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Legal Research Manual

This edition of Legal Research Manual builds on many previous editions. While the manual is designed principally for use with the first year legal research classes, upper year law students will also find it a useful reference.


The "law" on a given subject is found not only in statutes and regulations but also in the judicial decisions of courts. Finding cases which are "on point" - i.e., which have a similar fact situation and legal issue - can be challenging and, on occasion, a more time-consuming and circuitous process than locating statutory provisions.

The first place most researchers go to find cases is a legal database, such as those available on WestlawNext Canada (or Westlaw Edge for individual law student and facult accounts), Lexis+, or CanLII. These services contain vast troves of cases from all jurisdictions in Canada. They also contain cases from certain law report series which are otherwise available in print. 

The primary source for cases in print are law reporters. These publications report cases selectively, and their editors usually determine which cases to publish based on whether the case deals with an emerging trend in the law or a point of law which has not yet been resolved. If a case is referred to as "unreported," it means that it has not been published in a law reporter. If unreported cases are not in an database, they can be retrieved by requesting them from the court at which they were heard.