February 7, 2011
One of the most frustrating things to encounter in your legal research is a reference to a case with either a) no link; or b) a link that doesn’t work. It’s something that plagued me for years and continues to plague many of the lawyers I work with.
But instead of cursing the resource you’re using, the person that requires the research or you general choice of degree/profession until everyone within earshot is blushing due to your choice of colourful words, read on and learn what I wish I had understood (or perhaps, had listened to) in first year law school.
The answer as to why this happens is simple: legal publishers are competitors – so they’re not going to link to each others’ products.
If you keep in mind that legal publishers are competitors, the reasons why they don’t link to each others’ report series and other products can often be easily explained and worked-around. And violent expulsions of expletives avoided.
If there is no link
You will often find reference to cases (particularly in where the citation is not a link. “Ahhh!” I hear you exclaim. ” Why not?!” Well, the answer is simply as above – if that particular report series is not published by the publisher whose database you’re in, they aren’t going to link to the full text in their competitor’s product. No, they don’t often play nicely. But why would they? The Sydney Morning Herald website doesn’t link to stories on The Australian website. McDonalds doesn’t list Burger King items on its menu. It makes sense.
If the link doesn’t work
Obviously this could be for any number of IT reasons, but the most common explanation is that your library/organisation does not subscribe to that particular report series electronically.
That’s not to say you can’t access the full text of the case you’re after – use your library catalogue to see what kind of access to that report series you have (electronic and/or hard copy), or use the citator document to find an alternate citation and search your catalogue for access to that report series. Cases can be (and often are) reported in more than one report series. Every subscription adds to a library’s operating costs, so it’s not often that libraries will have more than 1 or 2 ways to find the same information.
If your library doesn’t have the report series, try searching everyone else’s catalogue and asking your library to arrange an inter library loan.
Not sure what the citation stands for (and so can’t search your catalogue for it)? Look up the abbreviation (just the letters, not the whole citation).
Still can’t find it? Ask your librarian… or me!
Filed under: Case law