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.