On Casetext, attorneys search the law—cases, statutes, and regulations—for free, annotated by insights from the country’s leading lawyers. With Casetext Pro, we’re now applying cutting-edge data science to this legal library. Together, this content and technology are powering features that help researchers understand judicial opinions more deeply and avoid missing critical information. Here are 5 easy steps to really master a case you’re researching.
Start by pulling up a case of interest from our library of state and federal law. (Learn more about tips and tricks for searching on Casetext here.)
Step 1: What is this decision about?
After finding a promising case in your search results, you’ll want to know whether it’s actually relevant to your work. Summaries from Subsequent Cases can help you figure out if it’s worth digging into, or if you should move on to something else.
These are quotes from later cases that concisely summarize the holding of the case you’re reading. Since these summaries come directly from the courts, they are the best source of guidance on whether you’re on the right track.
Step 2: What are the most important key passages?
Next, orient yourself toward the sections of the case that are likely to be the most relevant to your research. Key Passages and the Heatmap will give you a better idea of what this case is about and where you should focus your attention in the document.
These are the sections of this case that have been quoted the most by other cases and articles in the Casetext library. Knowing which cases are most frequently quoted by leading lawyers and law firms will help ensure that you don’t miss an important issue and might even inform which sections you choose to rely on, too.
Another tool you can use to get a quick idea of the most important parts of the case is the Heatmap, a visualization of how frequently other court opinions and articles cite to each case in the opinion. (Learn more about the Heatmap here.)
Step 3: What have other lawyers written about this case?
Now that you’ve confirmed this case is on point, it’s time to dive in! And the most valuable way to understand the case is to see how it’s applied in practice, so that you can get a sense of how you might apply it to your own case.
The Insights section is where you’ll find helpful commentary from other attorneys about the case you’re reading.
As the name implies, this feature is meant help you truly master the case by gaining insights and context from others who have first-hand experience relevant to this case. These articles can help you can understand how this case has been applied in the past, what developments have occurred in the field since the decision, and which parts of the case people care about.
Once you’ve read through the articles that seem relevant to you, you’ll be able to read the case with the benefit of deep background knowledge, and a much better idea of how the case relates to your research.
Step 4: How do I learn about a passage of interest?
Now that you’ve given yourself a solid foundation for mastering this case, you can read the opinion in full with the expertise of the legal community in mind.
As you’re reading, keep accessing context to help you understand the case at a more granular level, down to the different interpretations of a particular sentence.
When you click on a highlighted passage in the case text, the Insights (as well as the Citing Cases - subsequent decisions that cite the case you’re reading) will filter down to only those that cite that particular sentence. In other words, as you’re reading this case, you can see how other lawyers and judges have interpreted that sentence in the past, which may very well inform how you think about that issue in your case.
Step 5: What other cases should I read?
Once you’ve gotten what you need out of this case, your last step is using the case itself to figure out what should be up next on your reading list, beyond your initial search results. Consult the list of Citing Cases to see all the cases that cite to the case you just finished reading. (The list is sorted by relevance as a default, which is determined primarily by how often the later case cites the case you’re reading. You can also sort by date or level of court, if you prefer.) The snippets show the section of the later case that cites the case you’ve been reading.
Click the title or snippet of a case to read and review for relevance without losing your spot in the original document. If it turns out you want to dive more deeply into this later case, click on the title to open a new window with the full version of the case that has all the same tools to help you master this one just as thoroughly as you did the last one.
Bonus: How to share it, print it, save it, Tweet it...
Once you’ve mastered this case, you definitely don’t want to lose track of it. There are a few different ways you can save your research:
- Share it: Share the case with a colleague by emailing a link to a case. Or, if you have some thoughts about the case you’d like to share with your social media followers, share on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, right from the case itself.
- Save it: This will add the case to your bookmarks folder on Casetext, so that you can access it just by logging in to your Casetext account.
- Download it: You can use this to save the case to your computer so you can access it offline, without logging in to your Casetext account. This also allows you to print the case as a PDF, since it automatically saves as a clean, well-formatted PDF document.