Monday, June 13, 2016

ICLR Online for UK Legal Research

For more than a century, law students around the world have learned about the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, a British corporation which advertised its nasal spray as a surefire preventive measure against influenza. The makers of Carbolic Smoke Ball even advertised a £100 reward (approximately $10,000 in today's dollars) to consumers who used it as directed but contracted the flu. When one disappointed user, Louisa Elizabeth Carlill, became ill, she attempted to claim the reward, with assistance from her solicitor husband. In response, the company first accused her of using the product incorrectly, then denied that their advertised reward constituted a "contract" with the user. Mrs. Carlill prevailed at both trial and appeal, and the rest is contract law history.

Carbolic Smoke Ball advertisement, circa 1892.

Outside of contract law casebooks, where can you read the full text of Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co., [1893] 1 QB 256? As it turns out, the list of answers is in the process of shrinking. The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR) is beginning to remove its official case law publications from international licensees. By January 2017, its Law Reports and Weekly Law Reports will disappear from Westlaw (UK case law reports were removed from Lexis in October 2015). Its own ICLR Online database will be the main subscription-based source for UK case law.

In preparation for the removal of UK materials from Westlaw, the Goodson Law Library has recently subscribed to ICLR Online. This database includes case law from the Superior and Appellate Courts in England and Wales, as well as case summaries, a citator service, access to legislation, and individual profiles in order to manage complex research. Members of the Duke University community may access ICLR Online remotely with a NetID and password; visitors may also use the database on-site at any of the campus libraries.

Keep in mind that other options for UK case law research still exist – most notably BAILII, a free source for British and Irish legal material which includes HTML and PDF versions of UK case law, including Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. (PDF). Individual courts, such as the UK Supreme Court, also include direct access to decisions and judgments, although generally only back to the early 2000s.

The Goodson Law Library's research guide to English Law will soon be updated to reflect this new database, as well as the removal of UK case law from Lexis Advance and the future removal from Westlaw. In the meantime, ICLR Online can be accessed via the Legal Databases & Links page or the online catalog. For help with accessing British legal materials, be sure to Ask a Librarian.