Halsbury's Laws is an authoritative encyclopaedia of law in the England and Wales, arranged by subject, several indexes and updating services. It is particularly useful if you are researching a new area of law (perhaps for a moot) and need to find the most important cases, legislation and commentary in that area. Halsbury's Laws is not suitable for updating cases. The fifth edition of Halsbury's Laws, bound in black, is now in production. At present, the full set comprises volumes from both the 4th and 5th editions.
Where is Halsbury's Laws? In print at K1 on the main floor of the Bodleian Law Library, and available electronically in LexisLibrary. There is a guide for the online version in Unit 1.
Halsbury's Laws consists of:
over 100 main volumes organised by subject
Annual Abridgements that note changes to the law not included in the main volumes
a two volume annual Cumulative Supplement which updates the main volumes and annual abridgements to the end of the previous calendar year
two loose-leaf binders called Current Service updating the Cumulative Supplement - the Noter-Up binder holds loose leaf pages which are issued as necessary throughout the year to record changes in the law; these changes are discussed in more detail in the Monthly Review binder
a Consolidated Table of Statutes - an alphabetical index of all the statutes and SIs mentioned in Halsbury's Laws
a Consolidated Table of Cases - an alphabetical index of all the cases mentioned in the Halsbury's Laws main volumes
a two volume Consolidated Index which is a subject index.
How to use Halsbury's Laws
- Begin with the relevant index volumes - subject, case name or legislation. The reference is to the volume (in bold) and then the paragraph number in the main volumes. If the page number seems incorrect check the index in the individual volumes - this can happen if the main volume has been republished since the index was published.
- The entry in the main volumes provides a brief and concise description of the relevant law. The footnotes are very important, and include relevant cases and legislation.
- To ensure the information in the main volume is current, turn to the Cumulative Supplement. Use the headings at the very top of the page to find the same volume, subject and paragraph number. If the paragraph number is not included, then there has been no change since the main volume. The main volumes can be several years old, so checking the Cumulative Supplement is crucial.
(Note - If the main volume was published more recently than the Cumulative Supplement, the entries in the Cumulative Supplement will not be relevant. You might first notice this because the paragraph numbers won't match.)
- Next turn to the same volume and page number in the Current Service Noter-Up binder, which updates the Cumulative Supplement. It is crucial to check both.
- If there is nothing relevant in these indexes, check the indexes at the back of the Cumulative Supplement and the Current Service binder.
Individual volumes are periodically reissued when enough changes have been made to that area of law to warrant it.
Note that in the online version, the Updates are included at the bottom of each paragraph - they are not incorporated into the text.
Sample page from Halsbury's Laws
Notice the many footnotes in this sample page from Halsbury's Laws. The main text itself outlines the relevant legal issues, and the footnotes direct the reader to other parts of Halsbury's Laws, to relevant legislation, cases, definitions and so on.