WESTLAW NEXT Tip of the Week: Using Key Numbers to Find Similar Cases on a Legal Issue

April 23, 2012

Tip of the WeekDid you know that West attorney-editors have been editing, organizing, and classifying the law for over 100 years? Under the West Key Number System®, every legal issue in a case published by West is identified and summarized in a headnote. Each headnote is then classified under one or more Topic and Key Numbers.

 

WEST KEY NUMBER SYSTEM

This arrangement of breaking a court opinion into distinct points of law and then classifying each point with a number has worked so well that the West Key Number System has become the de facto classification system for all American law. Finding one case on point leads you directly to others – in your jurisdiction or any other – so you don’t miss important law.

If you’ve already found a case on point, you can use the Topic and Key Numbers in this case to search for other cases discussing the same legal issues. Here’s how:

  1. Find similar cases on a legal issue or point of law by clicking a Topic or Key Number in the classification hierarchy next to the headnote
  2. Find similar cases on a broad topic by clicking the Topic above the headnote
  3. Find cases that cite to your case for the legal issue or point of law in the headnote by clicking the link below the headnote

You can use the Topic and Key Numbers in this case to search for other cases

Once you’ve clicked on a relevant Topic or Key Number, you can:

  1. View headnote results for your Key Number
  2. View summaries of the decisions
  3. Click the title to view the full text of the decision
  4. Navigate up or down the Topic hierarchy to retrieve additional headnote results
  5. Change the jurisdiction of your headnote results at any time
  6. Search within results to narrow the list of headnotes to those that contain specific terms

Once you've clicked on a relevant Topic or Key Number, you can

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