Case study

Hirsch & Westheimer: Westlaw helps us spend less time on research and more time on client service

Hirsch & Westheimer is a 103-year-old firm located in downtown Houston. The firm’s litigation section focuses primarily on commercial litigation, including banking and real estate litigation. The firm, which has 20 lawyers, also has a business transactional group and a real estate group, along with other lawyers who specialize in estate planning, probate, and bankruptcy.

Joseph Anderson, an associate attorney in the firm’s commercial litigation department, is one of the newest associates at the firm, but despite his relatively short time in the legal industry, he’s already noticed how technology – like Westlaw – has greatly enhanced the quality of service he can offer to clients. “We focus heavily on trying to give the best value to our clients,” Anderson says. “I can't imagine a situation where Westlaw wouldn't be worth the investment because it’s going to save you time – and every minute that you save is better for you and your client.”

For any law firm associate, nothing is more important than the ability to do a number of tasks accurately and quickly in order to better help the firm’s partners offer the best service to clients. It is this kind of improvement in efficiency and productivity that Westlaw offers by allowing users to perform complex research more quickly and accurately that can pay real dividends.

“I’ve been using Westlaw on almost a daily basis, and I can’t imagine what I would do without it,” Anderson says. “Even for things as simple as looking up state and federal statutes, it’s easily the best resource there is.”

“It was just as easy to look up the Rules of Civil Procedure in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Arizona, as it was to look them up in Texas,” he explains. “It allowed me to pull up Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s versions of the Uniform Commercial Code and search cases that are interpreting specific provisions so that we could respond to allegations and a lawsuit based on binding authority in each state. In cases involving the law of other jurisdictions, Westlaw can be invaluable.”

That kind of efficiency, speed, and accuracy has allowed Anderson and other firm attorneys to greatly improve their efficiency, and spend less time researching and more time working with clients or coming up with the strategic solutions that best serve their clients’ interests.

Westlaw also proved to be an invaluable partner in another one of the roles Anderson takes at the firm, along with the partner with whom he works: acting as outside general counsel for a number of financial institution clients. “In that situation, clients almost always have questions that they need answered quickly,” Anderson explains, adding that, for example, clients have had numerous questions about the recent regulatory changes to the Texas Durable Power of Attorney Act. “And every time we get a question about a specific situation or statute, we often need to research the issue very quickly, pull PDFs of the pertinent statutory sections, and write up a brief response analyzing the client’s particular issue.”

In addition, Anderson says he routinely drafts different kinds of motions, and even if he has a formatted answer for a motion for default judgment, he often uses Westlaw to double-check each case and citation and tailor the specific analysis to each particular case as needed. In fact, he joked, he’s relied on Westlaw so regularly, as far back as law school, that he can’t even visualize the statutes and rules without seeing them in the way that Westlaw has them presented.

Beyond the search capabilities, there are other Westlaw enhancements that Anderson has used and greatly appreciated. For example, he says that notes of decisions and the citing references are a huge time-saver, often helping him find support for novel arguments. Recently, he was looking up the elements of breach of contract and the requirements that are needed to prove alter ego liability. Using Westlaw, he was able to find a good description of the requirements and was able to click on the citing references to see if any appellate court that has jurisdiction over the district courts in this matter was using the same framework. “That ended up being a really big help for me in that case.”

Another Westlaw benefit that Anderson has come to rely on is Westlaw Reference Attorneys, which he admits “has saved me multiple times.” In one instance, after thoroughly researching a particular issue, his partner suggested using a Reference Attorney to make sure there were no unknown decisions or rulings that would run counter to the legal position they were outlining for a client. The Reference Attorney – a bar-admitted attorney and research specialist who can offer real-time assistance – was quickly able to help confirm that there were no opinions they had missed in their research. Anderson explained that having another set of eyes to quickly and effectively take a look at a research question has been extremely helpful on a number of occasions.

Given how Westlaw has greatly impacted his day-to-day work and allowed him to increase his efficiency and productivity, Anderson can’t imagine doing his job as effectively without it. “I can’t even imagine what it was like before Westlaw,” he says. “With the exception of my computer, Westlaw may be the most important and helpful resource I use in my practice.”

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