For example if one is illegally evicted there seem to be remedies provided by the protection from eviction 1977, housing, deregulation, and housing and planning Acts, off the top of my head, but I feel like also others.

In researching the topic online one will see numerous articles and resources that are clearly written as lay people's explanations of this statutes provisions or that statutes provisions and through reading perhaps 15 of them, one might become aware of perhaps 3-4 of the different relevant statutes while the different resources provide different levels of detail as well as much redundant information.

How does one know to stop searching? If one had stopped after 3 articles that were all largely redundant and at least dealt with only one of the statute-remedies, then one would have missed 2-3 of the existing remedies.

What is a sensible legal research flow for this problem?


5 Answers 5


TLDR; Acquire a solid background in law, use high quality paid non-authoritative sources, and spend a lot of time reading about the particular issue in depth.

Full answer:

Acquire a suitable level of background knowledge and legal skills

Firstly, you need to accept as a basic premise that law, like most serious fields, is an incredibly large one both in terms of breadth and depth. Becoming "comprehensively aware of all applicable statutes/remedies to a given situation" isn't something you will achieve easily or in a short amount of time for most non-trivial topics.

Given that premise, the starting point as suggested by Dale M's answer is to attain a university degree in law, or self study to a roughly equivalent level. The aim here isn't to learn all the law that you'll ever need. In fact, much of it you'll never use. What it does do is give you a reasonable breadth (but not depth) of knowledge across a reasonable range of common legal topics, and a certain level of familiarity and skills with legal research in general, to know where to start when faced with a particular scenario.

Yes, you could try to just learn a particular issue without a solid legal background, and this might be fine for many situations a layperson faces, but you will likely perform quite poorly with just this isolated knowledge if you are attempting any kind of serious legal work where the outcome matters. As an example of this, consider what you would do if you come across a statutory provision or a contract clause which is ambiguous in the context of your issue. You then need to be familiar with the rules of statutory interpretation and rules of contract construction respectively, otherwise you might reach the wrong conclusion (i.e. a conclusion which seems logical to you but is not the same one a judge is likely to reach). If you had only ever read up on the law for your particular issue, you may not even be aware that such rules exist. Another example of an error a layperson might make is relying on a case which reaches a strong conclusion, but being unaware that that decision is not binding in your scenario. Studying law in general to a high level takes care of many of these issues.

Start with non-authoritative sources

When faced with a new issue, my usual starting point is a high quality (which invariably means paid) legal database. These are expensive but what you are paying for is an army of lawyers whose job it is to keep up to date with the topics they oversee, and update the database when the law changes.

I use Practical Law which provides overview articles on a very wide range of issues. Lexis is another popular option. I also consult Westlaw Books which gives access to dense practitioner texts across all main legal fields.

If I'm researching a particularly complex and high value / important issue, I'll also visit a law library, take out 5-6 books for that area of law, and read the relevant chapters/sections. This is quicker than it sounds as usually the scope of the issue is narrow enough that you only need a small fraction of each book. You will get diminishing returns due to the large amount of overlap between books, but I usually find I can discover at least one or two useful points in each one.

The purpose of reading non-authoritative sources is to get an overview of the topic and, importantly, to identify as much as possible of the relevant statutory law and case law.

Note that I haven't suggested using Google. One of the first things you are taught at university is to never rely on Google for your legal research. Most articles and blogs you will find are very poor quality, often containing incorrect or out of date information, and often failing to provide decent citations that you can read and verify for yourself. It's ok to use Google to get a very quick feel for a topic and to get some clues about where to start, but you should at a very early stage turn to higher quality sources. A lawyer who solely uses Google will end up being sued by a client for negligence sooner or later.

Move on to authoritative sources

At this point it's just a matter of working through the list of statutory and case law sources you identified during the above steps.

I usually start by reading the statutes in detail and identifying the relevant sections. Often that will mean also identifying and reading relevant secondary legislation. You will be alerted to the possibility of secondary legislation by phrases such as "the Secretary of State may by order [...]" in the primary legislation. In Westlaw, you can go to that section of the primary legislation and find cross-references to the secondary instruments which were passed under it.

Do the same with the main cases you've identified. Westlaw is again useful here as it provides highly detailed cross-referencing that allow you to e.g. click through to cases which case X cites, or which cited case X.

Often a judge will very helpfully start by setting out a summary of the legal framework which is applicable to the issue, which means you quickly start expanding your initial list of statues and cases, and identify any important ones you've missed up until this point. These new additions to the list are often more helpful than the ones you identified from the non-authoritative sources. That's because the latter tend to provide broad coverage of the area of law, while cases tend to be focused in depth on a particular issue.

Starting from a section of a statute, Westlaw will also give you a list of all cases which cited that section, including those which are considered important cases. Usually a quick skim over the summaries of these cases will help you quickly identify which ones are worth reading in more detail.

This process is circular. Statutes will lead to cases, which will lead to other statutes and cases. Eventually, after spending a decent chunk of time doing this, you'll start to become knowledgeable in the chosen topic. This could take hours, weeks, or months, depending on how complex the issue is.

No matter how much time you spend researching an issue, you'll never know everything. There is simply too much extant law for that to ever be a realistic goal.

  • 1
    Just responding to the final paragraph for now, but how can we all be bound by laws that there are too many to know? May 2, 2022 at 10:13
  • 1
    @JosephP. It is a common criticism of most legal systems. The practical (albeit somewhat unsatisfactory) answer is that a person's activities are divided into two categories: daily life (for which much of the law is common sense or common knowledge e.g. don't speed, don't steal, pay your taxes, etc.) and specialised activities such as running a business in a particular industry (in which case you can either study that area of law or hire a lawyer). But otherwise yes, you are bound by laws of which you cannot know them all, and that is a price we pay for having a developed legal system.
    – JBentley
    May 2, 2022 at 13:22

Hire a lawyer

Just like you shouldn’t search the internet for medical advice, you shouldn’t do it for legal advice either.

It takes a university degree and several years of on-the-job training to become “comprehensively aware”.


Just to add to Dale's answer: engaging a lawyer specialising in the particular field of interest should provide comprehensive answers - although it's not always 100% foolproof.

Ultimately, it is the courts' decisions that count so researching case law is a good starting point, some of which may be found here.

For example, I (if I say so myself) have a fairly good working knowledge of the criminal law and its application in England and Wales. But, bar a few minor offences, I use experience and research to suggest charges to my prosecutor (lawyer) who decides what, if any, are laid before the court who then provides the final decision on any applicable remedies and sets precedent.


1. You should utilize law textbooks, the MOST UPDATED edition.

Try libraries of universities that have a law department. As a backup, you can try your local library. But local libraries may not stock pricey law textbooks, or most updated editions.

You wrote "protection from eviction 1977", but you should have written Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Let's use this Act as our example.

I quoted Sarah Nield's Land Law Text, Cases, and Materials (5 edn, 2021, OUP).

2. Look up the Act of Parliament in the Table of Legislation. Or the issues in the glossary. See quote beneath.

Protection from Eviction Act 1977 ... 137, 140, 143, 229,

757, 772, 814

s 1 ...4

s 1(2) ... 229

s 1(3) ... 1007

s 2 ... 146

s 3 ... 134

s 3A ... 229

s 5(1A) ... 229

3. Lastly, simply behold the cases expatiated in the body, and cited in the footnotes!

And, even if C is allowed to remove B, the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 may ensure that C has to give B four weeks' notice before insisting that B move out.106 Indeed, that Act provides strong protection for B: s 1(2) means that C commits a criminal offence if it attempts to remove B without giving the requisite notice.107

Secondly, it is important to note that the approach adopted in Pinnock and Powell shows that Art 8 can be acknowledged to have some impact, even if a contractual licence to occupy a home is not to

101 [2016] UKSC 28, [2017] AC 273.

102 [2011] 2 AC 104.

103 [2011] 2 AC 186.

104 [2010] UKSC 45, [20I1] 2 AC 104 at [53]-[54]. See also Kay v Lambeth LBC [2006] 2 AC 465.

105 A contractual right, such as a contractual licence, can also count as a 'possession for the purposes of Art 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR: see section 4.3. Clearly, B's right to peaceful enjoyment of that possession does not mean that B must be able to assert his contractual right against a third party, such as C; instead, B must rely on his remedies against A, including a claim for damages for A's breach of contract. 106 Section 5(1A) applies where B has a 'periodic licence to occupy premises as a dwelling'—for example, where B pays A £50 a week to occupy A's land. Some contractual licences are excluded from the 1977 Act: see s 3A. The Act does not apply, for example, if the licence involves B sharing accommodation with A or a member of A's family or if, immediately before giving B the licence, A occupied the land as his only or principal home. 107 C does not commit the offence if he deprives B of occupation whilst reasonably believing that B had, in any case, moved out: see s 1(2). Under the Criminal Law Act 1977, s 6, it is also a criminal offence to use or threaten violence in an attempt to gain possession of residential premises occupied by B.

  • Please, please don't make your answer dependent on text-as-images! Jul 14, 2022 at 16:15

JBentley's answer moots attaining a university degree in law.

Given that premise, the starting point as suggested by Dale M's answer is to attain a university degree in law, or self study to a roughly equivalent level.

But I am startled that nobody recommended the Open University's LLB! But you have to pay.

There are no formal entry requirements for this qualification.

At The Open University we believe education should be open to all, so we provide a high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

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