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Law: Key Legal Databases: Online Legal Research

A brief guide to online legal databases
View the full Law Subject Guide for guidance on other legal materials

Make sure you can login to the following key databases 

Legal Certification info

How to use the A-Z 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.
Key Legal Databases: Lexis & Westlaw
Lexis Library
Legal Certification schemes - Lexis & Westlaw

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

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


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

Lexis Library International

Lexis PSL

Westlaw UK

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

Westlaw International Materials
Provides access to non UK legal materials.  Coverage includes international legal materials from ICJ and organisations such as WTO/GATT, WIPO, UNICTRAL.  Access is also availanble to primary and secondary legal sources such as case law, legislation and journal articles from various jurisdictions, including EU, US, Australia and Canada - plus others.

Practical Law

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

Find out more on the Westlaw Libguide.
You can build your online legal research competencies with Westlaw's training and certification scheme

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.

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 to 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.

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