Vatterott OKC Paralegal Studies

We don't teach you what to think. We teach you HOW to think.

Miss Scarlet in the library with a knife!!




CALR: LexisNexis Overview

Another paid legal research database…and to the newcomer (and sometimes those using it for a while) it can be a little intimidating.  Lexis tried to make it simple, but now it’s so simple that it’s hard…too many buttons to push!  🙂

Again – you need a research plan.  Lexis is not cheap.

The tabs:

  • MyLexis
  • Search
  • Get a Document
  • Shepard’s
  • More

The MyLexis and Search tabs are customizable.

On the Search tab you can add or edit sub-tabs.

  • All
  • Legal
  • News & Business
  • Public Records
  • Find a Source

The Get a Document tab lets users retrieve individual documents quickly by citation, party name, or docket number.

You can set up a tab for Alerts.  That will let you save and run automatic searches.  The results can be emailed to you or stored online.

The actual database can be used in a number of different ways.

I really like the KWIC feature when pulling a retrieved case  It shows about 25 words of text around the search terms.  It makes it easy to see if the case is relevant to what I need.

Lexis has Case Summaries.  The summary includes procedural history, overview, disposition, and core terms.

Headnotes summarizes each major issue.

Ever heard the term Shepardizing a case?  Like KeyCite for Westlaw, it enables you to determine if the case or law you retrieved is still good.  It’s actually called Shepard’s Citation.  It uses colored shapes instead of flags.  It also links to others cases.

Yes, you can run quite a few public records searches in Lexis.

CALR: Westlaw Overview

Westlaw is a paid legal database.  Yet again – it is important to plan your search.  Clients generally foot the bill for legal research.  You don’t like it when people waste your money, right?

The search query can be used to search a specific database for certain words or a combination of words.  It can search full text or just head notes.  You can read the retrieved document online, print it, or download it.  If and when you find a relevant case in Westlaw, please print it or save it to your computer for future reference.  That saves money.  You won’t have to log in to find it again.

  • Know (or have a general idea) of which databases to use in your search.  You can think you’ve put together a great query until you come back with 500 results…or no results.
  • Know the party names or know your issue.
  • Determine how you want the information delivered to you.  Again, I recommend saving it or printing it.
  • I’ve heard a tale that Westlaw has a tab just for paralegals.  I don’t have Westlaw access.
  • If you have a citation, you can use Find by Citation
  • You can find a case by Party Name.
  • Westlaw has a database wizard to help you pick the correct database.

The first thing you need is a good query for your search.  You need to know how to create and refine it.

  • Keywords and synonyms.
  • Is it a natural language search?
  • Is it a terms and connectors search?
  • Do you need an expander?
  • Use singular terms.
  • Be careful using quotation marks.
  • If you use an acronym, use periods.

Your search terms will be highlighted in your document.

Once you have your case you need to check the cite.  In Westlaw it is known as KeyCite.  It helps you know whether or not a case or statute is good.  You need a good case or statute because your client’s case and your firm’s reputation rides on it.

  • Red – no longer good law for at least one of the points.
  • Yellow – some negative treatment, but has not been revered or overruled

Gives an alert feature to notify the user if the status changes.  Using KeyCite allows you to look at other documents that used the case as a reference.

Westlaw can also search some state public records.

Computer Aided Legal Research – Public Records

Lovingly referred to as CALR…

First – let’s review some search strategies:

  • Plan your search.  The Internet is a great place to get lost and waste more time than you intended.  Know exactly what you are after.
  • Learn to use advanced search options.
  • Make your query more specific by learning the basics of boolean: +, -, quotation marks, and a combination of those.
  • Put your most important words first.

You can find a plethora of legal information on the Internet if you know where to look.  There are free sites that are really good.  There are free sites that are really bad.  There are paid sites.

You can find FRCP, FRE, Criminal Procedure, and Bankruptcy procedure all online…in addition to federal district and appellate cases, and your state cases.  You can also find EOs, statutes, legal forms, and references.  You simply MUST consider your source.

The Internet is best suited for factual research.  You need to take time to become a good researcher.  You need to learn how to verify credible sources and how to discredit websites.

Some public records are available online.  You can buy books that list public records websites.  That will cut down on your search time.  I purchased my book from Half Priced Books.  Every level of government will have their own rules as to what will be made available to the public…particularly online.  If you subscribe to a website that allows you to search a lot of public records at once, make sure you know how to sift through the information to find what you need.

A not-so-all-inclusive list of public records:

  • Statistics
  • Corporate records (secretary of state)
  • Court records (not all)
  • Licenses
  • Criminal records
  • Property information
  • Sex offenders
  • Adoptions (limited)
  • Bankruptcies (PACER)
  • Foreclosures
  • Judgments
  • Liens
  • Copyrights, TMs, and patents
  • Building permits and zoning
  • MVR

When you look for public records you can use a lot of different sites:

  • Court websites

Just, again, know what you are looking for…have a research plan.  Make sure you know the spelling of the name.  Also remember that typos on public records can and do happen.

Use a browser that allows you to use multiple tabs (which I think as of the day I am putting this together is most of them).

Find and bookmark databases that pertain to your area of law, expert witnesses, and that hold good paralegal information (like this one).  Check them.  Add them to your feed reader or subscribe via email.

Defining Success

We all possess a preconceived notion of what we consider success.  We see big houses, nice cars, and nice clothes…and we think the one(s) that have any of those things must have a certain level of success.

One thing you must realize is that success is subjective to the individual.

A couple of days ago, I drove through several of the old neighborhoods that I lived in as a child.  By the time I started high school,  I had attended 13 different schools.  My parents weren’t in the military.

I do this once in a while to remind myself of how much I have accomplished.  To me, being able to finish my education and reach a certain degree of professionalism is successful.  I don’t need a big house.  I live in an apartment.  I don’t need a brand new car.  I drive my four year old car.  I don’t need designer clothing.  I purchase all of my clothing from clearance racks or certain thrift stores.

I can tell you this – my definition of success is simply being pleased with rising above my childhood and living a content life.

You have to define success for yourself.  Other people might not agree with you.  I could introduce you to people in my family that don’t agree with me.  However, your definition of success is for YOUR life.  Their opinion might be nice, but it’s just an opinion.  What works for them may not work for you.

Don’t compare yourself to others.  Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks is successful or what isn’t successful.  That is something only YOU can decide for YOUR life.


Jackson Civil Suit

Jackson Civil Suit

Michael Jackson‘s mother, Katherine, is suing AEG in a civil suit for wrongful death alleging that AEG did not do enough to investigate Conrad Murray before allowing him to care for Jackson.

Professional presentation

Professional presentation

This is directed at attorneys, but much like a couple of other things I’ve sent out today…what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  Professionalism is the name of the game.  You’ve chosen to enter into a conservative field.  Know how to present yourself and you will be most esteemed.

Websites lawyers love!

Websites lawyers love!

I would like to presume that since attorneys love these, so will paralegals.  Actually, I would go with anyone who holds an interest in law will love them.  I found this through Twitter.

Websites lawyers love!

Websites lawyers love!

I would like to presume that since attorneys love these, so will paralegals.  Actually, I would go with anyone who holds an interest in law will love them.  I found this through Twitter.  

Girl receives felony charge over science project

Girl receives felony charge over science project

Read the link above.

She mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a plastic bottle.  It exploded.  No one was injured.  She alleges it was for a science fair project.  The school expels her.  She’s arrested for possession / discharge of a weapon.  She is now facing a felony.  She’s 15.

Do you think this is a fair charge if you consider the wording of the Florida statute?  What do you think would be mitigating facts (if any)?  What about an affirmative defense?

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