Many students ask me whether they should use Lexis, Westlaw or Justis. Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than that and in reality you will need to use all three, plus a whole heap of other resources if you want to be thorough. However, here are some tips which might help you to decide whether to start with Lexis, Westlaw or Justis when you looking for UK and EU materials. In my next post I will look at Lexis or Westlaw for jurisdictions beyond the UK.
The publications covered by Lexis, Westlaw and Justis overlap considerably. However, each database also has unique publications. This is the main reason why you are likely to end up using all three.
Judgments – In terms of UK judgments Lexis, Westlaw and Justis all include the full text of The Law Reports (the most authoritative source of UK judgments) back to their inception in 1865. However, beyond that coverage varies. To give just a few examples, Justis has the English Reports (pre 1865 cases) and Weekly Law Reports, Westlaw has Criminal Appeals Reports and Environmental Law Reports and Lexis has the All England Law Reports and Simons Tax Cases.
To find out which database holds a particular series of reports use the Law Library’s “Law Reports look up tool“ This will tell you which database(s) hold the series you are looking for and the shelf mark of the print copy in the Library.
Legislation – The situation with legislation is much simpler. Both Lexis and Westlaw include all statutes and statutory instruments which are still in force with all the amendments and repeals written into the text. They make them available in full as pdfs and broken down into sections and they both offer added citator information such as commencement and “in force” information, judicial consideration and related commentary. One important difference is that Westlaw’s Historic Statutes service allows you to track changes to statutes from 1991 onwards (and to statutory instruments from 1944 onwards). This service is not available on Lexis.
By contrast Justis reproduces legislation as enacted and includes repealed legislation. When you’re using Justis its important to be aware that its legislation is not current.
Articles and books – When you are looking for commentary the choice is between Lexis and Westlaw as Justis does not carry commentary. Lexis and Westlaw’s coverage is completely different. This is largely because they are both significant print publishers and each makes its own print publications available online. Lexis is Butterworths and Westlaw is Sweet and Maxwell/Thomson and so anything that is published by Butterworths will only be on Lexis and anything published by Sweet and Maxwell/Thomson will only be on Westlaw. Titles from other publishers may be on one or both databases or neither.
If you’re looking for a journal your best bet is to look it up on Oxford University e-Journals. This covers journals on Lexis and a huge number of other databases (but unfortunately not Westlaw). Make sure that you enter full words from the journal title (not the article title, author or an abbreviation) and don’t use the citation search which generally doesn’t work for legal databases! If your journal doesn’t turn up on Oxford University e-Journals, then it may be on Westlaw. To check follow the link to “Westlaw journals” in the side bar of the Oxford University e-Journals page. This will take you to a clickable A-Z of UK journals on Westlaw.
Unfortunately there is no equivalent to Oxford University e-Journals for e-books and texts at present. To find these you simply have to check Lexis and Westlaw (plus other databases which hold commentary such as MyiLibrary and HeinOnline – there will be more on these in later posts).
Commentary is pretty easy to find on Westlaw just follow the “Commentary” link in the top bar. On Lexis it is more difficult – first choose “Commentary” from the top bar and then choose “More sources” to see a complete A-Z of titles. Highlights on Lexis include Halsbury’s Laws of England, Harvey on Industrial Relations, Simons Direct Tax Service, Hill and Redman’s Law of Landlaw and Tenant and Macdonald’s Immigration Law and Practice but there are many many more titles. Westlaw has fewer commentary titles but its Common Law Library has Chitty on Contract, Clerk and Lindsell on Torts, Dicey, Morris & Collins on The Conflict of Laws and Benjamin’s Sale of Goods as well as the Civil Procedure Rules and several key texts in the areas of copyright and trademarks.
EU primary materials – Looking towards Europe, Lexis, Westlaw and Justis have excellent coverage of EU primary materials. All three include the European Commission’s Celex database which holds treaties, legislation, preparatory legislation, parliamentary documents and cases. In addition to this Westlaw includes the prestigious Common Market Law Reports and Lexis includes All England Law Reports European Cases.
ECHR – Turning to the European Court of Human Rights Lexis, Justis and Westlaw all cover its judgments. Justis has the Official Reports whilst Westlaw has the European Human Rights Reports. Both of these can be cited with equal authority according to OSCOLA.
Indexes and citators - Both Lexis and Westlaw offer a range of indexes and citators which can be extremely useful for research. For primary materials Westlaw has its excellent case and legislation analysis documents (which for print users are an online equivalent of the Current Law Service). Lexis has its Casesearch service for case law and the prestigious Halsbury’s Statutes Citator for legislation. For secondary materials, Westlaw has Legal Journals Index which indexes over 1000 UK and EU journals and which is a great place to start your literature search.
Interface and added services
Which interface you prefer is really a matter of taste. Many prefer Westlaw’s clean look and feel to the busy pages on Lexis. However, it is worth remembering that you can customise Lexis to suit your own preferences whilst academic customers can not at present customise Westlaw.
To customise Lexis so that it displays your favourite publications and resources when you log on choose “Sources”, check the publications which you want to appear and click “Save as a favourite” – there will be more on customising Lexis in a later post.
Lexis also steals a march on Westlaw by making its alerting service open to academic customers, something which Westlaw has not offered yet. To use it click the “My Research” tab, followed by “Alerts” or alternatively use the alarm clock icon to save your searches as alerts as you go along.
If you have any comments on which database you prefer please comment on this post.