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Key Legal Databases: Online Legal Research

A brief guide to online legal databases

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legal Databases Support Guides


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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
Screenshoit of Lexis+ UK homepage
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. 

You may also find it useful to explore the vLex Justis online legal research tool for insights into case law and legislation.   


Lexis+ UK is a legal intelligence service from LexisNexis .  This online service is used by many Law Schools and legal practices. Lexis+ UK plus provides a wide range of materials via a single easy to use search interface. It includes:

Legal Research : This content was previously available via the LexisLibrary platform.

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. 

An International menu is also available so that you can look at case law, legislation and commentary from other jurisdictions.

Practical Guidance: This content was previously available via the Lexis PSL Platform

Practical Guidance is now fully integrated with Legal Research on Lexis+, so you can see guidance and the underlying law it supports all in one place.

 It includes practice notes, precedents, forms, drafting notes, checklists, flowcharts, client-ready materials and the latest legal developments, arranged by topic. This online legal know-how services complements the materials available via the Legal Research  service and links through to accompanying  commentary and primary law.

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

vLex Justis is 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.

You can also use it to trace legal information from other non UK jurisdictions.

Access the vLex resource centre for comprehensive online help
You can sit the vLex Justis Proficiency Test to test your understanding and certify your legal research skills

vLex Resource area for online help and support

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.  Run a journal title search, e.g.  International and Comparative Law Quarterly and you will see all available online access plus any print copies in the Law Library


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.

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.

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

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