Reading and Understanding Case Reports: Equipping Yourself with Tools for Effective Legal Research

Reading and Understanding Case Reports: Equipping Yourself with Tools for Effective Legal Research

One of NSRLP’s mandates is to develop practical and accessible resources to empower SRLs and better equip them on multiple fronts. We believe that if someone finds themselves without expert assistance, it is critical that they should be able to access the best self-help tools.

It is no secret that preparing to present your own case in court without legal representation is daunting, as well as stressful. While legal research lays a crucial foundation for preparing one’s case, reading judicial opinions may seem like decoding a foreign language.

The CanLII Primer, also available in French, (CanLII is a publicly accessible legal database) has proved to be one of our most popular resources for SRLs. Our newest primer, Reading and Understanding Case Reports is a “companion” resource that walks SRLs through the next steps of legal research – making sense of and summarizing cases identified in CanLll as potentially useful in making an argument. Reading and Understanding Case Reports explains the basic structure of a case report and what you should expect to find, using many examples and illustrations.

The Primer also explains how to get to the “gem” of the opinion, demystifying the all-important “ratio decidendi”, and conversely, how to recognize judicial remarks that are not binding. It will help you to determine what is really most important when presenting your own matter. As well, our new Primer also includes a glossary of commonly used legal terms that you may come across when reading case reports.

Finally, we recommend that first-year law students also take a look at Reading and Understanding Case Reports. They may find it a useful study resource!

Margarita Dvorkina NSRLP Research Assistant

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