What is it?
Halsbury’s Laws is a legal encyclopaedia. It describes the law on a subject, and identifies relevant legislation and case law. It is a source of commentary, or “secondary source”, written by legal practitioners and academics. (Not to be confused with Halsbury’s Statutes, which is a primary source containing the full consolidated text of all acts in force in England and Wales). It is a useful starting point for research on any topic, particularly if you require a summary of an unfamiliar area of law.
The hardcopy version of Halsbury’s Laws is arranged alphabetically in subject volumes. Each subject is divided into numbered paragraphs that summarise the law covering a particular area. Footnotes are useful for widening research, as they direct you to related case law and statutes.
How do I use it?
There are 4 steps to using the hardcopy:
1) Consolidated Index
2) Main Volume and paragraph
3) Cumulative Supplement
1) Choose the keywords most relevant to your search and look them up in the Consolidated Index. You’ll see two numbers: a volume number in bold (followed by either 4th edition or 5th edition), and a paragraph number in light type.
2) Look on the shelves to find the volume you need: 4th edition volumes are brown, and 5th edition volumes are black. Then look up your paragraph number within the volume. You should find a summary of the law for the point you’re researching. The footnotes will refer you to relevant legislation or case law.
3) You now need to check whether the law has been updated since the main volume was published. This is a two-stage process. First, look up your volume and paragraph numbers in the two-volume Cumulative Supplement. This lists any changes to that area of law up to the beginning of the current year. If your paragraph is not listed, there have been no changes. Please note that any updates to 5th edition volumes will be listed in the second volume of the Cumulative Supplement (look in the grey pages).
4) Finally, check whether there have been any changes to the law up to the beginning of the current month, by looking up your volume and paragraph number in the most recent edition of the Noter-Up, which is shelved in the Current Service folder. Again, if the paragraph is not listed, there have been no updates.
Using Halsburys Laws Online
Halsburys Laws is also available online via LexisLibrary, under My Bookshelf or Sources. It can be searched (using keywords), or browsed (using the table of contents). There is no need to check the online version of Halsbury’s Laws for updates: the database is automatically updated up to the end of the previous month.