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The expertise behind your legal research

Mary Schlaphoff
Content writer

When you’re conducting legal research, you don’t always have the time you’d like to spend ensuring it’s as thorough and accurate as possible. Whether you need a quick answer for a client, or you have minimal time to submit your brief, you need the best solution available to be as effective and efficient as possible.

When resources are limited, you turn to technology. But how do you know you can trust the quality and reliability of your legal research technology? It all depends on the quality of the people and processes behind it.

There’s more than artificial to our intelligence

Artificial intelligence and automation enable processing and analytical capabilities that make Westlaw’s research technology more powerful than ever before. But it’s the combination of that powerful technology with humans who have deep legal expertise that leads to the best legal research solution. 

Behind Thomson Reuters Westlaw are more than 500 bar-admitted attorneys with legal expertise to ensure you can complete your research efficiently while remaining confident in its accuracy. For more than 100 years, Westlaw attorney-editors have been categorizing and connecting the law and adding annotations that deliver unparalleled legal information to our customers. When Westlaw selects legal experts to become our attorney-editors, we seek qualities like a strong legal education and bar admission, extreme attention to detail, and passion for the law and advancing the industry.

Efficiency without sacrificing accuracy

Westlaw attorney-editors know legal research must be thorough, but also efficient. They keep this need top of mind while creating editorial enhancements that make it easier for you to find and identify content relevant to your specific issue. For example:

  • Headnotes: Attorney-editors analyze full cases to create Headnotes for each major point of law within an opinion. They not only bring the main legal concepts to the top of the case, but also summarize each issue’s facts, legal principles, and reasonings, with how these elements apply to the court’s holdings. The focus is on helping you quickly understand the case’s relevance to your specific issue so you’ll know which cases are worth diving into further and which ones can be ruled out – saving you time. 
  • Statutes Accuracy: As session laws are passed, attorney-editors work tirelessly to ensure that you are always seeing the most accurate version of a statute. Westlaw attorney-editors are experts in their assigned jurisdictions. They have relationships in place within jurisdictions to know the state’s specific publishing rules. If a new session law creates a conflict between statute sections, attorney-editors leverage these relationships and their jurisdictional knowledge to publish the accurate version. This means that when the law is rapidly changing – even when session laws cause multiple statutes to conflict with one other – you can efficiently find the law that you need on Westlaw and feel confident in its accuracy. 

One place to see the whole picture

When you’re researching an area of the law, you want reassurance that you understand the full picture. There’s the basic text of the law – and then there’s the history, application, and analysis surrounding it. Without an expert team behind your technology classifying, summarizing, and connecting content together, you’re left to do a lot of extra analysis and searching on your own. Westlaw’s attorney-editors help prevent this by making the full picture available in as few steps as possible. For instance:

  • Notes of Decisions: When you look at a statute, you need to understand not only what it means, but also how it’s been interpreted and applied. Westlaw Notes of Decisions are statute annotations that let you look in one place to understand all of this. Creating the bridge between statutes and caselaw, Notes of Decisions are broken down by specific topical categories so you can quickly see current cases, how the courts have interpreted a statute, and how they’ve applied it to a specific set of facts.
  • West Key Number System: The West Key Number System is a precise and evolving topical categorization system of American law that has been in use for more than 100 years. Attorney-editors map every single Headnote within a case to one of 106,612 classifiable Key Numbers, within 386 topics. This granularity of classification – unmatched in the world of legal research – allows researchers to find caselaw that speaks to their specific issue, across jurisdictions. Once you’ve identified the relevant Key Numbers for your matter, you’ll be led to all the relevant caselaw. Even when you’re researching a topic you’re less familiar with – such as the law in another jurisdiction, where the terminology and application may be vastly different from what you know – you can be confident that the Key Number System will lead you to the right information you need.

Enhancements like Notes of Decisions, Headnotes, and the West Key Number System are created and maintained by experienced attorney-editors who want to provide the best possible support and information to their customers. By providing an efficient means for finding and grasping the context and application of the law, attorney-editors help you to have more time and energy available to interpret and apply relevant content to your specific matters.

Your clients and your reputation depend on your ability to be thorough, accurate, and efficient in your legal advice. You won’t always have the time you want, but you do have Westlaw and the expertise behind your technology. Learn more about Westlaw today.

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