Practitioner texts are the kind of materials that practitioners such as solicitors and barristers consult in order to help their clients. If you decide to do the Legal Practice Course or Bar Vocational Course in the future, you will soon become familiar with these works!
Examples of common practitioner texts are:
Practitioner texts are not only found in print form; many are also available online through Westlaw and LexisNexis Butterworths. For details of where to find them online, go to Lawbore's City Hub for E-Library/E-Texts.
For the purposes of this note we will focus on printed practitioner texts, as you may prefer to use them in this form when first starting out. We have some key practitioner texts in print form in our library here at Northampton Square; City Law students can also use The City Law School Library at Gray’s Inn Place which stocks a large number of practitioner texts for City University’s LPC and BVC students.
Whilst practitioner texts are mainly useful for practitioners themselves, or for those undertaking vocational law studies, you may sometimes need to refer to them as an undergraduate student.
In either of these instances, you may find the guidance below useful when consulting a practitioner text for the first time.
As Chitty on Contracts is a popular work, we have given it a whole section to itself!
When you are reading a practitioner text, it is likely to be because:
Although this may sound obvious, always have the legal brief/ instructions next to you as you read the practitioner texts. This is so that you can keep the legal problem in mind whilst you are reading.
Here is a list of things to look out for:
Chapter headings show you what topic areas the book covers.
Contents pages and indexes not only help to direct you to the correct part of the practitioner text which you need to go to, but also:
Where the practitioner text comprises of more than one volume, you should check whether it comes with only one index or whether there is an index for each volume.
Paragraphs often contain useful roadmaps or signposts (for example in Chitty on Contracts). Also, if you are trying to locate relevant sections quickly, then reading the beginning and the end of a paragraph is a good way of identifying what the entire paragraph is about.
As practitioner texts are designed for solicitors and barristers who are providing advice to their clients, they need to be as up-to-date as possible. Therefore, as well as publishing new editions of practitioner works on a regular basis, publishers often issue interim works which update the information in the main work. These interim works are usually known as supplements or noters-up.
If you are using paper sources, and if you need the information to be up-to-date, check with a law librarian whether the text comes with a supplement or noter-up. Cases and legislation referred to in the texts should be updated separately using one of the electronic databases such as Westlaw or Lexis Library.
Updating can be less of a problem with online sources, as sometimes the changes are incorporated into the online text itself. At other times, you might need to click an update or comment button.
Updating can be tricky, so if you are unsure whether you need to do it/ how to go about it, please do ask the law librarian and we will help to guide you through it!
• Volume I is entitled General Principles and contains Chapters 1 to 30.
• Volume II is entitled Specific Contracts and contains Chapters 31 to 44.
New editions of Chitty are published every few years, so if you need to use the most up-to-date version, check with the law librarian that the edition you are using is the latest one. By way of guidance, the latest edition as at April 2009 is the 30th edition.
Helpful hint! If you are looking for something in Chitty, try using the index to locate the section(s) you are looking for. The answer may be found by piecing together information contained in two or more paragraphs in different chapters, and the index will help you to find these. If you go straight to the Contents page to try to find a chapter that you think will be relevant, you may be missing out on valuable information that only the index can provide!
If the practitioner text is on Westlaw or Lexis Library, you will be given two options. You can either:
This latter function can be helpful if you need to get an overview of what the text covers. Depending on the practitioner text in question, you might be given a choice of browsing the work with or without the latest updating supplement. If you want to make sure you are up-to-date, always make sure that you are looking at the practitioner text with supplement!
Finally, some of the sections of the online practitioner works will contain footnotes, in the same way as the paper versions. These can be really helpful, as they may contain a link taking you straight through to the case or legislation in question!
If you find that you can’t access the case or legislation you are looking for, this might be because you are using Lexis Library and the case/ legislation might only be available on Westlaw (or vice versa). In this case, just check which database the case/ legislation is on, and use that to find your source.
Practitioner texts can take a bit of getting used to, but don’t let this put you off! Remember that:
If you have any problems or queries, just ask the law librarian.
Many thanks to Hilary Vieitez for introducing this difficult subject area.