Did you know that if you are doing legal research then Westminster Reference Library‘s Law and UK Official Publications Collection has an extensive range of printed legal and parliamentary resources, as well as online access to Westlaw UK?
A question I am often asked is “Why does your library advertise that you keep hard copies of case law, UK legislation, command papers and parliamentary reports, when all this information is available online?”
We hold printed copies of All England Law reports (1558 until 2005), Weekly law reports (1959 until 2015), Queens Bench reports (Family and Chancery), Immigration Appeal reports and Tax Cases.
Although we have access to modern law reports via Westlaw, sometimes case reports prior to 1980 may not have been digitised and consulting a printed report may be the only way to find a case that a customer has been referred to by their lawyer. Some people, especially older people, are more comfortable with consulting a printed report than looking for the online version. Sometimes there may be a precedent for a particular case in a judgment that was made in the 18th century and so it is vital we preserve historical case law. And finally, people are fascinated by the aesthetics of a printed law report from the 19th century, for example. As a library our remit is not only to hold sources of information but also to preserve them for future generations. It is important we do not neglect our duty of care to our heritage.
Although all UK legislation should be available online at www.legislation.gov.uk, many users find it a difficult site to navigate, especially if they are looking for a specific act or Statutory Instrument. Often if a lawyer or the police have referred someone to a section of an act or Statutory Instrument then they want to see it in hard copy rather than online and since we have a comprehensive collection of historical legislation in our basement we can often oblige. The same applies to Parliamentary papers (House of Commons or Lords Debates and Committees, Command Papers and Parliamentary reports). While it is true that they are available online, if the searcher has the option of searching online for hours or coming in to the library for instant access to the hard copy they will often choose the latter option!
None of the above should be seen as downplaying the value of Westlaw as an online resource. It is popular with lay litigants and the legal profession alike. Westlaw is useful because it is updated every week so the Case Law, legislation and journal articles are contemporary.
Users can also use the site to email cases, which is very useful if someone is fighting a case and representing themselves.
A very valuable tool on Westlaw is Insight. If a user wants to know about Power of Attorney, for example, they can type that phrase into Insight and it will give them a brief outline of what Power of Attorney means as well as legislation and case law pertaining to it.