Case law

LawSource and Quicklaw

The following table compares the features of LawSource and Quicklaw relevant to searching Canadian case law.

Feature LawSource Quicklaw
Full text searching options Default is federated plain language search. Switches to Boolean search if proximity command or truncation is used in query. Template search is accessed through the Advanced link by the search box, and templates are customized for different collections. Keyword searching by Boolean query, with field searching by template and ability to narrow search using a drill-down topical classification. Limited natural language search from Home tab.
Find a case By citation from the main search box, or by name using the Find and KeyCite by Name tab. By citation or by name from the start page, with auto-complete.
Default ranking for template and Boolean searches Relevancy, with ability to re-sort results Relevancy, with ability to re-sort search results
Refining searches Search within results using Boolean syntax Narrow search using Boolean syntax
Range of coverage for Canadian case law Excellent historical coverage using Carswell reporters and cases reported in Canada Law Book reporters; comprehensive coverage of all reported cases from 1977 and all cases from 1986; collection of pre-1977 decisions from key courts and law report series. Comprehensive coverage of all cases from 1986; goal to publish all reported court decisions from 1970 and all pre-1970 decisions cited by cases decided from 1970; excellent historical coverage in SCC, Federal Court, BC and Ontario databases.
Administrative tribunals Includes some, particularly labour tribunals. Tribunals are searched together with cases, but can elect to exclude them when filtering results. Includes a broad range of tribunals. Tribunals are searched separately from cases.
Value-added Headnotes for almost all cases; parallel citations shown; list of authorities; Abridgment classification and digests for case, with link to all digests under relevant classifications; free access to summary and cases cited in legal memoranda collection; KeyCite; links to cited cases; paragraph numbering in all cases; outside of subscription links to topical material, court documents, legal memoranda collection. Headnotes for many cases; parallel citations shown; topical classification for both searching and sorting results; QuickCite; links to cited cases; paragraph numbering in many cases; outside of subscription links to some material.
Information in result list

Can sort results using various filters, including subject area, court, jurisdiction. Result list contains case name, court, date, parallel citations, docket number, detailed subject area, search terms in context, and judicial treatment symbols.

Icons show which items have been viewed in last 30 days, and whether item has been annotated or saved to a folder.

Can sort results using various filters, including topic, court, jurisdiction. Result list contains case name, court, date, Quicklaw citation, number of pages, search terms in context, judicial treatment symbols.
Save, print and download options

Can tag documents during search session and print or download.

Documents can be annotated and saved to folders which are kept indefinitely. Folders can be downloaded and shared. They can also be searched and filtered, and KeyCite status flags will be dynamically updated.

Can tag documents during search sessions and print or download, but lose tags if sort order or result grouping is changed.

Ability to place documents in folder for retrieval within 24 hours without additional cost.

History and research trail

History of searches and documents viewed is kept for one year.

Documents viewed can be searched and filtered, and KeyCite status flags will be dynamically updated. Can set preferences to automatically email research trail after each session.

 Recent documents can be viewed (48 hours) and recent searches retrieved (7 days).
Alert service Available to update searches at specified intervals. Can also use KeyCite Alert to monitor case history and citing references, with customization options. Available to update searches at specified intervals. Can also create alerts to monitor QuickCite results when new citing cases with strong treatment are added.
Adding automated links to user documents CiteLink Canada creates links from citations in user documents to the full text documents in WeC and can create a table of authorities for the user document QuickFind subscribers can use Auto Link to create links from case law citations in user documents to the full text decisions in Quicklaw


CanLII contains case law and tribunal decisions from across Canada. Collection development objectives include building a comprehensive case law collection for all Canadian superior courts from the beginning of 2000. This has been accomplished for most jurisdictions and the coverage for many goes further back.

Several administrative tribunals contribute their decisions for publication on CanLII. Current collection development priorities for administrative tribunals are human rights, labour law, professional discipline, and privacy decisions.

To see a full description of the current scope of coverage, click on the Scope of Coverage link on the CanLII home page.

CanLII permits searching in full text and by citation or title, with filters for date, type of collection, jurisdiction, court level, tribunal type, and database. Search results can be sorted by relevance, date or citation frequency. The citation frequency ranking method enables the user to quickly identify leading cases in the results list.

The “Show headnotes” link on cases in CanLII takes you to case history and cited legislation and decisions. It also links to CanLII Connects. That is a separate site containing summaries of and commentaries on cases published on CanLII.

RSS feeds generated by CanLII for searches, collection content and note-ups provide free updates to users who have subscribed to a feed.

Cases on CanLII contain links to cited legislation. This feature is not available on the commercial services.


The most current site for case law will be the court website, although decisions recently posted may not yet be indexed for searching.

Results of recent currency checks suggest that for full text case law CanLII is one or two days more current than Quicklaw and LawSource.

Other sources

Other free sources of case law include

  • court websites
  • Australasian Legal Information Institute (AUSTLII) for Australian and New Zealand law
  • British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) for English, Irish and Scottish law
  • Legal Information Institute (LII) for US law
  • Google Scholar for US law

Lexis and Westlaw are excellent commercial services for US, UK and European law, but are very expensive.