When I was brand new to the legal field, I worked for an attorney who had a little cartoon he kept on his desk. It said “thank goodness justice is blind, since so much legal work is done in briefs.” Briefing, he explained to me, was the single most important skill an attorney needed to master in order to effectively represent his client. Effective briefing includes identifying the issues in a case, citing to proper authority, and crafting a legal argument. If written effectively, a legal brief can put a judge on your side of an issue before you ever step foot in a court room. On the other hand, there is no quicker way to turn a judge against you than to misrepresent the state of the law in your brief.
As a young associate, still wet behind the ears, I knew that the quality of my legal brief was important, but I didn’t have very many supporting resources at my disposal. Now, Westlaw has created a whole suite of tools you can use to make sure that your briefs are laser sharp.
Rely on Westlaw to provide the tools you need to build a winning brief
- As a new attorney, the scariest thing for me was working on a new project without having an example to work from and compare to or a legal briefing template to follow. Thankfully, Westlaw maintains the world’s largest online brief bank for litigators; ensuring that young practitioners will always have a good starting point.
- And there’s Keycite which helps lawyers make sure a case is good law before the attorney cites it. This tool uses icons at the top of cases which are easy to understand and impossible to miss. Keycite also goes a step further, providing analysis of the reasons an attorney might need to think twice before citing to a case in a brief.
- Thomson Reuters has also created a tool that allows attorneys to harness the awesome power of Westlaw directly from their word processors. This tool is called Drafting Assistant. It allows practitioners to use their own word processors to maintain and update the good-law status within their briefs, run online legal research searches from within their document, quickly and easily create a table of authorities, and check the format of their documents and citations.
- Westlaw is constantly listening to feedback from our customers and creating tools that make it easier for attorneys to practice. One new enhancement that I would have loved when I was practicing is Westlaw Answers. Westlaw Answers is a real gift for practitioners looking to quickly find binding authority which sets out matters of black letter law like statutes of limitations or the elements of a claim. Gone are the days of spending an hour finding a case that says something you remember from law school just so you have something to cite to!
With these legal research tools at your disposal, you can quickly and confidently build the strongest argument for your client and develop a reputation as an attorney who gets the job done!
About the author
As a National Client Representative with Thomson Reuters, Nick Borger regularly works with attorneys at many of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the country. Nick leverages his years of experience in practice to assist customers in finding the most efficient ways to conduct their research. Prior to joining the team, Nick was in private practice for five years, focusing mostly on commercial litigation