Why you need KeyCite

Nick Borger
National Client Representative, Thomson Reuters

There is an old saying that goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me".

This adage is applicable to most situations in life, but it is particularly true when one goes before a court. It is never a good idea for an attorney to misrepresent facts or the state of the law to the ultimate arbiter of truth. Misrepresenting the state of the law, even if done unintentionally, can ruin a lawyer’s reputation in the legal community.

The best way for an attorney to ensure that they are relying on arguments that reflect the true nature of the law is to use KeyCite on Westlaw and Westlaw Edge. KeyCite is the most accurate, up-to-the-minute citation service on the industry’s easiest, most intuitive legal research system, combining Thomson Reuters' 125-year tradition of editorial excellence with its leading-edge technological expertise to make verifying legal research easier and more efficient than ever. An attorney can use it to instantly verify whether a case, statute, regulation, or administrative decision is good law, or whether a patent or trademark is still valid, and to find citing references to support your legal argument. KeyCite provides easy to understand visual indications at the very top of a document that let practitioners see at a glance the status of a case, statute, regulation, administrative decision, patent trademark or secondary source. 

red flag warns that the case is no longer good law for at least one of the points of law it contains. 

yellow flag warns that the case has some negative story, but hasn't been reversed.

A blue and white striped flag indicates that the case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.

An orange warning icon is a feature available only in Westlaw Edge. This icon warns that a case may be implicitly undermined based on its reliance on an overruled or otherwise invalid prior decision.

KeyCite can also alert an attorney to other facts about an authority that will be helpful in analyzing a case. For example, if the attorney sees the symbol C next to a document they can immediately tell that the authority has citing references but no direct history or negative citing references, meaning they can cite the case with confidence. Similarly, if the attorney sees the symbol H they know that the case has history which may affect the way the law might be interpreted.

KeyCite information is available for every case in West’s National Reporter System, plus federal statutes and regulations, statutes from all 50 states, administrative decisions from selected federal agencies, regulations and administrative decisions from selected states, patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, more than 1 million unpublished cases,  American Law Reports (ALR) annotations, articles from hundreds of law reviews, and thousands of briefs.

Westlaw Edge users will notice a new orange warning icon. This exclusive feature, called KeyCite Overruling Risk, cautions you when a point of law in your case has been implicitly undermined based on its reliance on an overruled or otherwise invalid prior decision. Westlaw Edge is the only legal research service to provide this new type of warning.

Starting your research with KeyCite

While it is always a good idea for an attorney to finish their research by checking the good-law status of their cases using KeyCite, KeyCite can also be used as a jumping off point at the beginning of research. Opening KeyCite for a resource gives an attorney immediate access to a wide array of additional authorities that may further refine and expand their understanding of that area of law.

When a practitioner accesses KeyCite information on a piece of “source authority” they gain access to a wealth of commentary. KeyCite’s classification system can answer all the major questions about an additional resource without even requiring the attorney to open the document.

One glance at KeyCite can tell an attorney who the litigants in a related case are, what areas of law are discussed by the subsequent authority, why the treatment of the subsequent case is relevant to the history of the source authority, where the subsequent case was decided, when the subsequent case is decided, and how much the subsequent case discusses the source authority.

Of course, those quick answers convey a wealth of information. Many attorneys find the Depth of Treatment bars available through KeyCite to be an incredible time saver. Before these Depth of Treatment bars were introduced, an attorney would need to manually look at each case to determine how closely the discussion tracked with the authority they were checking. Now attorneys can determine, without spending time reading the case, if their source authority is discussed a lot:

Or just a little:

Staying Up-To-Date with KeyCite

Attorneys can also create an alert that will give them regular updates on cases that affect their practice. Attorneys can select certain cases to track closely and will receive daily, weekly, or monthly alerts that keep them up to date on the most cutting edge legal decisions relate to issues important to their practice.

Walking in with confidence

With KeyCite as a resource, an attorney can make their research more efficient and can walk into any courtroom confident that they are complying with their ethical duties of candor and truthfulness toward the court.

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