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Researching Case Law

Find cases by topic

Let's look at an example topic: Legal professional privilege

To find cases on this topic you may need to conduct a couple of searches in the following ways.


Choosing the right search terms is essential. Try looking for keywords used in your readings or similar cases, and try using synonyms (e.g. police or "law enforcement") so you don't miss an important case!


Choosing your search terms

Choosing the right search term/s is essential when researching online.

The New Lawyer, (2nd ed 2019) p.208-211 suggests a couple of strategies to help you identify useful search terms - 'mining' your background reading, and 'Statsky's cartwheel'.

'Mining' your background reading requires a focused approach to your background reading, to identify useful search terms, and relevant primary sources and other authoritative materials.

Statsky's cartwheel is a technique for identifying search terms, that involves various forms of word association with an original term to identify a range of relevant and useful search terms. It is described on p. 209-211 of The New Lawyer. (2nd ed 2019).


Search a case citator

  Search a case citator using the Free Text or Search Terms field:


You can add a judgment date, jurisdiction etc. at this stage, or just do the keyword search, and then narrow your results by selecting topic or court from the left hand column.

In CaseBase:

In FirstPoint:

Search a law report series or unreported judgments websites

number two  Search the full text of various law reports and unreported judgments online.

Law reports: View the authorised law reports guide to locate full text law reports on online databases.

Unreported judgments: Access the free legal websites such as AustLII or JADE to search for recent unreported judgments. For example: 

AustLII Advanced Search

AustLII Advanced Search






















Search tipsMagnifying glass on clipboard

  Get better results:

  • Use double quotes " " to search for an exact phrase
  • Use proximity searches such as 'within paragraph' (w/p) or 'within sentence' (w/s) to find words closer together
  • Try restricting your search to a particular jurisdiction, for example Victoria
  • Try restricting your search to a particular date range, such as the last 5 years
  • Try restricting your search to a catchwords (or equivalent) field
  • FirstPoint (WestlawAU) attaches a subject classification to their case summaries (also known as 'breadcrumbs'), you might want to follow the most relevant subject classification