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Legal Skills and Research: Keeping up to date

Information and resources on legal skills and legal research techniques.

Links to other resources

Terms used for treatment of cases

Below are a number of terms you will come across in case citators, there are others but these are the main ones.  There are usually guides to these terms within the source itself

Positive treatments

APPROVED: Higher court has stated that the decision in the lower court was correctly decided

APPLIED: Court has applied a principle established in an earlier case where the facts are materially different.

FOLLOWED: Court was bound by precedents set in an earlier case where the facts of the case were substantially the same

Neutral treatments

CONSIDERED:   This is where the court has discussed the earlier case in some depth but there has been no definite use of it in its decision.

DISTINGUISHED: This is where the court has discussed the earlier case and has established that there are substantial differences.

CITED:   This is where the earlier case has been cited by counsel but the case has not been discussed in detail

MENTIONED:  This is where the earlier case has been mentioned in court but not discussed

Negative treatments

OVERRULED:  This is where a court overrules a principle/ratio of an inferior court.  (there can also be PART OVERRULED)

DISAPPROVED:  This is where a higher court states that the decision in the lower court was not correctly decided

UK law blogs and RSS feeds

Below are a number of legal blogs and RSS feeds.  You will be able to subscribe to most using the more common feed readers such as Bloglines and Google Reader. 

Keeping up to date

It is important in law to make sure that the sources you are using are up to date and the primary source material (legislation and cases) are still good law.  Below are a number of tools to help you keep up to date including how to check case citators, using social media and using alerting services on databases.



Using Case Citators

To make sure the cases you use are still good law and to search for the more important case law precedents for a point of law then you will need to use a case citator.  These tools show whether a case has been overruled, which cases it has relied upon (cases cited), which cases have subsequently cited/used it (cases citing) and how they have dealt with the case (treatment).  See the box on the left hand side for explanations of the different treatments.

There are a number of online tools and one hard copy citator.  Below is a list of the major tools - the links below will open in YouTube


Westlaw case analysis 

Lexis Library Case Overview 



Using social media to keep updated

RSS feeds

These are updates that either 'feed' into your email inbox or into a 'feed' reader such as Google Reader.  These are usually free to set up and offer one place to collect all feeds as well as freeing up your inbox.  For more information on setting one up as well as recommended feeds click here.


These are online 'diaries' of information.  There are thousands written on all types of subject.  The content depends on the author but they can be a very useful source of information.  The majority of blogs can be subscribed to using RSS feeds.  Click here for a list of recommended blogs.


A wiki is a collection of information on sources and topics that can be amended or added to by anybody with knowledge or interest in the topic. They act as a collaboration of knowledge on a particular topic. A lot of useful Wikis are either fully edited or restrict editing rights to ensure the correct information is published.  Click here for a list of recommended wikis.


Although podcasts are not restricted to current awareness they are a great way of finding up-to-date information.  Click here for a list of useful podcasts.  The university also has a site for the Law Faculty Podcasts


Social Media 

Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter are another way to keep up to date. A lot of institutions now have 'fan' pages on Facebook which can be 'subscribed' to.  Twitter is often used by organisations to communicate more practical short term information such as a change in opening hours.

Alerting services

Some legal databases offer alerting services. Alerting services allow you to set up a profile detailing the subjects that interest you. The database will then alert you by e-mail each time new material is added which matches your interests. You could for example, ask to be alerted each time a record is added to the database which includes a particular keyword or the name of a particular case, act or author. You can also ask to be alerted each time new materials appear in your broad subject area (e.g. human rights).

This service is currently offered by Lawtel (on Westlaw) and Lexis Library, more information can be found here

Lawtel Daily Updates

Lawtel is now included on the Westlaw Edge UK database, which is available to holders of an Oxford SSO.
The Lawtel Updates service allows you to set up alerts for information in broad subject areas or for materials which include your chosen keywords. Updates can be set up for cases, legislation, bills, command papers and journal articles. 

Lexis Library Updates

Lexis Library is a huge database including UK cases, legislation, journal articles and commentary. It includes specialist materials in a wide range of practice areas.  It can be accessed via Databases A-Z and then searching for Lexis Library.

The Lexis Library Updates service allows you to set up alerts in broad subject areas as well as setting up alerts for keywords/searches.

My Westlaw UK

You can now create an individual profile when you log in to Westlaw UK which will allow you to set up customised alerts. On your initial visit to  Westlaw Edge UK you should be prompted to register for a personal profile. (Please use an OU email - that is to say one ending Note this registration does not change the fact that it is your Oxford SSO which is required to access Westlaw. More information can be found by using the Help button at the top of the Westlaw UK page.