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Researching Cases Online: Introduction

Prepared by Dorie Bertram for the Fall Semester of Legal Research Methodologies

Useful Links

Read More About It in Sloan

Chapter 9. Cases

Useful Phone Numbers

Bloomberg Law
1-888-560-BLAW (2529)

Lexis Advance
1-800-45-LEXIS (1-800-455-3947)

1-800-WESTLAW (1-800-937-8529)

Types of Searching

This research guide will explain how to locate cases by 1. Word Searching, 2. Subject Searching using a digest or topic outline and 3. using the "One Good Case Method."

Word Searching

Whether you are running a "Natural Language" Search or a Terms & Connectors Search, the system will execute a search based on the terms used in the cases and, depending on the service, metadata related to the case. For more information on Text Searching, see Searching Bloomberg Law, Lexis Advance and Westlaw

Subject Searching

A case digest is a sophisticated subject index to legal opinions. A digest consists of summaries of the legal issues addressed in the opinions being indexed and a detailed topic outline of the law. Each vendor has their own proprietary topic and subtopic organizational scheme. Each issue summary is assigned a topic/subtopic by an attorney editor. 

By browsing and/or searching the topics and subtopics of the outline you can isolate the topic/subtopic that represents your issue and then retrieve all cases that have been assigned that topic/subtopic.  A case digest brings together all of the cases on a topic irregardless of the terms used in the case.

The One Good Case Method

Cases published by commercial vendors have headnotes, added by their attorney editors, summarizing the issues in the case .  Each headnote is assigned one or more topics/subtopics.  If you find a case on point and want to find more cases like it (from the same or a different jurisdiction) just find the relevant headnote and click on the topic/subtopic to retrieve all cases that have been assigned that topic/subtopic.