A good way of keeping up to date with recent developments in law – and to collect quite a bit of free content – is to sign up for email alerts. But take care to choose wisely, lest your inbox be flooded with updates you don’t have time to read. It’s best to choose a few that deal with key areas of interest, and make sure you at least skim through them when they arrive, or transfer them to an “updates” folder in your email app so you can review them when you have time.
You can sign up to email alerts from official sources like government departments or NGOs, or from legal publishers anxious to share summary content in the hope you will subscribe to their full services. Nothing wrong with that; and the free content from solicitors’ firms or barristers’ chambers has a commercial justification too: they want to showcase their expertise in their areas of specialism. In addition, a number of legal blogs provide case comments and current awareness content.
If part of your job involves curating or recirculating current awareness material, say as a PSL or information officer within a solicitors’ firm, then signing up for some emails like this is a good way to gather material. For a practitioner, it is more a question of keeping informed. For a law blogger or commentator, it is another way of being alerted to material you might wish to comment on, but obviously there are limits on the extent to which you can simply reuse it for publication (unless you ask permission first, of course).
Here is a selection of sources which, while having no claims to be comprehensive, may give some idea of the sorts of things available.
Case law (general)
ICLR Case Law Updates
The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (my employer) is the leading supplier of case law for England and Wales. Although most of the law reports are available only to subscribers, we do publish free case summaries on the ICLR website, via a feed on the homepage. You can also retrieve case summaries going back to 2009 using the free case search. But perhaps most conveniently of all, you can sign up for a weekly email listing all the case summaries, indexed by subject matter, with links to the full content. The email also lists the full case reports, also indexed by subject matter, but full content requires a subscriber login. Join at www.iclr.co.uk/wake-up-to-iclr-case-law-updates/.
The ICLR Blog, which includes a roundup of legal news under the title Weekly Notes, can also be delivered to your inbox via a separate email alert. Register via a widget on the main blog page www.iclr.co.uk/blog/
Judiciary – judgments
You can get notification by email of all new judgments, via the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website. They tend only to publish judgments that BAILII hasn’t, which means you need to keep up with BAILII’s new additions feed as well; but the Judiciary also publish Crown Court sentencing remarks and they are supposed to have all rulings in contempt of court hearings (which must be heard in open court and identify the alleged contemnor). Their main policy seems to be to publish cases the press might be interested in, rather than providing a comprehensive service for practice or teaching purposes. Sign up at www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/.
Law Brief Update
Published by Law Brief Publishing, Law Brief Update is a monthly case law update which includes short notes about recent cases written by practitioners (mostly barristers) whose names and contact details are helpfully given. Obviously it’s a promotion of their expertise as much as anything else, but the notes are useful and some of them as long and detailed as the digests on Lawtel or the ICLR case summaries. They cover a range of practice areas, which are listed at the top with links to that section of the newsletter. Sign up at www.lawbriefupdate.com.
UK Supreme Court blog
Written by barristers from Matrix Chambers and solicitors from Olswang, this blog features case comments, case previews and other news about the UK Supreme Court. Although the court itself publishes its own judgments with a press summary (www.supremecourt.uk/decided-cases/), the case comments quickly published soon after on UK Supreme Court Blog are more comprehensive and legally detailed. You can subscribe to email alerts from any page of the blog http://ukscblog.com.
Pinsent Masons’ Out-Law.com
Out-Law.com describes itself as “legal news and guidance from Pinsent Masons”, the international law firm. The site provides free guides, articles and news stories relating to everything from the drawing up of on-line contracts and agreements to issues of taxation and defamation. “The site exists”, they say, with disarming frankness, “because we want you to choose our law firm when you need more help.”
You can set up email alerts tailored to the subject matters which particularly interest you. Each item comes with a brief description and a link to the full content on the Out-Law website www.out-law.com/en/userprofile/sign-up/.
Emplaw – free monthly update
Emplaw is an online resource specialising in employment law at www.emplaw.co.uk.
You can sign up (from the bottom of the home page) for an email update consisting of the “complimentary edition” of its monthly roundup of legislation alerts, case law summaries and news of relevant legal developments affecting employment law and procedure. Some articles may be viewed in full, while other items (such as case summaries) appear as an abstract, with the full version only available to subscribers.
The email can also be viewed in your browser. Here is a link to the end October 2016 edition: www.emplaw.co.uk/node/24870.
Court of Protection Handbook
Despite its name, this is not a book but a website, run by the Legal Action Group (who publish the Community Care Law Reports). It provides updates on law and practice in the Court of Protection. This is a fairly specialised area of practice, but one of increasing importance as it deals with the welfare and accommodation of elderly or otherwise incapacitated persons. The blog provides an email alert which includes notifications about legislation, practice directions in the court, and recent cases. Sign up at https://courtofprotectionhandbook.com/.
Jordan’s Family Law Journal
Though now subsumed into the LexisNexis family of content, Jordan’s Family Law journal is required reading for all family law practitioners, and its online edition provides an email newsletter. You can also select topics covered by other Jordan’s publications, such as insolvency, employment and personal injury. Sign up at http://acm.jordanpublishing.co.uk/support/updates/eNewsletter.asp.
The media often misreport family cases, with lurid tales of “custody battles” and “quickie divorces” which demonstrate a woeful ignorance of current family law. The Transparency Project was set up to provide a corrective, and now, armed with a grant from the Legal Education Fund, they are providing case comments on cases appearing in the headlines, with a proper legal explanation and link to the actual judgment. Though aimed primarily at lay readers, for anyone interested in family law this offers (with handy weekly roundup) a convenient guide to recent case law. Sign up at www.transparencyproject.org.uk.
Government depts and public bodies
IPO – Intellectual Property Office
Like most public bodies now, the IPO (the department formerly known as the Patents Office) has its home on the GOV.UK website, whose searching and browsing facilities are currently awkward and unintuitive to use. However, once you have found the right department’s main page (best thing is just to search for the department’s name), you can set up an alert from a link towards the bottom of the page www.gov.uk/government/organisations/intellectual-property-office.
The alerts will cover speeches, announcements, publications etc, usually a day after they become available.
Attorney General’s Office
You can do the same for, say, the Attorney General’s office, and so get announcements about appeals against over lenient sentences, speeches, and the conferences attended by the government’s chief legal officer (and also his junior, the Solicitor General) at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/attorney-generals-office.
UK Human Rights Blog
Published by chambers at 1 Crown Office Row and edited by barrister Adam Wagner, the UK Human Rights Blog is a leading source of case comments on recent decisions of UK and European courts on human rights issues. You can sign up for email alerts on the home page but there are other ways of keeping up to date with the blog’s content, via the subscribe page https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/subscribe/. The site also has excellent browsing and searching facilities and cases are also listed by Convention article or other leading topic from the menu.
Legal Futures News
Describing itself as “the leading news resource tracking the fast-evolving legal landscape”, Legal Futures offers a convenient email alert for anyone wanting to keep up to date with such things as regulation, industry news etc It does not really provide content as such, in the sense of case law or legislation, but for those who can’t be bothered to trawl Twitter it’s a convenient way to keep on top of industry news. Sign up at www.legalfutures.co.uk/news-letter.
The International Forum for Responsible Media, (Inforrm for short) was set up to debate issues of media responsibility. Though it also publishes or republishes blog posts covering media law, data protection and press regulation, Inforrm’s blog does carry individual case comments on these areas and the email alerts are a good way to get a heads up on new cases. There’s a weekly roundup which is very comprehensive, with links to more substantial content both on the blog and elsewhere. Join at https://inforrm.wordpress.com.
PI Brief Update
Published by the same outfit as Law Brief Update, PI Brief specialises in personal injury litigation. You don’t need to sign up separately; if you sign up to Law Brief Update you also get an email for PI Brief Update. Law Brief Publishing also publish a range of short practitioner books, and PIBULJ, a personal injury law journal. See www.pibriefupdate.com/content/.