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Is my legal research accurate?

Mary Schlaphoff
Thomson Reuters

Some things in the life of an attorney are optional. From going solo to going paperless, you get to choose. However, you know that being confident in the accuracy of your legal research is not optional. If you failed to uncover that a case was overturned or a statute revised, your credibility is done, and your case may be, too.

There’s no reason for that to happen if you have a proper research plan combined with the right tools. Read on for tips to ensure that your legal research is accurate.

Recognize the Limits of Free Research Services

Free legal research services can sound great in theory when you’re under pressure to control costs. However, the limitations of free research services can cost you in the long run and put your research accuracy at risk. Free services are free because they are missing valuable features that save you time and ensure that you are viewing the most up-to-date and accurate cases, statutes, and analytical materials. Such services may not maintain their content, which may be out of date, making the research process more cumbersome and making you less likely to determine whether your case or statute is the most recent.

Get to Know the Westlaw Enhancements That Help Improve Accuracy

One of the best moves you can make to help ensure the accuracy of your work is to rely on research services that are designed with legal research in mind. If you’re a Westlaw Edge user, you get access to tools like Litigation Analytics, KeyCite Overruling Risk, and Statutes Compare. These features are powered by state-of-the-art artificial intelligence that’s built upon more than 100 years of attorney-edited annotations. That means a team of real attorneys, coupled with powerful AI technology, are continuously operating behind the scenes to help ensure that you get the fastest - and most accurate - answers and insights when conducting legal research.

Litigation Analytics

When it comes to litigation, knowing information like a judge’s propensity to rule on similar case types or the background and experience of your opponent can affect your strategy and how you approach a case. It’s also helpful to have an idea of the likely timeline and budget your client can expect so that you can manage their expectations and maintain their trust.

Before Litigation Analytics was available, researching judges, opponents, average time to rule and the like were all cumbersome, inexact processes. Typically, it involved manually searching and analyzing dockets or asking around the firm for anecdotal data. You risked missing - or simply not having access to - important information, and this could affect the accuracy of your analysis.

Litigation Analytics on Westlaw Edge takes the guesswork out of litigation strategy research, and helps you to create more accurate estimates for your clients. Quickly pull up relevant data-driven insights on judges, courts, attorneys, law firms, and case types across numerous practice areas. You’ll be able to gather relevant information from a comprehensive visual representation to respond to clients efficiently and build the best possible case strategy.

KeyCite Overruling Risk

Most research services that flag laws for negative treatment only do so if the law has been directly overturned. Westlaw Edge is the only legal research platform that provides KeyCite Overruling Risk, a citator warning that appears when a point of law in your case may have been implicitly undermined based on its reliance on an overruled or otherwise invalid prior decision. Now you can be more confident you’re citing good law, with a better understanding of how it may explicitly and implicitly impact your case.   

Statutes Compare

If the law has changed, you need to know precisely how so that you can determine whether the change may affect your clients or cases. Statutes Compare on Westlaw Edge saves you the time of going through session laws line by line to understand how they’ve been amended. This feature allows you to see the most recent changes to a statute directly within the document, and easily compare any two versions of a statute right from the History tab. You’ll know your research is more accurate because you’ll quickly see what’s different and from what authority those changes came. 

Insight Attorneys

Westlaw Edge users have exclusive access to Insight Attorneys, the next evolution of our renowned Reference Attorneys. Insight Attorneys combine legal research expertise with training in litigation analytics, artificial intelligence, and data analysis to provide you with an elevated level of support. They’ll help ensure your legal research is accurate by helping you to locate and analyze the right data for your case, leading you to the most relevant results. Insight Attorneys can provide guidance and support at any stage during your legal research process. 

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About the author

Mary Schlaphoff is a contract marketer for Thomson Reuters ProView eBooks specializing in thought leadership, marketing research and branding intelligence. Prior to joining Thomson Reuters in 2016, Mary provided marketing research, strategy and writing services to large and small clients in industries including technology, healthcare and financial services. She holds a BA in Political Science from Coe College and an MBA from the University of Washington.