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Tips to jumpstart your research

Jeremy Byellin
Thomson Reuters

Getting to the point of feeling that your legal research is truly finished requires a comprehensive start to the research process. Even though it may sound simple enough to get a good start on your legal research, many legal professionals spend more time than they would probably prefer on it – which, in turn, causes the entire research process to take longer. It may even still produce deficient results. So, how best can a good start be achieved?

First, you must identify the legal issues that you will be researching, along with the jurisdiction in which your legal matter is located. Once that’s taken care of, turn to tools available in Westlaw Edge for the necessary good start to your research project.

WestSearch Plus

Often, the most basic legal questions take longer than expected to complete. With WestSearch Plus, as you type black-letter terms or search queries into the global search bar, you will see a list of suggested questions from which to begin your research. WestSearch Plus helps you quickly locate the information you need, without immediately plunging you into a lengthy result list.

Westlaw Edge leverages exclusive AI-enhanced search technology, rooting out the most relevant type-ahead suggestions as you type, and instantly surfacing responses to your chosen queries – saving you valuable time early in your research. Then, beyond just the most responsive language to your black-letter law question, WestSearch Plus identifies the underlying authority for each response, as well as a full list of results so you can dig further into the topic without delay.

Table of Authorities

If you have a citation list, or even the start of a citation list, a simple and effective way to find additional support is with the Table of Authorities tab on each case cite. The Table of Authorities provides a list of all of the authorities cited within that case, along with essential information about each citation - such as the treatment the cited authority received, how in-depth the case was discussed, and the location of the citation within the citing case.

While not all cited authorities will apply to the legal issue being researched, the Table of Authorities feature, nevertheless, offers valuable resources at the beginning of your legal research process.

Quick Check

Westlaw Edge Quick Check gives you a jump-start on your research by allowing you to upload a brief or motion to quickly review and identify legal authority you may want to investigate further.

Use Quick Check to quickly and securely upload a document to determine whether additional relevant authority exists that traditional research may have missed, and review any negative KeyCite treatment of each citation.

Quick Check can help:

  • Examine an early draft of a brief or memo that you're still working on to finish your research faster
  • Double-check a memo that you've already thoroughly researched to see if you missed anything important
  • Update an older brief that may cite outdated law or require newer authority
  • Evaluate a colleague's work product
  • Get a jumpstart on responding to an opponent 

Journals, law reviews, and other secondary sources

One of the biggest mistakes made when conducting legal research is dismissing secondary sources, such as journals and law review articles. After all, they can’t be cited in your argument as precedent, so it’s tempting to just ignore them in favor of focusing on primary law.

To those who know better, such resources can be invaluable, especially at the outset of one’s legal research process, when the legal issue at hand may not yet be fully understood. Secondary sources can help researchers better understand an issue, by providing explanations of often complex legal matters, and pointing researchers in the direction of pertinent authorities. It’s important to remember that most articles, journals, and treatises typically include analyses of case law, often within a specific jurisdiction.

Making your good start a reality

The above starting points are all strong ones and other seasoned researchers may have their own favorites that give them a good start to their research. Whichever manner you choose to begin your legal research journey, Westlaw Edge has a number of resources available to help you start strong.

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