‘Practical Law’ for practically everyone…

By | 10 November 2016

by Nicola Patrick, Research Support Librarian

Dear readers,

We thought we’d make you aware that we now have IP access to PLC. You can access this database in the normal way via the LawBod’s legal databases page:


For those of you who haven’t come across PLC before, I’ve created a short Q&A crib sheet below, which should hopefully get you up and running.

  • What is it?

PLC stands for Practical Law Company, more commonly referred to as ‘Practical Law’. It is a database commonly used in law firms and is aimed at the practising lawyer.

  • So why do we have it?

Well, we think there are parts of the database that could be very useful to our readers, regardless of their level of study. For example, the practice notes provide explanations of law and practice on various legal topics.

  • Who owns it?

Thomson Reuters, so the same people that own Westlaw UK – hence the expectation of seamless linking from PLC to Westlaw.

  • How do you envisage we use it?

Different users will utilise it in different ways. Those preparing for moots may find it a useful resource for their research.  Equally if you are new to an area of law this could be a good starting place, as it will direct you to the main legislation and case law.   Researchers may wish to subscribe to legal updates in their particular area and perhaps make use of the more detailed analysis provided in some of the notes or utilise the ‘ask a question’ feature. All users will find it useful that the journal PLC is fully searchable on this database.  Those going on law firm vacation placements, or moving into practice, may also find it useful to explore the other features closely related to practice such as ‘standard forms’.

  • Is it up to date?

The currency of the information is always clearly indicated. If the status is given as ‘maintained’ you can rest assured that the information is being continually updated. If it isn’t ‘maintained’ then a date is usually given, clearly indicating when it was last updated.



  • How comprehensive is it?

Well, if you mean does it cover the whole of UK Law, then the honest answer is ‘no’. This is the list of broad practice areas that PLC covers:



  • What exactly do we have access to?

All the practice notes, standard forms, checklists, glossary etc. that comes under the UK practice areas that PLC covers. Also we can access ‘legal updates’ and PLC magazine.  We don’t have access to ‘books’ which you will see under ‘resources’. (You will have access via one of our other databases or in hard copy in the Lawbod so it isn’t necessary to duplicate this resource here.) Also we can access information on various legal topics for other countries through the ‘countries’ tab.

  • Is it just UK?

Yes and no! We have subscribed to UK PLC, therefore the buttons that say US/Canada at the top right of the site are largely defunct for our purposes.  You can click on them and receive limited information but when you try and drill down into anything meaningful you are met with the message ‘you don’t subscribe to this’! Please note we have vast numbers of other country specific databases – for more information see our LibGuides on ‘jurisdictions’ –


If you click on ‘global’ you are pretty much accessing the same information as you would through the UK site, but just with a ‘country first’ approach, rather than a ‘topic first’ approach.

There is information available on 71 countries through the countries tab on the UK PLC site. Within the limits of certain pre-set questions you can also do a country comparison. You select the questions you want to ask and choose the countries you want to compare.



Alternatively you can access a multi-jurisdictional guide through ‘publications’ under ‘resources’.



  • How do I search it?

It’s quite an intuitive database to search. So, start by putting your terms into the search box.



Like Westlaw, it assumes ‘and’ between words so if you want something treated as a phrase then you need to put it in double quotation marks e.g. “shareholder agreement”

You can use OR for alternate terms. (Bear in mind that PLC automatically searches for synonyms and alternative forms of common words.)

  • When I do a search how do my results come back?

They are split into 3 tabs:



‘Know-how’ will contain your practice notes, standard documents, legal updates etc.

‘Publications’ brings hits back from Bloomsbury Professional and PLC magazine.  The magazines are fine to access. However, although we do have access to Bloomsbury Professional to access ‘Family Court Reports’ (might be worthy of another blog post on that change), we don’t have access to the books, so those links won’t go anywhere.  However you will be able to find the book elsewhere – check SOLO or ask a Librarian.

‘What’s Market’ provides access to public company transactions and AGM materials.

On the right hand side you will see links to ‘related content’ – perhaps to an article or to the ‘legislation tracker’

  • What about accessing the full text for cases and legislations?

Well, if you remember earlier I optimistically mentioned the phrase ‘seamlessly linking’ this is the goal and for the most part this does happen for legislation.

Please note you do have to have an active Westlaw session running for PLC to link to the actual document on Westlaw.

Currently there appears to be a problem with cases linking to Westlaw, or indeed any publicly available alternative. We have advised PLC of this fault, so hopefully the ‘seamlessly linking’ ideal would come to fruition shortly!

  • Do I need my own username and password?

No, with IP access we have tried to avoid the need to create separate passwords for every user. A personal account only becomes necessary if you are doing a lot of drafting through ‘Fastdraft’ or wish to annotate resources – again more aimed at the practising lawyer. You can receive by email legal updates in your practice area to your inbox without the need for a separate account.

  • If I need help who can I contact?

There is online help:

Either ‘search help’




In-depth legal help:


However, if it is a question of how to use the database or you cannot find something, please email me at nicola.patrick@bodleian.ox.ac.uk and I’ll try to resolve the issue.