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Case digests

LawSource

LawSource includes the Canadian Abridgment case digests.

  • When viewing a case you can see the Abridgment classifications for the case and then link to all the digests under that classification to find similar cases. Links to related Abridgment classifications are also included in CED entries.
  • The digests can also be accessed from the home page through a hierarchical table of contents using the Abridgment classification scheme, or by searching the digests using keywords.

The Abridgment digests are not included in federated searches. They are also not easily searched in the WestlawNext Canada platform, largely because they are too small to work well with a plain language search.

Another major problem is that the Abridgment search results are displayed in classification order, and within that by reverse chronological order. It is not possible to sort the results by relevancy. This makes searching within the collection very unwieldy and difficult.

Searching in the digests will be more manageable if you

  • select certain classifications within which to search, using the “Specify content to search” button at the top right
  • filter search results by classification after running a search
  • either force the search to be run as a Boolean search, or run a plain language search and then narrow the results with the “Search within results” filter and other filters.

Quicklaw

The Canada Digest service on Quicklaw is available to Full Service subscribers, and a limited number of titles are included in other subscriptions.

  • The Canada Digests can be searched, or accessed by browsing through a hierarchical classification scheme.
  • Unlike the Abridgment Digests, there is no direct link from individual cases into digests assigned the same classifications.

Quicklaw has created a topical classification scheme that can be used from the case search template to restrict your research to a particular topic. The headings can also be used to sort your search results by topic. The classifications are assigned to the cases by running pre-designed queries against each case when it is put into the Quicklaw collection.

Comparison

The Abridgment Digests are organized within a detailed classification hierarchy and are integrated with the case law collection and the CED. The recent completion of the 3rd edition of the Abridgment has modernized and improved the classification scheme. LawSource enables researchers to use various points of access into these digests.

The Quicklaw Canada Digests are not as well integrated with the case law or commentary as the Abridgment Digests. The additional Quicklaw topical classification scheme enables users more easily to search within the Quicklaw case collection by topic, or filter results by topic.

In my experience, the search results obtained from the Quicklaw Canada Digests and the Canadian Abridgment Digests are very different. For example, see Case digest systems vary considerably: a good topic for further study.

Given the frailties of the indexing process, it is unwise to rely too much on these classifications when conducting your research. Think of them as another finding tool; the classification will not contain an exhaustive collection of cases on a particular legal concept.

Other sources

CanLII Connects is a new free service that publishes Canadian case summaries and case comments. Contributors must be approved by CanLII. The material is linked to the subject case on the CanLII site.

British Columbia lawyers can subscribe to the Continuing Legal Education Society’s Case Digest Connection. A subscription to the archives allows searching on the case digest collection.