Courthouse Libraries BC

Your ally, treasure trove and oasis

Courthouse Libraries BC

When I joined Courthouse Libraries BC (CLBC) five years ago as CEO, our libraries were well known by practising lawyers and there was significant foot traffic because we were located in busy courthouses. Post-pandemic, we’ve noticed that experienced lawyers are still using our online legal databases for research, visiting us if they’re in a courthouse or remotely accessing our librarians for support, and using our Book-in-a-Box mail delivery service to their offices. What concerns us, however, is that there are many lawyers (recently-called in particular) who haven’t stepped foot in a courthouse library, accessed a legal research database online or requested a legal publication from us. Perhaps you don’t know that our free legal databases resources are available, or that there’s an entire CLBC institution and staff here to help you do great legal research and be a better lawyer? Whatever the reason, let this article be a prompt for you to check us out soon!

The importance of access to up-to-date legal resources was brought home to me when I was first introduced to the concept of a lawyer’s responsibility to be competent in legal research, as noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in Central Trust Co. v. Rafuse, 1986 Can LII 29 (SCC), [1986] 2 SCR 147:

“A solicitor is not required to know all the law applicable to the performance of a particular legal service in the sense that he must carry it around with him as part of his “working knowledge”, without the need of further research, but he must have a sufficient knowledge of the fundamental issues or principles of law applicable to the particular work he has undertaken to enable him to perceive the need to ascertain the law on relevant points... “and to discover those additional rules of law which, although not commonly known, may readily be found by standard research techniques.”

Sophisticated legal research tools are great if you or your employer can afford them and you know how to use them (note: if you have an in-house law librarian, trust me — they want to teach you!). However, many lawyers can’t afford high-end research databases, which is why CLBC collectively buys digital licenses and makes them available through our 100 accessible computers in 30 courthouse libraries. We also purchase print and digital legal publications that are prohibitively expensive for individuals to buy, and make them freely available to all lawyers for borrowing or delivery. And we hire exceptionally talented library staff to guide and teach legal research to anyone who needs help.

We do all this thanks to 50% funding from the Law Society of BC (about $205 per lawyer) and 50% from the Law Foundation of BC (interest earned on lawyers’ pooled trust accounts). We are tasked with using those funds to ensure that everyone can access the legal information they need to resolve their or their client’s legal issues.

Lawyers in locations outside of Vancouver and Victoria don’t always have the same access to up-to-date legal resources, so the Law Foundation has provided us with a special $2M grant to help improve that situation in 2024/25. We have already purchased some great new titles related to Indigenous Law, AI and the Law, Regulatory Law and other current topics. Later this year, we will be consulting with the profession and asking you to share your views on legal resource priorities for your practice and community. We will report back on what we hear and what new resources become available as a result. If you have suggestions in the meantime, please do come in or email us at

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