Back in early March, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) Library was open for our members to come in and peruse our extensive collections of foreign and international law. We had recently re-opened all floors following a refurbishment project, which made our reading rooms a more comfortable and productive environment for legal research. However, in an experience shared by law librarians the world over, the global pandemic has put our physical library out of bounds. At the time of writing in May, IALS Library has been closed for over ten weeks. Legal research must now take place in the virtual world.
Doing legal research online is hardly newsworthy in and of itself, but I think it is safe to say that this unprecedented situation has focused many minds on the provision of online research services and tools. It therefore seems timely to offer an outline of the subscription databases available to IALS Library members and to highlight some of the free online legal research tools which are hosted at IALS Library.
Law PhD students and academic staff from any recognised university in the world are welcome to join IALS Library. Joining the library is free and gives members access to many subscription databases, as well as thousands of e-books and e-journals.
IALS Library subscribes to a range of legal databases that will be of interest to foreign and international law researchers, including both lesser-known and well-known databases. For example, researchers interested in the law of India have access to SCC Online, where they will find Indian cases, legislation, bills, bilateral treaties, and other Indian materials. Researchers of Caribbean law may wish to consult JustisOne, a database containing a large collection of case law from eighteen Caribbean states, the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. Those researching the law of South Africa can access Sabinet and its collection of South African law journals. The well-regarded Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law is also available, with its large collection of peer-reviewed articles covering different aspects of public international law. These are just a few examples; for more comprehensive guidance on the subscription databases IALS Library makes available for foreign and international law research, refer to our Databases Guide.
Free online databases and research tools hosted at IALS Library
In addition to our range of subscription databases, IALS Library is also host to a number of online research databases and tools which are made freely available to the global legal research community.
The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII)
Given that common law is the dominant legal system throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, case law is an important primary source for researchers of British and Irish law. A free, searchable website that provides access to judgments is therefore an invaluable resource. BAILII, which is operated as a charity based at IALS, provides access to the most comprehensive set of British and Irish primary legal materials that are available for free and in one place. Users may search or browse the numerous databases to locate judgments, legislation and other material such as reports and papers from the Law Commission of England and Wales, the Scottish Law Commission, or the Irish Law Reform Commission. As at August 2019, BAILII included 102 databases covering ten jurisdictions and a massive 1,001,463 searchable documents. Both old and new content is added on an ongoing basis.
Sometimes, using the web to find legal information can feel a bit like panning for gold. A lot of websites must be sifted through in the search for your golden nugget: an information source which is both reliable and authoritative.
This is where Eagle-i can help. Eagle-i is a free-to-use dedicated portal to high-quality legal information sources on the web. Enter keywords or jurisdictions you are interested in and Eagle-i will suggest websites which contain relevant legal information. The types of web resources included in Eagle-i is broad, including but not limited to: official government websites, blogs, e-books and e-journals, law reports and judgments, legislation, research guides, websites of non-profit organisations and the websites of professional bodies. Eagle-i was developed by IALS as a tool to save time and aid discerning use of the internet. Each web resource we add to Eagle-i has been evaluated by one of our librarians and we have deemed it to contain high quality legal information.
The resources included in Eagle-i cover UK, European, foreign, comparative and international law. Eagle-i can be particularly useful when it comes to finding resources for smaller jurisdictions, which are not always covered by the larger commercial databases.
At times, finding the right source of information on treaties can be a tricky task for scholars, students, lawyers and librarians alike. Whether the researcher is hunting for treaties on the subject of outer space, or they simply need to know the date of conclusion of the New York Convention, the Flare Index to Treaties could make the task a little easier.
The index is a searchable database of basic information on over 2,000 of the most significant multilateral treaties concluded from the 1600s onwards and a number of significant bilateral treaties signed between 1353 and 1815. Searches can be based on free-text keywords, or on the year or place of conclusion. Not only does the Flare Index give details of where a print copy of the treaty may be obtained, if a reliable online version is available then the index provides a direct link. The websites linked to are listed in no particular order, but only those sites deemed to be authoritative have been included.
An important service offered at IALS Library is our regular programme of training sessions for postgraduate students. As IALS has a remit of supporting PhD students nationally, we created Law PORT to enable researchers to access our training online, without having to visit us in London. Law PORT is a collection of interactive tutorials covering different aspects of public international law and the use of the Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA). The learning outcomes of the public international law tutorials are based on the IALL Guidelines for Public International Law Research Instruction. We hope that the tutorials will be of interest to law students and academics around the world.
More legal research tools, not covered in
this post, can be accessed from the IALS
Digital pages of our website.
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
This Blog contains entries by members of the International Association of Law Libraries on issues germane to the Association’s areas of focus. Views expressed in an individual entry only represent the views of the author.
 Further information about who is eligible to join IALS Library and the relevant application forms can be found on our website at: https://ials.sas.ac.uk/library/joining-library/access-academic-users