Law: Finding case law

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Understanding a case citation

Individual cases are arranged collectively in series of Law Reports. To locate a case you need to be able to understand the citation. Here is a sample Citation:

Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd v Wardley (1980) 142 CLR 237


The different parts of the Citation are explained below:

Ansett Transport Industries
(Operations) Pty Ltd v Wardley

Parties to the case


Year the case was reported


Volume of the law reports in which the case was reported


Abbreviation for the law report series in which the case can be

CLR stands for Commonwealth Law Reports.


Page on which the case can be found


TIP If you cannot identify an abbreviation in a case there are a number of abbreviation lists available online (see the links in legal abbreviations and citations below)

Understanding case citators

CPD interactive have created a video 'Case Citators' in their How to Really be a Lawyer series.

Natalie Wieland gives a brief overview of some of the differences between databases on the market and in particular the case citators including CaseBase, FirstPoint, LawCite and Jade Barnet.

A case citator provides a summary of the case, and importantly tells us what has happened since the case. Specifically, have the courts continued to follow the principal of law from a specific case?

You need to be aware that each product has its positive points and limitations. For example, the scope of the service – particularly in relation to timeframe, and to the editor’s selection of cases listed. Natalie discusses when you may use one resource over another, and gives some examples.

video provided courtesy of CPD interactive

Not sure where to start?

Not sure what kind of resources you need, or where to find them? 

Our Legal Research flowcharts will help you to decide which resources are suitable for the task you are doing.

Case law databases

View these short videos and take the interactive tutorial for help with your research (we recommend using Firefox or Chrome to access interactive tutorials):

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Authorised and Unauthorised Reports

For some law reports, the judge who wrote the decision also checks the details of the case before it is published. These cases are known as "authorised" reports.Cases from law reports where the judgment is not checked by the judge before publication can still be used in a court of law and in your assignment. These are commonly referred to as "unauthorised" reports.

Authorised report series Abbreviation Other report series (unauthorised) Abbreviation
Commonwealth Law Reports   CLR Federal Law Reports   FLR
Federal Court Reports   FCR Australian Law Journal Reports   ALJR
Northern Territory Law Reports   NTLR Australian Law Reports   ALR
New South Wales Law Reports   NSWLR Australian Company Law Cases   ACLS
Victorian Reports   VR Australian Family Law Cases   AFLC
South Australian State Reports   SASR Australian Trade Practices Reports   ATPR
Queensland Reports   Qd R Australian Trade Practices Reports   ATPR
Western Australian Reports   WAR    
Tasmanian Reports   Tas R    
Administrative Law Decisions   ALD    
Commonwealth Arbitration Reports   CAR    


For more information on authorised and unauthorised reports see the Legal Research Workshop - Finding Case Law (you will need to login)