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Case study

How Girardi|Keese represents the under-represented – and wins

Girardi|Keese is proud of their stellar reputation for giving a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard. If you’ve seen the blockbuster, Erin Brokovich, you’re already familiar with their work. The movie dramatizes the story of its namesake, a law clerk who helped residents in Hinkley, California bring a personal injury lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric. It was Girardi|Keese lawyers who stepped in to take on the case. They attained the record $333 million settlement for Hinckley residents, and later a $300 million settlement for other residents who suffered the same personal injuries.

“We mostly represent people who are underrepresented in the legal world,” explains Jake Courtney, a partner with the Los Angeles-based firm. “It’s our goal to see that they have a voice, that they have a day in court and that they’re represented by competent counsel.”

In doing so, the firm seeks every advantage to work with the utmost efficiency and accuracy – from hiring top attorneys to supporting those attorneys with leading technology. That reputation is why other firms often refer cases to them. Their clients expect the best, and Girardi|Keese does everything in their power to deliver. To this end, they turn to the newest, best tools to quickly provide the most current, complete, and accurate legal information. It’s why they’ve used Westlaw for years and they have now adopted Westlaw Edge, the latest technological advancement from Thomson Reuters. Its artificial intelligence, built upon more than a century of attorney-edited annotations, maximizes their firm’s time and talent, and gives clients the support they expect.

“To best serve our clients, we need to have the best tools and equipment available, the best research materials available, and the best information available so that we can optimally represent them in court and be as prepared as possible,” says Kenny Ramirez, a Girardi|Keese associate. “Having Westlaw Edge helps us do exactly that.”

Investing in associates’ success

Girardi|Keese leaders turned to associates, like Ramirez, to determine if Westlaw Edge was right for the firm. Partners appreciate that their associates are often the ones who do the deep research that wins cases, and thought they should be the first to evaluate the technology.

“We brought associates into pitch meetings to see how Westlaw Edge was different and where it would give us the advantage,” explains Courtney. “As a plaintiff’s firm, we don’t bill clients for time. So our associates know that any task that takes less time will mean they’ll have more time to spend on some other aspect of a case. When they’re more efficient, they’re happier, and that makes for a happier office.”

Doing work faster and better

Associate William Donovan is glad that Girardi|Keese prioritizes associates by investing in technology. “They’re willing to hear what we have to say; they know that we’re the ones whose jobs need to be easier to get the work done faster and better.”

Out of the gate, Donovan says Westlaw Edge helped him achieve this, noting that when he was introduced to Westlaw Edge, he liked that it was user-friendly and intuitive.

“Sure, you can revamp the look of a website, but you never know if its operations are going to reflect those changes,” he explains. “I was pleasantly surprised with Westlaw Edge. Right away, I could tell that this was a much easier system to navigate."

Efficiently developing winning strategy, setting expectations

Donovan points out that one of the Westlaw Edge tools he considers most valuable is Litigation Analytics.

“It has helped me easily find intelligence about judges and cases, which is incredibly helpful when you walk into a courtroom for the first time with a judge you’ve never met and nobody else you know has worked with,” he says. “To know the types of cases they’ve seen and the rulings they’ve made is a tremendous asset.”

Knowing how judges have handled similar cases is critical to developing smart strategy fast. Instead of spending hours reviewing dockets to better understand a judge’s propensity for admitting or denying motions, for instance, attorneys can run a report in Litigation Analytics and get the information almost instantly.

“To see everything that a judge has presided over, the types of cases they’ve had, and how they’ve ruled helps me prepare. When I go before them, I know what kind of arguments they’ve taken well to, what they’ve not taken to, and how that will affect my case so I can better prepare,” explains Ramirez. “The only way you could get this information before was by asking your colleagues or spending hours researching. But now Westlaw Edge provides this to me in minutes. Furthermore, it’s to the point and gives me what I need to best represent my clients.”

(Want to experience the power of litigation analytics for yourself? Give us the name of a Federal judge you’re going to appear before or the opposing counsel you’re up against, and we’ll provide you a free report about them.)

The ability to quickly attain data on judges is especially important in Southern California where lawyers often don’t know who their trial judge is going to be until about 20 minutes before trial. With Litigation Analytics, they can type the judge’s name into a search bar to quickly see their track record and determine whether it’s worth moving forward with motions like a 170.6 challenge that would disqualify the judge from hearing their case.

“We hear from associates that this alone makes the product worth getting,” notes Courtney.

Data-driven insights on judges, jurisdiction and opposing counsel are also key to setting client expectations – especially since a quick internet search can cause them to draw erroneous assumptions about how their case should proceed.

“You want to give them current and accurate information, not an article from 30 years ago that ran in a legal newspaper,” says Courtney, “because clients will do their own research. You don’t want to misinform them by not being current and accurate.”

Completing research quickly, accurately, and completely

What happens in the courtroom is the culmination of painstaking and extensive research, built upon speed, accuracy and completeness; the litigators at Girardi|Keese say Westlaw Edge helps them achieve all three.  

Accelerating the pace of research with WestSearch Plus

“Westlaw Edge’s WestSearch Plus has been really helpful in getting work done faster,” says Donovan. “The search function has improved tremendously and so has the ability to find answers quickly, especially for someone like me who’s a new lawyer. Being able to get there faster makes a huge difference.”

WestSearch Plus accelerates research with an AI-powered search that formulates queries on legal topics as soon as you start typing in the search bar. The most relevant portion of the text that answers your specific question is automatically displayed; you don’t need to review pages of results to find the answer yourself. Furthermore, results are linked to relevant underlying authority for deeper research.

“It has helped me tremendously by saving time and energy,” says Donovan.

Enhancing accuracy with KeyCite Overruling Risk

However, while speed is important, accuracy is paramount, and that’s where Westlaw Edge provides unparalleled peace of mind with KeyCite Overruling Risk.

Conventional citators only identify when a point of law has been explicitly overturned. The AI functionality built into KeyCite Overruling Risk identifies law that has been implicitly overruled because it references an overruled point of law directly or through using similar language. So instead of spending hours researching every single law they cite to ensure it hasn’t been implicitly overruled, lawyers can simply look for the orange KeyCite Overruling Risk icon to know if they should dig deeper.

“KeyCite Overruling Risk is great because, as a new associate who hasn’t seen a lot of cases on a specific subject area a dozen times, I don’t automatically know which cases are setting precedent and which have been around for years. So it saves a lot of time and energy to see the orange icon and know right away whether I need to spend another half hour reviewing the citation,” explains Donovan. “I know I’m not making a mistake and it often cuts my research time in half, so it’s a huge benefit.”

Building the most complete argument fast with Statutes Compare

The most thorough research includes knowing the intricacies of how a law has evolved. This could involve hours spent meticulously reading over sessions law to note revisions and the authority that made them. Now with Westlaw Edge Statutes Compare you can compare two versions with a single click – deleted text is even redlined and new text is highlighted so you know precisely what’s been changed.

“Statutes Compare saves so much time and headaches,” says attorney Alexandra Steele. “When you’re looking at statutes side by side, the differences pop out without having to underline or highlight. To have that already drawn out for you is amazing.”

Leveling the legal playing field

All these tools work together in Westlaw Edge to provide Girard|Keese a critical overarching benefit: The continued ability to stand up against corporate Goliaths by providing world-class litigation services to the little guy – those who would very likely never be able to afford legal services otherwise.

“If you’re using old legal technology tools or no tools, you’re not going to play on the same level as the big guys,” says Donovan. “You need to have the best tools, and that’s Westlaw Edge. It gives us a competitive advantage, we’re getting information faster and more completely. If you’re not using it, you’re probably at a disadvantage.”

Courtney concurs.

“You have to be current. There are firms that are going forward, and there are firms staying the same and firms getting left behind. You have to spend money to make money by giving the best representation to your clients.”

 “Having the latest tools keeps us at the forefront of the legal profession,” he continues. “Westlaw Edge moves us forward. It’s a small investment for a big return.”

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