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Six legal research tools to know about in 2017

Ryan Pottebaum
National Client Representative, Thomson Reuters

Like in almost every field, digital disruption is a major game-changer for the legal industry. The demand for legal services is evolving as segmentation grows in the nature and delivery of services. With these new challenges and demands, it’s crucial to have industry-leading technology to ensure you are working most efficiently without sacrificing accuracy.

Below are 6 new legal research tools on Westlaw to know about in 2017 to streamline your legal research and get the relevant information you need quickly.

1. Research Recommendations

This feature uses your current legal research session to recommend additional cases, Key Numbers, and statutes related to the issue you are searching. Research Recommendations is triggered after you have opened and viewed a number of documents in your research session. You have the option to turn it off, but I recommend letting it run as it’s a great way to bolster your legal research, ensure that your research is thorough, and let Westlaw do some of the work for you.

2. Best Portion

Plain language searching just got a little bit better. Best Portion helps you quickly determine the relevancy of a document by directing you to the most relevant language. Sections are indicated by a green arrow and brackets, and there can be up to 4 “Best Portions” per document. Best Portion sections are determined by search term occurrence, frequency and proximity; streamlining your legal researching by directing you to the heart of the document.

3. Westlaw Answers

I often find myself looking for that seminal case laying out the elements for a specific cause of action, or the definition of a particular legal term. Westlaw Answers contains specific answers to common legal questions from authoritative court decisions. Simply type in phrases like “breach of contract” and you will have instant access to a list of cases that lay out core concepts like the elements or statute of limitations for breach of contract in your selected jurisdiction. This feature appears in the “Looking for this?” drop-down menu, allowing you to find the answer quickly and save time on legal research.

4. Snapshots

Snapshots provide you a quick summary of people, companies or popular statutes. Your global searches will now incorporate PeopleMap, Company Investigator and statute summaries. The Snapshots appear on the right-hand side of your search results, with links to bring you to more detailed information, providing quicker access to this content with fewer transactions.

5. Folder Analysis

This is another great addition that you can take advantage of by simply placing cases from your legal research into a folder. Westlaw will now analyze the cases in your folders to determine the legal issues present and display a breakdown of those issues. Folder Analysis will also recommend additional cases based on the issues identified to bolster your legal research.

6. Research Report

Westlaw now allows you to create a report summarizing your legal research. The report displays all of the research in your folder including annotations. There is also a table of contents allowing for quick navigation. I especially like this feature when I write a memorandum of law for any of my colleagues who are less than comfortable with legal research tools. I can quickly share my research and attach it to my memo so that my co-workers can quickly review any of the authority I cite.

Don’t have Westlaw yet? View the Westlaw demo video and sign up for a free trial to see how Westlaw can help you with your legal research.

About the author

Ryan Pottebaum

Ryan Pottebaum is the NCR for Southern California and much of the west coast, in addition to being an NCR team product lead for CA Jury Instruction Selector and Immigration Resources on Westlaw. Ryan graduated from the University of Minnesota and Hamline University School of Law, cum laude. Ryan has two years of experience as a Reference Attorney at Thomson Reuters, and worked in private practice in Minneapolis prior to joining Thomson Reuters in 2013. He lives in Minneapolis and enjoys biking, Jiu Jitsu and travel.