Best practices to raise the bar on legal research with Westlaw Edge Canada
Processes, trends, and expectations are always in flux, and technology so often drives the changes. Sometimes those changes can turn nearly impossible tasks into ones that are now feasible. When that happens, a refresh of your routine is in order. So, whether you're new to legal research or looking to stay on top of your game, here are some modern best practices for legal research every lawyer should implement.
1. Start with a quick scan of relevant law
There's a lot of law out there. Reading all of it is simply impossible. Today's lawyer in-the-know also turns to synopses, descriptions, filters, and taxonomies to get an overview of the law. These tools help winnow out information that is perhaps related, but not necessarily relevant to your research. This can save you precious time spent digging deep into what could be a dead end.
2. Get insight into how courts have interpreted legislation
Even carefully drafted legislation is open to interpretation. Part of the legal research process is finding cases that apply the legislation in a way that increases your understanding of the law or is favourable to your client's position. To do this efficiently, rely on curated lists of cases that substantively discuss statutory provisions. Armed with the most relevant decisions, you are several steps ahead in the noting-up process.
3. Eliminate invalid citations as quickly as possible
Building your case on solid footing is essential to clients. Doing so in a timely fashion is essential to your bottom line. Top lawyers will use every tool in their kit to get to work efficiently while maintaining (or improving) the quality of their work. KeyCite flags in Westlaw Edge immediately indicate whether anything has been negatively treated in a case, so you don't have to navigate to the full document. It's the assurance you need, right within your search results.
4. Rely on editorial expertise to see beyond the obvious issues
Legal technology continues to unlock insights that, in the past, would have meant a mountain of work for lawyers to uncover. Editorial insight can help lawyers identify not only whether a case may be implicitly undermined based on its reliance on an overruled or otherwise invalid prior decision, but the specific paragraphs at which the invalidation may occur. So, while checking your work with KeyCite was previously good enough, in the years to come, you can count on a new level of scrutiny. Ideally, you will be the first to find those at-risk citations and not your opposing counsel or judge.
5. Check your work before going public
Every lawyer worth their salt knows that putting their legal documents through the wringer in the safe confines of the office is a crucial part of the process. Before sending them out into the world, simple but vital acts, like spell check or formatting checks must be included in any list of best practices. These are the fundamental tasks that save you from potential embarrassment – or worse.
6. Optimize your workflow
Working smarter, not harder isn't exactly a groundbreaking idea, but so many of our days are lost to repetition and rebuilding. The best legal research tools make this easy for you. Consider saving frequently-run search queries using Westlaw Edge. Similarly, familiarize yourself with new capabilities of your legal research tools, like the ability to sidebar with ease or highlight multiple key terms in Westlaw Edge.
While these actions may not completely change your day, when it comes to optimizing your own approach, little changes do add up over time and become standard procedure. One sure-fire way to stay at your best is to remain open to new ways of working and to the innovative legal research tools that enable them.