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Cost-Effective Electronic Legal Research: Lexis & Westlaw Tips

  • Plan a search before connecting to the system!
  • Call the reference attorneys at Lexis and Westlaw. They can suggest search terms or databases. They will run a search for you and see if there are any hits. 1 -800 45 LEXIS, 1-800-REF-ATTY (733-2889) (Westlaw)
  • Use Alert searches to update research. There is no additional cost for receiving Alerts, but there may be a charge once you click into the document on Lexis/WL if it is outside your plan or you are billing a client.
  • With transactional pricing, you can run a previously conducted search from your History or Trail at no charge, but only until 2 a.m. the next day (Westlaw) or within 24 hours (Lexis). On Lexis Advance, you may access saved research from the History for 90 days.
  • Browse or search the Table of Contents at no charge to save time and to pinpoint relevant statute or treatise sections.  Can avoid a per search charge, if that is a concern.
  • Narrow down and filter Shepards and Keycite results to find the most relevant documents.
  • Browse Topics on Lexis Advance, Search by Topic/Headnote (Classic Lexis); KeyNumber (Westlaw)
  • Print with your Web browser for free to avoid a document delivery fee, if document delivery fees are applicable.  Lexis Advance has no document delivery fee (for printing, emailing, downloading, saving to a folder).
  • Copy with Reference instead of printing, if desirable, to avoid document delivery fees.  Lexis Advance has no document delivery fee (for printing, emailing, downloading, saving to a folder).
  • IF the firm charges the client a per search fee for Lexis Advance or Westlaw Systems.
  • Start with a broad search and then narrow down.  Narrowing down in various ways using Filters on the left side in Lexis Advance and Westlaw. Focus in Lexis.com is free.  Just how broad your search has to be depends on what you are looking for, what you already know and your search strategy. 
  • Note: Westlaw Classic no longer available as of February 2016.

If your employer offers access to one, but not both, of the major providers, or both, but one with a more restrictive contract, make sure you can transition to the preferred system.  See the Cleveland-Marshall Law Library's LibGuide on Bloomberg Law, Lexis and Westlaw Compared.

 

  • Try to minimize the number of documents clicked on, if the documents are off plan, or you are billing a client.
  • In Westlaw, show the most detail to determine the best documents to click on.  In Lexis Advance, use the Free Preview for out of plan documents.  
  • Sort by relevance or most used to determine the best documents to click on.
  • Save documents in folders.  Westlaw and Lexis Advance- free access for one year.
  • You can save an out of plan document in a folder on Lexis Advance for Free, not open it, but then open it later for a fee if needed.
  • With transactional pricing, you can run a previously conducted search from your History at no charge, but only until 2 a.m. the next day (Westlaw)  On Lexis Advance, you may access saved research from the History for 90 days.
  • Citators: In Westlaw, some plans charge an additional amount for a Keycite.  The case itself lists the most negative citing case at the top, so a Keycite may be unnecessary, or Westcheck could be used.   Shepard's report is free on Lexis Advance.  Charges occur in both systems when you click on documents in the Shepards/Keycite report (if documents out of plan or if billing back to client).  Use filters to narrow the Shepard's/Keycite results.
  • Legal Issue Trail can save TIME on Lexis Advance and help to pinpoint relevant documents.
  • Topic Summaries is free on Lexis Advance.
  • If you have a citation, retrieve by typing in the citation instead of searching.  If the firm charges clients a cost per search, then that cost may be saved.
  • See hints that apply to both old and new systems in the box above.

Click on the alarm clock in the upper left to create an alert in Lexis Advance. Alerts send emails of new cases and other documents.  Alerts are FREE.  Alerts can also be created when you use Westlaw and classic Lexis.