April 30, 2012
The West Key Number System® is the master classification system of U.S. law and widely regarded as the cornerstone of effective legal research. For over 100 years, West Topic and Key Numbers have offered legal researchers a convenient way to hone in on a particular legal issue and quickly find on-point cases.
Why Use the West Key Number System?
- It is comprehensive and precise. West attorney-editors index cases into more than 400 topics and 98,000 points of law, allowing you to quickly find other cases that address your exact legal issue – in any jurisdiction.
- It helps you search for legal concepts. Legal research is often a hunt for principles or concepts not easily retrieved with literal word searches. The Key Number System identifies and indexes legal concepts so you can find cases discussing or applying a legal concept, even if those terms aren’t in the court’s opinion.
- It helps you find what you need faster. Easily identify on-point Key Numbers by browsing or searching the outline on WestlawNext®. Or, click on Key Numbers inside documents to quickly locate cases with the same or similar legal concepts and principles.
- It is current and accurate. As the law evolves so does the West Key Number System. Each year, we make hundreds or even thousands of changes – adding new Key Numbers for emerging topics and reclassifying expanding areas of the law. Plus, it’s completely integrated with KeyCite®, so you’ll know the cases you rely on are still good law.
Using the West Key Number Digest
The West Key Number Digest contains the complete Topic and Key Number outline used by West attorney-editors to classify headnotes. Use the digest to locate Topic and Key Numbers related to your issue and to retrieve headnotes classified under those Topics and Key Numbers. To access the West Key Number Digest on WestlawNext:
- Click the Tools tab in the Browse section of the home page.
- Click West Key Number System.
The West Key Number System page displays the full list of digest topics. From here you can:
- Add to Favorites ( ) for direct access from your home page.
- Search Key Number titles to find an on-point Key Number quickly.
- Browse a hierarchy of legal topics to familiarize yourself with an issue or area of law or to locate specific Key Numbers.
Click on a Topic (e.g. Elections) to display the Topic page that contains the Key Numbers classified under that Topic. At a Topic page, you can:
- Search for headnotes classified under a particular Topic or Key Number. Search however you want – simple descriptive terms or Boolean Terms and Connectors – and specify a jurisdiction (up to three) for your results.
- Select specific Key Numbers and then retrieve case headnotes classified under those Key Numbers. Either drill down and click on a specific Key Number or select multiple Key Numbers and click View Headnotes.
The results page displays the headnotes in the middle column under the Key Numbers to which they are classified. On the results page, you can:
- View summaries of the decisions.
- Click a title to view the full text of a decision.
- Navigate up or down the Topic hierarchy to retrieve additional headnote results.
- Change the jurisdiction of your headnote results.
- Search within results to narrow the list of headnotes to those that contain specific terms.
- Narrow the headnote results by Key Number.