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Law: Explaining Law Rauemi | Resources

This guide provides links to resources and help relevant to your Law studies.

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Case Law

Case law refers to the body of law derived from judicial decisions made in court cases. It encompasses the principles, doctrines, and interpretations established by judges through their rulings on specific legal issues.

Why we use it:

  1. Precedent: Case law sets precedents for future similar cases. Courts often rely on previous decisions to guide their rulings, ensuring consistency and predictability in the legal system.

  2. Interpretation of Legislation: Case law helps interpret statutes and legislation. When laws are vague or ambiguous, courts interpret them through the lens of previous case law to determine their meaning and application.

  3. Flexibility and Adaptability: The common law system, which New Zealand follows, allows for flexibility and adaptability. Courts can develop and evolve the law over time to address changing societal norms, technological advancements, and emerging issues.

  4. Legal Education: Studying case law is an essential part of legal education. It enables law students to understand legal principles in practice, analyse judicial reasoning, and develop critical thinking skills necessary for legal practice.

  5. Legal Precedents: Precedents established through case law provide guidance for lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals when arguing cases, advising clients, or making legal decisions.

Overall, case law plays a crucial role in shaping the legal landscape of New Zealand by providing guidance, precedent, and interpretation of laws through judicial decisions.

Where we can find it:

  • Westlaw New Zealand contains reported and unreported case law from a wide variety of New Zealand courts and tribunals. The database is particularly strong on unreported cases. It also contains the Australian content previously housed on Thomson Reuters Westlaw's international platform.

  • Lexis Advance contains the reported version of cases found in reporter series such as the NZLRs, DCRs etc (not available from Westlaw New Zealand).  You can search either using the main search box, or if you know the case name or citation you can search directly for it in the specific case search box.

  • NZLII houses a treasure trove of old law reporters as well as the so-called "Lost Cases" that were only reported in 19th century newspapers. NZLII is a bit more "clunky" to search than the likes of Westlaw New Zealand and Lexis Advance so it is easier if you have a reference that gives more detail than "just" the case name. It also houses cases from many of the modern courts and tribunals, allowing access to these for those who do not have it via subscription databases. Due to eclectic and ever expanding range available via NZLII if the case you want is from a New Zealand court/tribunal and cannot be found elsewhere it is certainly worth trying NZLII.

  • Courts Website is another place you can look for free and publicly available case law. There are links to both the Judicial Decisions Online as well as a decision finder that covers many of the different tribunals you might like to search. The cases on here tend to be from the last few years so for really old case law NZLII is still your best bet.

  • Māori Case Law The Māori Land Court (Te Kooti Whenua Māori) and the Māori Appellate Court (Te Kooti Pira Māori) are continued under Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. The Māori Land Court has been in existence in one form or another since the passing of the Native Lands Act 1862 and the Māori Appellate Court since 1894. The Māori Land Court has jurisdiction to hear matters relating to Māori land including successions, title improvements, Māori land sales, and the administration of Māori land trusts and Incorporations. The Court's Judgments page includes Māori Land Court decisions, 2001 onwards and Māori Appellate Court decisions, 1993 onward. New decisions are posted to the site fortnightly. The Judgments page also includes indexes for both the Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court decisions, in PDF format. You can also find decisions on NZLII which has Māori Appellate Court of New Zealand Decisions 1955 onwards and Māori Land Court of New Zealand Decisions 1948 onward.

  •  Specialised resources such as CCH offers a case law collection that primarily focuses on Taxation, employment and health and safety law. The bulk of the material has a New Zealand focus, although there is material from Australia and some other common law jurisdictions.

  • International Case Law, if you want a quick general overview of cases from Australia, the UK, Canada and the United States try Lexis Advance. The jurisdiction switcher allows easy switching between jurisdictions and you can compare easily with NZ too. If you want a case from one of the ICLR "Law Reports" series' eg QB, CA then the ICLR , database is where you need to go. You can also look on Thomson Reuters Westlaw for international cases and if none of these work then you can consider the LII family of databases. 


Commentaries are:

  • An in-depth examination of a legal topic e.g. employment law, trusts, taxation, etc.

  • Written by specialists - judges, practitioners, academics etc.

  • A means of determining key case law and legislation

Commentaries explain what the law is about and are excellent for research because they provide cross-references to other useful sources. Entries in an online commentary usually include links to important cases or legislation where they appear in the same database.

Commentary on Westlaw New Zealand

Westlaw New Zealand contains relevant commentary under the text of Act sections where appropriate, which is taken directly from Westlaw New Zealand online publications such as Adams on Criminal Law, McGechan on Procedure, and others. If you know the Act (and section) that applies to your research the quickest way to locate commentary is via the Related Documents Tab.

Commentary in Lexis Advance

Use the legislation citator to locate commentaries and other resources such as journals under the analytical materials heading. Commentaries found on this database include Garrow and Turkington's Criminal Law in New Zealand and Mazengarb's Employment Law in New Zealand. One of the most useful commentary is The Laws of New Zealand as it covers all aspects of law.

Journal Articles

Journal articles are scholarly publications that present original research, analysis, or commentary on a particular topic within a specific field. In the context of law, journal articles are written by legal scholars, practitioners, or academics and are typically published in law journals. These articles cover a wide range of legal topics, including case law analysis, legal theory, legislative developments, and empirical studies. As a law student and researcher they can help provide you with:

  • In-depth analysis and discussion of legal issues and can offer nuanced perspectives and arguments on complex legal topics.

  • Current awareness of recent developments in the law, including new court decisions, legislative changes, and emerging legal trends.

  • Support for arguments in legal research papers, memos, or briefs. They often cite primary sources such as statutes, regulations, and case law, providing a basis for legal analysis and interpretation.

  • Research guidance by identifying key sources, theories, and methodologies relevant to your research topics. Articles may include citations to other scholarly works, leading students to additional resources for further exploration.

  • Expert authorship, journal articles are usually written by legal scholars and experts in their respective fields.

To effectively use journal articles in law research, students should critically evaluate the credibility and relevance of the sources, consider different perspectives presented in the literature, and integrate the insights gained into their own analysis and writing. Additionally, students should use library databases and search tools to efficiently locate relevant articles and stay organized in managing their research materials.

How to find journal articles

  • Library Search:  A really good starting point for locating journal articles. A number of the New Zealand and key overseas journals are searchable there.

  • Lexis Advance: Journal articles fall under the category of "secondary materials" along with commentaries and other secondary sources. You can do a secondary materials search on your topic and then use the left-hand filters to narrow to journal articles.

  • Westlaw New Zealand: Contains the Legal Writing Index as well as a few full-text journals. You can search these from the database's home page, or you can use the Journals search template. Unless you limit your search to one (or more) of the full-text journals many of the results you will get will be index entries only.  You'll need to use Library Search to locate the journals either in print or online.


Legislation refers to laws created by a governing body to regulate various aspects of society.  Its purpose is to establish rules, rights, and responsibilities for individuals and organisations within a community or country.  Legislation addresses societal issues, ensures order, protects rights, promotes justice and guides behaviour.  Essentially, it serves as a backbone of the legal system, providing a framework for a functioning society.

You can find legislation via (links to these resources are provided throughout this guide and via Library Search):

  • Westlaw New Zealand

  • Lexis Advance

    • Both Westlaw New Zealand and Lexis Advance databases provide an integration of statute, commentaries and case law to help further your research.


    • Useful for historic material with collections of old Acts as they were first enacted, Historic Bills etc.


    • The current law as it stands (though it does include some amendments to Acts currently in force).

  • Other jurisdictions

    • Many jurisdictions have official government/parliament websites and these are often the best places to look for up to date legislation. You could also try WorldLII or one of the local LII databases. Lexis Advance and Thompson Reuters Westlaw have legislative content for jurisdictions such as the UK, Canada and the US as well as some other select jurisdictions. See also the Global Regulations Database.