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Legal Research


This guide will provide detailed information on how to find legal cases in legal databases, including:

What is case law?

Case law is:

  • the general term for the legal principles developed by judges to determine legal disputes
  • recorded in judicial decisions or judgments; only decisions from courts of record (e.g. cases that clarify/settle a principle of law heard in the superior courts, Supreme, Federal and High Court) are recorded in law reports
  • also known in Australia as "common law" or "judge-made law"
  • valuable as precedents but constitutes only a small number of cases heard each year.

Three main ways to find case law

  • Topic search (using search words and phrases).
  • Citation search (when you have the citation or party names).
  • From judicially considered legislation (when you link from legislation to related cases using a case citator such as CaseBase).

Using a case citator such as FirstPoint or CaseBase helps to find the preceding and subsequent judicial history of a case, as well as listing the legislation considered by the case, and relevant journal articles.