WESTLAW NEXT Tip of the Week: Headnotes and Synopses Make Cases Easier to Find on Westlaw Next

July 8, 2013

Tip of the Week

Are you confident the search terms you use will match up with the cases you’re looking for? When you’re searching for malpractice cases, you use the term “malpractice” – seems pretty straight forward. But how will you find the relevant court opinions that do not use the term malpractice in the opinion? More than 2,500 cases related to malpractice lack the term in the opinion.

Attorney-editors write case synopses and headnotes and include legal synonyms, terms of art, and the legal relationship of the parties, using words and phrases that you’re likely to use in a search. This exclusive editorial process adds “findability” to every case – ensuring you don’t miss important law.


Attorney-editors create a synopsis for each case. The synopsis describes the background of the case – who sued whom and why, plus what has happened in the case prior to the current decision.

Iin the case below, attorney-editors used the term Mortgagee in the synopsis. The court opinion does not include the term Mortgagee, but instead only uses the party’s name, First Midwest Bank, or Plaintiff. Mortgagee is more likely to match-up with a researcher’s search terms.



A headnote is a single sentence that reflects a point of law made by the court. Attorney-editors craft a headnote for every specific point of law covered in every published opinion, making it possible to quickly determine what the case means and whether it is relevant.

Headnotes are essential to legal research. Without headnotes and our editor-added search terms, you might miss relevant authority. More than 17,000 cases that involve a mortgagee contain the word mortgagee in a headnote, but not in the opinion. You can still find these cases on WestlawNext because attorney-editors used the term mortgagee in at least one headnote.


Attorney-editors add over 150,000 search terms to cases on WestlawNext® each year. With added terms such as synonyms, terms of art, generic names, and legal relationships, you’ll find relevant cases that you may miss with other legal research services.

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