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Law Library

Law in the United Kingdom: Home

Legal System

The United Kingdom is a common law jurisdiction. It served as the basis for the American legal system, and obvious similarities still exist.

Some areas of responsibility have been devolved from the central British government and Parliament at Westminster to the regions. Much of the information outlined below applies to the entire country, but some key differences have been highlighted for finding Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish legal resources (see the Regions tab).

The Law Library has a variety of major British legal treatises (Basement, KD), journals, and historic primary materials (Sub-Basement) in print and/or electronically.

General Resources

Law School Databases

Access to these databases are restricted to UofL Law School students, faculty & staff.


Judicial precedent is extremely important in British law, and case law is heavily relied upon.

Current British law reporters are no longer collected in print by library, but recent transcripts of British cases are often freely available online. The Law Reports produced by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR) are the official series of law reporters in Britain and should be relied upon whenever possible. Although the library no longer collects these titles in print, several older volumes are held in Sub-Basement range 5 (SB-5).


British Parliament is composed of two chambers: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Bills generally must be passed by both Houses and formally agreed by the monarch before becoming law.

There is no codification of English law comparable to the U.S. Code. The Public General Acts issued by the Parliament at Westminster are the primary source of British legislation, and may control aspects of English, Welsh, Scottish, and/or Northern Irish law depending on the scope of the Act.

Local Acts are also issued by Parliament, but are much narrower in scope.

Statutory Instruments are the rules and regulations issued by various government bodies, and are an important source of secondary legislation.