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Faster research with lower risk: How Statutes Compare can help

 
Rachel Beithon
Insight Attorney

If you’ve ever tried to understand the way a statute has changed – either recently or over time – you may have become frustrated with having to read years’ worth of statutes to get an idea as to how the legislature amended the law. In some cases, updates are obvious. But when only minor changes have taken place, it can be difficult to comprehend what has occurred with a quick glance. Particularly with long statutes, this can be a huge drain on the time spent researching for your client. Not only that, but manually comparing statutes can mean you risk missing something important that may affect your case.

At one time, you had few options other than painstakingly combing through the law to identify legislative changes. But now, technology can aid in getting this work done faster and with less risk of an oversight. Westlaw Edge is the only legal research service to offer Statutes Compare, a feature that highlights changes to a statute over time. Reducing the time you spend on this task lets you move on to advising your client – the most important part of legal practice.

Statutes Compare allows you to compare both the most recent amendments to a statute, as well as prior versions available in Westlaw. Whether there are 150 versions, or just 2, you can easily view additions and deletions in the text or title of the statute (and, where applicable, changes to numbering), to make sure you’re seeing the full view of the law over time.

Save yourself the time of reading through years of sessions laws, carefully locating the relevant sections in each, to determine the full scope of how a statute has changed.

 

For laws with particularly lengthy statutes of limitations (or no limitation period), knowing the law at the time a cause of action accrued can be essential to properly litigating the action. Statutes Compare can help you to more quickly and accurately determine what has changed, even if the law has been amended multiple times in the intervening period.

If the changes apply retroactively, you may need to know how those amendments came about in the intervening years since accrual. If the law was more restrictive at the time of accrual, that may mean a harsher judgment for your client. Or it may provide you with an argument as to how the court should mete out punishment and sentencing if the law has become less (or more) prohibitive since the time the law was broken. Knowing the changes in leniency can better help you understand legislative intent, particularly when the legislature may not have provided a clear explanation as to why they changed a law. Just knowing how it has changed can let you infer changes in sympathies, helping you to build a better argument for court.

Similarly, understanding these changes can help you manage your corporate clients’ risks and allows you to better advise them on the best way in which to change their policies, internal manuals, or contracts. Legislation can be one of the more complicated, and time-consuming, areas of legal research, and Statues Compare on Westlaw Edge helps to simplify the process of a task that looks deceptively simple but can have lasting consequences.

Confidently providing your clients with advice on changes to the law helps to drive satisfaction in your work product, and lets you to move seamlessly into more complicated areas of law that require greater attention. Allow Statutes Compare on Westlaw Edge to drive your efficiency with legal research.

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