Making good choices: Canadian electronic research
The criteria for selecting an appropriate electronic research tool are similar to those for evaluating print sources:
- quality of content
- ease of use
However, this task is more complex in the electronic research world because of the large range of research functions the major sources offer; the complexity of their pricing; and the differing results depending on the search engine, the content, the interface, and the expertise of the user.
This paper explores the comparative strengths and weaknesses of Quicklaw Full Service and LawSource. It also considers what CanLII can offer as an alternative to the commercial services. The paper is organized based on common research tasks.
LawSource, Quicklaw and CanLII all permit users to find documents by name or citation, as well as to conduct keyword searches in the full text.
LawSource, Quicklaw and CanLII assume that most users will want to search the entire case collection. However, users are given the option to refine by jurisdiction, court, date and various other filters in the search template.
- The default searching method on LawSource is by template, but users can also search using Boolean search syntax or an excellent natural language search engine. Users therefore don't need to understand the Boolean syntax to use many features of the product.
- Quicklaw offers Boolean searching for creating keyword search queries, and also offers a natural language option on the Home tab. The natural language searching option is quite limited compared to this feature on LawSource. Quicklaw includes an auto-complete feature that is activated when you start typing your search terms.
- CanLII uses a template that allows full Boolean searching and also supports some natural language features such as word stemming and phrase identification.
See the comparison chart of search syntax for Westlaw Canada, Quicklaw and CanLII.
LawSource, Quicklaw and CanLII allow users to easily refine or narrow their searches.
Quicklaw offers tremendous flexibility in sorting and grouping search results. LawSource is more restrictive in this regard. In particular, on LawSource search results cannot be re-sorted after the search is run. Instead, user preferences must be changed before the search is run. CanLII allows users to sort search results by date, relevance and citation frequency. This last sorting option is now available on Quicklaw, but not on LawSource. However, LawSource shows citation frequency information on the results list and in citator results.
The following table compares the features of LawSource and Quicklaw relevant to searching Canadian case law.
|Full text searching options||Keyword searching by template, Boolean or natural language, with field searching by template.||Keyword searching by Boolean query, with field searching by template and ability to narrow search using a drill-down topical classification. Limited natural language search from Home tab.|
|Find a case||By citation or by name, at a notional cost of $4.00 per case. Also applies to any documents linked to from within a case or KeyCite report.||By citation or by name, at a notional cost of $3.00 per case. Also applies to any documents linked to from within a case or QuickCite report.|
|Default ranking for template and Boolean searches||By court level and within that by date, with option to change preference to relevancy BEFORE search is conducted||Relevancy, with ability to re-sort search results by date, jurisdiction, court or citation frequency, and to group results by topic and jurisdiction|
|Refining searches||Locate feature (no notional charge)||Narrow search (no notional charge)|
|Notional cost of keyword search across Canadian case law||$16 notional charge per search, with Edit Search triggering another notional search charge. No additional cost for viewing cases retrieved in search list. No time-based charges.||$25 notional charge per search, with Modify Search triggering another notional search charge. No additional cost for viewing cases retrieved in search list. No time-based charges.|
|Range of coverage for Canadian case law||Excellent historical coverage using Carswell case reporters; comprehensive coverage of all reported cases from 1977 and all cases from 1986; collection of pre-1977 decisions from key courts and law report series.||Comprehensive coverage of all cases from 1986; goal to publish all reported court decisions from 1970 and all pre-1970 decisions cited by cases decided from 1970; excellent historical coverage in SCC, Federal Court, BC and Ontario databases.|
|Administrative tribunals||Includes some, particularly labour tribunals. Tribunals are searched together with cases, but can elect to exclude them from search.||Includes a broad range of tribunals. Tribunals are searched separately from cases.|
|Value-added||Headnotes for almost all cases; parallel citations shown; list of authorities; Abridgment classification and digests for case, with link to all digests under relevant classifications; free access to summary and cases cited in legal memoranda collection; KeyCite; links to cited cases; paragraph numbering in all cases; outside of subscription links to court documents, legal memoranda collection and international material.||Headnotes for many cases; parallel citations shown; topical classification for both searching and sorting results; QuickCite; links to cited cases; paragraph numbering in many cases; outside of subscription links to some international material.|
|Information in result list||Result list contains case name, court, date, parallel citations, docket number, detailed subject classifications, search terms in context, judicial treatment symbols and citation frequency.||Can sort results by topic, court, jurisdiction. Result list contains case name, court, date, Quicklaw citation, number of pages, search terms in context, judicial treatment symbols.|
|Duplicate documents||Can eliminate from list using Preference settings.||Cannot eliminate from list. However, selecting LexisNexis Canadian Judgments as source will avoid duplicates.|
|Print/download options||Can tag documents and print or download. No notional charge for Canadian cases.||Can tag documents and print or download, but lose tags if sort order or result grouping is changed. No notional charge for Canadian cases.|
|Research trail||Available for each search for up to 14 days, with ability to return to results on the same day without additional cost. Can set preferences to automatically email research trail.||Ability to place documents in folder for retrieval within 24 hours without additional cost. Recent documents can be viewed (48 hours) and recent searches retrieved (7 days).|
|Clipping service||Available to update searches at specified intervals. Can also use KeyCite Alert to update note-up results.||Available to update searches at specified intervals.|
|Adding automated links to user documents||CiteLink Canada creates links from citations in user documents to the full text documents in WeC and can create a table of authorities for the user document||QuickFind subscribers can use Auto Link to create links from case law citations in user documents to the full text decisions in Quicklaw|
CanLII contains case law and tribunal decisions from across Canada. Collection development objectives include building a comprehensive case law collection for all Canadian superior courts from the beginning of 2000. This has been accomplished for most jurisdictions and the coverage for many goes further back.
Several administrative tribunals contribute their decisions for publication on CanLII. Current collection development priorities for administrative tribunals are human rights, labour law, professional discipline, and privacy decisions.
To see a full description of the current scope of coverage, click on the Scope of Coverage link on the CanLII home page.
CanLII permits searching in full text and by citation or title, with refinement by date range and type of document. The Advanced Search page permits customization by jurisdiction, court level and type of tribunal. The Database Search enables users to further customize the databases to be searched. Users can search the whole collection or select a jurisdiction from the home page menu. They can refine their search results using the query box at the beginning of each results list.
Search results can be sorted by relevance, date or citation frequency. The citation frequency ranking method enables the user to quickly identify leading cases in the results list.
Cases contain links to cited legislation. A link to a section number goes directly to the section cited, unless the statute is published in parts.
The most current site for case law will be the court website, although decisions recently posted may not yet be indexed for searching.
Results of recent currency checks suggest that for full text case law CanLII is one or two days more current than Quicklaw and LawSource.
Other free sources of case law include
- court websites
- Maritime Law Books (a subscription is required to access value-added features)
- Australasian Legal Information Institute (AUSTLII) for Australian and New Zealand law
- British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) for English, Irish and Scottish law
- Legal Information Institute (LII) for US law
- Google Scholar for US law
Lexis and Westlaw are excellent commercial services for US, UK and European law, but are very expensive.
Effective legislative research requires the reader to study and consider a legislative provision in the context of the whole Act, rather than looking at an isolated section. Regulations should be considered as well as the statute. The legislation you review must be current. Effective judicial consideration research often requires that you find out about previous revisions of the legislation. These factors should be considered when choosing your source for legislation.
Analysis of a comparison of the legislation available on LawSource, Quicklaw and CanLII as of March 19, 2012 leads to the following generalizations regarding the legislative research tools available on these services.
- Quicklaw is very current for federal, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario legislation. LawSource is less current than Quicklaw for several jurisdictions, but is more current for some.
- LawSource does not contain complete regulations for any jurisdiction, so either Quicklaw or CanLII will be preferable sources for regulations unless the particular regulation you are researching is within the selection available on LawSource.
- If your objective is to research all statutes (not regulations) across Canada, this can be done by section on either LawSource or Quicklaw (except for Nunavut legislation), or by whole Act on CanLII.
- Quicklaw contains much better legislative history information than LawSource, including a reference to the previous revision. It permits point in time research for federal, Alberta, BC and Ontario statutes. This allows the researcher to view all versions of a section from the commencement of point in time coverage, or to request the version in force on a particular date.
- Law Source legislative history information is only for the current revision.
- LawSource permits the user to travel to sequential sections of the legislation using the Next and Previous links. On Quicklaw this is done by searching for the Act by name or citation and then opening up each section in turn from the results list.
- LawSource includes KeyCite, which covers judicial consideration of statutes, rules of court and regulations. KeyCite has full historical coverage spanning earlier legislative revisions.
- Quicklaw has expanded QuickCite to include statutes and regulations judicially considered, but only for the most recent legislative revision. It is not as comprehensive as KeyCite, with coverage starting at cases from January 1992 (from 2006 for Quebec).
- Both KeyCite and QuickCite list judicial consideration broken down by subsection and clauses, including defined terms in legislation. KeyCite results can be further refined using a keyword search.
- The Rules of Court can be searched on either Quicklaw or LawSource. However, LawSource has the additional feature of a Rules Concordance, and has added Rules Judicially Considered to KeyCite.
CanLII publishes statutes and regulations from all Canadian jurisdictions. CanLII's legislative coverage for some provincial jurisdictions is stronger than that offered by the commercial services.
- Most of the provincial legislation databases are updated weekly, and federal legislation is updated bi-weekly. However, currency is dependent on the currency of the government consolidation from which the update is downloaded.
- Users can compare different versions of an Act or regulation in a side-by-side view with changes highlighted. They can also subscribe to an RSS feed to be notified of amendments to specific Acts and regulations, or amendments to all legislation from a jurisdiction.
- Users can search the entire legislation collection or specify which jurisdiction or statute they want to search in. Legislation can also be accessed by browsing alphabetically. Regulations enacted pursuant to a statute are listed with the statute.
- Legislative collections include a reference to the previous revision for most jurisdictions.
- There is a convenient feature allowing easy copying of the full legislative citation from a link at each section number.
- The improved CanLII legislative note-up allows noting up by section or by subsection, and can be accessed from the link at the section number.
BCLaws.ca is a free site operated by the Queen's Printer that publishes a current consolidation of British Columbia statutes and regulations.
QP LegalEze is a legislation site also published by the Queen's Printer, but it requires a paid subscription. It has several features that are not included in the free site, such as tables of legislative history and changes, private and local Acts, more sophisticated searching features, and additional content.
Quickscribe Online makes available to subscribers the 1996 revision with regulations, and includes a number of value-added features to help subscribers navigate through bills, orders-in-council, current and archived versions of BC legislation. Quickscribe includes alert services to notify users of legislative changes. A subscription includes access to the BC Legislative Digest, which follows the progress of bills in the BC Legislative Assembly. Quickscribe Hardcopy publishes topical consolidations of British Columbia legislation in print.
- An official version of federal legislation is freely available through the Department of Justice.
- Access to bills and legislation from across Canada is conveniently listed in Bora Laskin Law Library - Canadian Legislation.
- An excellent source for federal bills is Legisinfo.
LawSource contains the full text of the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest, both the Western and Ontario editions.
- The CED can be accessed through the LawSource table of contents or through a keyword search. The notional cost of a search through all or part of the CED is $21.50.
- References to the CED appear in the KeyCite results for cases that have been cited in the CED.
- References to the CED appear in the Results Plus listings in the Related Info tab when viewing a case.
- Currency information for each title is included in the table of contents for that title. Currency varies considerably from one title to the next, and several titles are very outdated.
In addition to full text Canadian journal articles, LawSource provides pay-per-use access to a collection of memoranda of law. LawSource users can obtain a summary of the memorandum with the list of cited authorities without incurring the pay-per-use charge. There are several topical products in the Westlaw Canada family that contain leading secondary sources pertinent to particular areas of law.
- Halsbury's can be accessed through the QL Bookshelf or the Commentary template.
- The notional cost of searching the full collection of titles is $75. The notional cost of searching an individual title is $25.
- References to Halsbury's appear in the QuickCite results for cases that have been cited in Halsbury's.
- Currency information for each title is included in the table of contents for that title. Titles are updated on a three year schedule.
Selected titles from Halsbury's, as well as leading Butterworth's texts, are included in Essentials subscriptions targeted to different practice areas. A Quicklaw Library subscription adds several full-text treatises to a Full Service International subscription.
There is a vast world of secondary sources available only in print. These should not be overlooked. Often the research process will be more informed, efficient and effective if one of these sources is consulted before electronic research is commenced. See the list of Suggested Textbooks for a place to start. LegalTree also contains a good list of treatises and internet sites organized by subject.
Other options for electronic access to secondary sources include the following:
- For subscribers to CLE Online, the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC provides electronic access to practice manuals and seminar papers.
- Irwin Law publishes an e-library of legal texts. Members of the Law Society of BC can access this material without charge from their desktops through the Reading Room at Courthouse Libraries BC.
- Carswell provides electronic access to some publications through its eReference Library.
- An add-on subscription to Quicklaw Library provides access to many treatises.
LawSource includes the Canadian Abridgment case digests.
- The digests can be accessed through a hierarchical table of contents using the Abridgment classification scheme, or by searching the digests using keywords.
- You can select certain classifications from the table of contents and restrict your search to digests within those classifications.
- When viewing a case you can see the Abridgment classifications for the case and then link to all the digests under that classification to find similar cases.
- The Canada Digest service on Quicklaw is available to Full Service subscribers, and a limited number of titles are included in other subscriptions. The Canada Digests can be searched, or accessed through a hierarchical classification scheme.
- Quicklaw has created a topical classification scheme that can be used from the case search template to restrict your research to a particular topic. The headings can also be used to sort your search results by topic. The classifications are assigned to the cases by running pre-designed queries against each case when it is put into the Quicklaw collection.
The Abridgment digests are organized within a detailed classification hierarchy and are integrated with the case law collection and the CED. The recent completion of the 3rd edition of the Abridgment has modernized and improved the classification scheme. LawSource enables researchers to use various points of access into these digests.
The Quicklaw Canada Digests and the Quicklaw topical classification scheme enable users to search within the Quicklaw case collection by topic. However, each was developed with a different classification hierarchy. These hierarchies are gradually being rationalized, and built out from 2 levels to 6 levels, which will make the classification more useful for refining searches.
The notional charge for searching the Abridgment Digests on LawSource is $21.50, which is close to the $20.00 notional charge for searching the Canada Digests on Quicklaw.
In my experience, the search results obtained from the Quicklaw Canada Digests and the Canadian Abridgment case digests are very different. Since the Canada Digests are still a work in progress, a comparison with the Abridgment digests is premature.
British Columbia lawyers can subscribe to the Continuing Legal Education Society's Case Digest Connection. A subscription to the archives allows searching on the case digest collection.
LawSource has added a words and phrases feature, based on Carswell's Words and Phrases publication. It is searched from the Words and Phrases template on the Home page. This collection contains terms, with examples of how they have been judicially defined. Users can search for words as defined terms, or for words appearing anywhere in the words and phrases entries. A separate feature in the Legislation template on LawSource allows users to search for terms defined in legislation.
Quicklaw has added Canadian Legal Words and Phrases to its core Canadian content, under the Commentary tab. This source contains excerpts from cases and tribunal decisions in which words and phrases are judicially defined, and also contains terms defined in Canadian legislation. Coverage for Canadian case law starts from January 2000. The collection includes United Kingdom and Commonwealth entries, and legal maxims. Users can search for words as defined terms, or for words appearing anywhere in the words and phrases entries.
The notional cost for using Canadian Legal Words and Phrases on Quicklaw is $20, whereas the notional cost of using Words & Phrases Canada on LawSource is $5.50.
Searches of terms such as "bonus", "accessory use", "treaty", and "best efforts" on both services revealed that LawSource has a superior tool for words and phrases research. The LawSource searches produced many more results, and in particular many more Canadian cases, than the Quicklaw searches. LawSource also provided easy access to related terms. Quicklaw users should augment their words and phrases research with other resources.
QuickCite is the case citator on Quicklaw, and KeyCite is the case citator on LawSource. KeyCite tends to add citing cases sooner than QuickCite, but the treatment code is not assigned when the citing case is first added to KeyCite.
The following table sets out the main differences between KeyCite and QuickCite. For more detailed coverage of these distinctions, including the treatment codes used by each citator, see Make Your Research Current - Case Citators.
CanLII builds links between cases using its RefLex database. This citator does not assign treatment codes. The RefLex database enables users to search on CanLII by citation, to note up cases, and to rank cases by frequency of citation. A list of citing cases can be refined by keyword, jurisdiction or court level, and ranked by date or citation frequency. In addition, an RSS feed can be created that notifies the user whenever there are new cases citing the applicable case or legislation.
Prior to 2010, the RefLex database was based on reporter citations for cases published in several commonly-used case reporters, as well as neutral citations. The RefLex database has never included QL or WL Canada citations. For cases decided after mid-2009, the RefLex database uses only neutral citations.
As a result, for cases decided after mid-2009 the CanLII note-up feature will show only those citing cases in which the cited case appears with a neutral citation, and parallel citations will not be included. Because of these limitations in the RefLex database, CanLII will provide less comprehensive note-up results than KeyCite and QuickCite. It is therefore advisable to do an additional keyword search using distinctive terms from the style of cause of the cited case to complete your note-up on CanLII.
The Related Decisions link shown on each case lists case history for decisions from 2006. It is advisable to go beyond the Related Decisions link to check case history - particularly for cases decided before 2006.
The CanLII hyperlinking tool automatically creates links between citations in a submitted user document and the cited cases and legislation on CanLII. This service is free for up to 1,000 citations per month. It is accessed from the Tools link at the bottom of any page on CanLII. The user must submit the document to CanLII in order for the links to be inserted. The benefit is that the links are built to CanLII's freely available cases and legislation, rather than proprietary versions on a commercial service.
The most efficient use of the electronic statute citators described below is in conjunction with a publication such as Statutes of British Columbia Judicially Considered, which provides a summary of the most important citing cases. Another good way to augment your statute citator research is to consult an annotated version of the legislation you are researching.
Because of the time lag between when cases are released and when they are processed for inclusion in the statute citators, it is necessary to conduct a keyword search in LawSource and Quicklaw in order to be completely current. CanLII is the most current electronic source for judicial consideration of legislation, but does not have good historical coverage.
LawSource contains an electronic version of Canadian Statute Citations, called KeyCite.
- Judicial consideration of a statute section can be retrieved by typing in the citation for the section on the home page of LawSource, or by clicking on the Citing References link when viewing the statute section.
- The report is organized by subsection, first listing cases considering the section as a whole, and then listing judicial consideration by subsection. Definition sections have separate treatment results for each definition.
- KeyCite includes judicial consideration for older statute revisions, not just for the revision currently published on LawSource.
- KeyCite covers judicial consideration of rules of court and regulations (from 1997).
Quicklaw also has a legislation citator. QuickCite lists cases from 1992 (for Quebec from 2006) that judicially consider legislation in the most recent revision of a jurisdiction's statutes, or its regulations.
Judicial consideration of a statute section can be retrieved by typing in the citation for the section on the Quicklaw home page, or by clicking on the QuickCite link when viewing the statute section. Results are organized by date, and include consideration by subsection and for definition sections.
In order to look for judicial consideration of legislation on Quicklaw in cases decided before 1992 it is necessary to conduct a keyword search in the full text case law.
The legislative note-up feature on CanLII has been improved significantly. Access it from the note-up tab, or by clicking on the section number when viewing the legislation. You can note-up by section or by subsection.
There are some caveats. The results will not include cases outside of CanLII's scope of coverage, the note-up tool is dependent on a properly formed citation appearing in the case, and there will be some "false positives" where references to an older revision are included in the results.
Despite these issues, the improved legislative note-up on CanLII is quite effective and will retrieve most citing cases within CanLII's scope of coverage.
- This material has been integrated with KeyCite, so that a case citator report lists full-text articles and CED entries on LawSource where the case is referred to, and also includes references to ICLL entries where the case is the subject of a case comment.
- A search of the full text journal collection on LawSource is more expensive than a search through the case law, at a notional cost of $37.50 per search. This search will cover the full text journals, the topical reporter case comments, and the ICLL.
- LawSource is adding entries for journal articles from other jurisdictions to the KeyCite results, although so far this represents a limited subset of the large collection of full text articles in the international library. These articles are outside of the flat-rate subscription, so you will incur an additional fee to view them and print them.
Quicklaw Full Service includes
- a collection of Canadian full-text journal articles
- the Index to Canadian Legal Literature
- the Canadian Law Symposia Index
- full text access to international journals in the LexisNexis collection.
Case law references in Halsbury's Laws of Canada and the full-text Canadian journal collection are integrated into QuickCite. In addition, links to the full text articles on Quicklaw are being incorporated into the ICLL database and the case law databases.
Netletters and other current awareness publications on Quicklaw can also be a useful source of commentary. They are included in the global commentary database, and are also part of the topical databases in Quicklaw.
There are some differences between the selection of journals available in full text on each of Quicklaw and LawSource, and the range of coverage for these journals.
- Quicklaw has a more comprehensive Canadian journals collection, and includes the international collection within the core subscription
- coverage for journals included in both services tends to start earlier in Quicklaw
- determination of which service is more appropriate will also depend on the topic being researched.
The notional cost of searching Canadian journals on LawSource is $37.50, as compared to $20 on Quicklaw.
- The Scott Index to Canadian Legal Periodicals is freely available through CAIJ.
- There is a wealth of full text journal material available through Lexis and Westlaw in their full-text journal databases. Each of these services also carries legal periodical indexes that cover over 750 publications.
- Hein Online is freely available to members of the Law Society of BC from their desktops through the Reading Room at Courthouse Libraries BC. Journals published on Hein Online can also be located by searching in Google Scholar, which some may find a more friendly search engine than the one in Hein Online.
- Hein Online and LegalTrac are available free of charge to in-library users at Courthouse Libraries BC. Hein Online is a collection of full-text legal articles and LegalTrac is a periodicals index. These services are also available to library users at the UBC law library.
- The University of Toronto Law Library publishes a useful directory of electronic sources for law journals. If you are unsure where a journal is published electronically this is likely to be the most efficient way to find out where you can get it.
- Some important journals, such as the Canadian Bar
Review and The Advocate, are not available in full text through any of the commercial services.
- Articles from the Canadian Bar Review since 1923 are available to Canadian Bar Association members at cba.org in the publications section. There is a rudimentary search engine and they are indexed by subject. Canadian Bar Review articles are also indexed in the Index to Canadian Legal Literature and the Scott Index to Canadian Legal Periodicals.
- An electronic index to The Advocate and to CBA section papers is published in the BC Legal Literature Index maintained by Courthouse Libraries BC.
- CLE seminar papers from the BC Continuing Legal Education Society are available with a subscription through CLE Online.
- CLE seminar papers from the Law Society of Upper Canada are available on a pay-per-view basis at AccessCLE.
LawSource subscribers are entitled, at no extra cost, to receive digests of recent cases in various areas of law. Subscribers can link from the digest to the full text, but will incur the notional cost of $4.00 for linking to a case. LawSource also provides free access to recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions.
LawSource enables users to subscribe to alerts that will notify them at selected intervals of new content that meets the criteria of the user's saved searches, including KeyCite note-ups.
Quicklaw provides an extensive current awareness service in various practice areas through its family of NetLetters. A NetLetter is a summary of recent cases in a specific area of the law. Quicklaw also posts recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions in its Supreme Court of Canada Service, and makes digests of significant recent decisions available without charge through the LAWNET Legal Update Service.
Quicklaw enables users to subscribe to alerts that will notify them at selected intervals of new content that meets the criteria of the user's saved searches.
CanLII has introduced RSS feeds for search queries, allowing users to be notified whenever a new document is added to CanLII that meets the search criteria. CanLII users can also subscribe to RSS feeds containing all the cases from a particular superior court or tribunal, all the legislation from a particular jurisdiction, or changes to a particular statute or regulation.
Some Queen's Printers and Quickscribe have introduced RSS feeds for notification of new legislation and amendments.
The BC Superior Courts website has an RSS feed for announcements and judgments. The website also permits easy access to judgments released during the current week. Summaries of recent Court of Appeal judgments are available on the website.
The CLE Society of British Columbia publishes case digests for British Columbia cases weekly in electronic format, available by subscription. Each digest links to the full text of the case from the court website. The CLE home page contains free current information of interest to lawyers, including some recent CLE papers, and can be customized by practice area.
With respect to LawSource and Quicklaw, it is impossible to conclude that one is vastly superior to the other, or to advise users to subscribe to one rather than the other. Each service has strengths and weaknesses, and these should be taken into account in deciding which service to use for discrete tasks. If you intend to subscribe to only one service, then you must consider which research tasks are most important to you and evaluate how well that service does the task and at what cost.
- LawSource is more full-featured, with better integration of primary and secondary sources, more value-added features, and more searching options. However, the inability to re-sort results is a major drawback. Quicklaw is much stronger in its coverage of administrative tribunals. With some exceptions, Quicklaw is also stronger for statutory research. Its journal collection and current awareness collection are superior.
- Quicklaw is more current than LawSource for updating most legislative collections.
- The Abridgment case digests and the CED on LawSource are paralleled by the Canada Digests and Halsbury's Laws of England on the Quicklaw Full Service subscription. Given the recent introduction of these tools on Quicklaw, it is too early to make a comparison. However, the digest collections are very different, which suggests that users would benefit from consulting both. Taken as a whole, the Halsbury’s titles are more current than the CED titles. However, an individual CED title may be more current than the corresponding Halsbury’s title.
- The case citators on LawSource and Quicklaw are both good, but each is designed quite differently and users are likely to develop a preference for one over the other. The LawSource statute citator has superior features and coverage.
- The words and phrases collections on LawSource and Quicklaw contain very different entries, and it will often be beneficial to check both. At present, the LawSource offering has a significantly superior collection of Canadian content.
- With the shift of Quicklaw to transaction-based pricing, there is less difference between Quicklaw and LawSource in notional pricing. As a general rule, searches on LawSource have a lower notional cost, and linking to cases and noting up cases on Quicklaw have a lower notional cost. However, some Quicklaw notional charges are considerably higher, such as the notional charge for searching across all of Halsbury's Laws of Canada or searching in Words & Phrases Canada. The LawSource notional charge for searching its journal collection is higher than the Quicklaw notional charge.
- Notional cost concerns for researching case law and legislation can be addressed by using CanLII in conjunction with the commercial services.
CanLII is not comprehensive enough to be your sole source for case law or statute research. Its case and statute citators are incomplete, and do not contain treatment codes. Case history coverage does not start until 2006. Parallel citations are limited, and discontinued after mid-2009. CanLII does not include commentary. However, it is an excellent free source for finding and searching current legislation and case law from 2000, with earlier case law coverage for several courts. It is funded and owned by the Canadian legal profession.
- CanLII is designed for ease of use, with a simple interface and an excellent search engine that accommodates both sophisticated Boolean searches and more natural searching.
- CanLII's case law collections appear to be a day or two more current than Quicklaw and LawSource.
- CanLII features such as links from case law to legislation, RSS feeds, and the ability to compare versions of legislation, make CanLII not only a less expensive alternative but also a superior alternative for some tasks.
- Because there is no charge for using it, lawyers are likely to try more different search queries and spend more time reading cases and legislation online.
- In taxation hearings, disbursements for obtaining cases from commercial services have been disallowed where the documents were available from free services such as CanLII and court websites.
Best, CanLII Features