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Understanding Legal Citations

Instead of referring to a case or journal article by its full details, lawyers use abbreviations and legal citations:

  • All reported cases will have a case citation (or law report citation) which you need to use for referencing purposes.

  • Cases since 2001 also have a neutral citation which does not refer to a particular law report but instead to the year and court in which the case was heard. This is an electronic reference for the case.   

  • Journal names are referred to by an abbreviation rather than listed the full title (e.g. Crim LR for the Criminal Law Review). 

​​Check the tabs above to see examples of how case citations and neutral citations are broken down, and for some common legal abbreviations for law reports and journals.

 Top tips for case citations:

  • You should generally include the neutral citation along with a law report citation in your work. See Referencing on the side menu for more help. 

  • When you look at a case online in one of our law eResources such as Westlaw or LexisLibrary, you will be given the citations you need.   

  • Always use the neutral citation and the first law report citation listed - the law reports are cited by most authoritative first! 

Why are citations so important in law?

Watch this video from the 
Incorporated Council of Law Reportingthe authorised publisher of the official series of The Law Reports:

You can check legal abbreivations in the Law Library using Raistrick's Index to Legal Citations or online via:

Finding UK Case Law

Cases are heard in different courts and the transcript of what the judge(s) said are published in law reports (judgments). 

Law reports can be accessed electronically through Westlaw and LexisLibrary.  

In Westlaw and LexisLibrary you will generally find the full judgment as well as extra information such as a summary and links to related materials. 

Understanding the format of a law report

 See the talking law report for guidance on each section.


Freely available transcripts

Some free transcripts are also available online from BAILII (British and Irish Legal Information Institute) and the following websites:


Why is there no law report for my case?

Only 2,500 out of 250,000 cases heard each year or 1.25% ever get reported so many cases will not be available!  

This includes all cases heard in the lower courts and even some of the most sensationalist cases that are very popular in the media. Only cases of legal interest in the upper courts make it into law reports.

For high profile cases where a law report is not available, try using our newspaper database: 

Judgments from legal cases are reported in Law Reports

There are many different law reports produced by different publishers.

In the Law Library, these are shelved in alphabetical order by series title.

Some law reports are very general (All England, The Law Reports, Weekly Law Reports) whilst others are specialist (e.g. Medical Law Reports).

Many more law reports are available online via Westlaw, LexisLibrary and i-law.

Search the Library Catalogue to see which law report series (but not individual cases) are available.

  Please ensure you log into SOL in order to view this video:

A full case citation will give you all the information you need to locate a copy:

1) Work out which series of law reports your case is in by looking up the abbreviation (see above)

2) Locate the correct Law Report series

3) Find the volume with the right date and number printed on the side.

4) Turn to the start page or case number.

You can also use LexisLibrary or Westlaw to find a case by searching for the party names or entering the citation.

Use i-law to access the online version of the Lloyds Law Reports. 

Finding UK Legislation

Legislation includes Acts (Statutes) and Statutory Instruments (Rules, Regulations and Orders), abbreviated to SIs.   

Before a new Act can be created, the Government will normally produce a White Paper or a consultation document on the topic, to outline their ideas. 

This will be put before Parliament as a draft act, known as a Bill, and will be discussed and amended. 

Once Parliament have agreed on the clauses, the Queen will give her approval (Royal Assent), and the Bill will become an Act

Parliament's Making Laws explains how Bills become Acts and the process involved.

Legislation is changing constantly so always make sure you have the latest information available. Fully updated Acts and SIs can be accessed electronically through Westlaw and LexisLibrary.  

You may also want to watch this lecture capture about finding Bills and Acts (please note this is from October 2016 and you must be logged into SOL to view:

Producing a Bill is the first stage of the process to create a new Act. 

Once a Bill has been through all the parliamentary stages, the Queen will give her approval (Royal Assent) and the Bill becomes an Act.

Bills Before Parliament provides detailed information on current bills and their progress. 

Remember: legislation is changing constantly so always make sure you have the latest information available.

Fully updated Acts and SIs can be accessed via Westlaw and LexisLibrary.  These eResources also include additional useful material such as annotations and forthcoming amendments.

Finding legislation Westlaw UK link to open video.

This topic video includes:

  • Searching and browsing legislation - in force, bills, draft legislation and policy materials.

  • Filtering your results.

  • Status icons and versioning - historical, prospective and proposed.

  • Navigating around a piece of legislation.

  • Legislation Analysis tools - citing/cited references, status information, Act/SI overviews, and commentary references.

  • Finding the latest legislation and tracking legislative developments.

Printed copies of Acts can be found in the Law Library but these are not updated so should only be used for historical information.   

There are three series of printed legislation: 

  • Public General Acts - the legislation as it was on the date it was published
  • Halsbury’s Statutes - some previously updated legislation with additional commentary
  • Current Law Statutes Annotated - Acts as published with annotations

The Government also provides which has all official UK legislation in original (enacted) and updated formats along with accompanying documents:

The Law Commission reviews the law and makes recommendations for reform - access current and previous consultations and final reports, including draft Bills.

Finding Legal Journals

  Legal Journals

Legal journals provide opinion and commentary on legal issues and cases and are very useful sources of information for specific legal topics.  They are written by legal experts and professionals.

Listed below are some example legal journals which are relevant to your course. 
Many more can be found on LexisLibrary and Westlaw. (Westlaw video 'Finding journals')

Most journals are subscription-only so you must access them through the links below and login using the instructions provided. 

If you search for a journal title in the Library Catalogue, use the Journals option under Resource Type.  Click on the View Online tab for access details.  We often have multiple providers for journal titles and you will need to check the available date to select the one which best suits your needs. 

Printed journals can be found on Floor 0B but most journals are now electronic only.

Ensure you check which dates are available and read the off campus instructions:

Keeping up-to-date

Keeping up-to-date is essential in law.  

You can do this in a number of ways:

Use our eResources

  • Try the Current Awareness tabs on Westlaw or LexisLibrary - browse by topic or format
  • LexisLibrary - set up email alerts for new resources on a subject or set of search terms (you must be logged in with your University email address and password)
  • Set up a My Westlaw profile to get email alerts on the latest developments for a subject or search
  • Set up email alerts for key journals - receive new table of contents alerts for the latest issues

Follow Parliament and Government

  • Use UK Parliament for email alerts and newsletters
  • Track changes to proposed legislation via email updates from Bills Before Parliament
  • Register with the Law Commission to receive updates on consultations and also Ministry of Justice topic areas.

Check the News

Use Social Media

  •  Twitter allows you to follow key individuals, law firms and legal publishers 
  • Follow me for updates too: @hannahporterssu

Using Westlaw and LexisLibrary

These are two key legal resources that you must use to access primary legal materials (cases/legislation) as well as secondary sources (legal journals, encyclopedias, practitioner texts).  

Further help and advice is located in the eResources section but quick access and getting started are below:

LexisLibrary Student Hub 

This LexisLibrary website contains the latest updates for students, including their guides, certifications and student blogs. Available via:


Starting Out Videos

  Please ensure you log into SOL in order to view these videos:

Using Official Publications

ParliamentParliament plays a vital role in ensuring that the Government remains accountable by:

      • examining prospective new laws and government policy
      • scrutinising the implementation of policy
      • debating the major issues of the day.

Use the resources below to locate important documents generated from these processes.

​​UK Parliament 

Includes all parliamentary publications including Bills and related documents, Commons and Lords Hansard (debates), Weekly Information Bulletin, Committee and Research publications.

Government Publications 

Includes all Government Command Papers and other key documents from 2005 onwards. 
Filter documents using the options on the left.

For older publications, try the University of Southampton's archives: 

​​This contains the full proceedings of both Houses and Commons Committee debates from the 1800s to the present day.

  • Comprehensive text searches for speeches prior to 2005 (e.g. tracking how often a word appears) can be carried out using Hansard Corpus

Government Papers

  • Green Papers are consultative documents issued by Government departments. There is a consultation period to enable interested parties such as professional bodies and pressure groups to propose and affect changes by lobbying. Find these on government websites:
  • White Papers set out proposed Government legislation (often command papers).  Find these via Publications (filter using the options on the left).