service which works hand in hand with Westlaw UK.

Lexis and Westlaw provide access to a wide range of journal titles.  However, access to early volumes of journal titles is not typically available in these large databases.  Current content is available;  sometimes access to volumes from mid 1980s onwards is provided; but where titles have been available for many decades then the earlier decades are not typically available.

If you need to  look at articles from earlier volumes of the legal journals. then you should use one of the journal archive services.  There are two key journal archive services or relevance toi legal research. 

The easiest way for you to check on journal coverage is to use the Library Search service.

In this example you can see that for the key journal International and Comparative Law Quarterly

  • the up to date content is available via Westlaw and direct from Cambridge University Press
  • earlier volumes of the journal are available via the journal archive services, including Hein and JSTOR - right back to the first volume in 1952



Lexis and Westlaw provide access to a wide range of full text legal resources.  However, for some legal disciplines, specialist legal books, journals and law report series are provided in other standalone specialist databases.

Browse the Law section of the A-Z Databases List to see all the resources that are available to you.

Examples of specialist subject databases include the following.

Lexis and Westlaw have significant full text coverage of UK and EU law.  They also provide access to legal materials from other jurisdictions, however coverage is more limited.  

There are a number of specialist jurisdictional databases available to you. Browse the Law section of the A-Z Databases List to see all the resources that are available to you. Examples include the following.

A-Z Database Demo

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