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When citing another case to point to precedent in your favor, relying on good law is critically important. That’s what makes Shepard’s Citations Service so valuable. Through an intuitive citation symbols and notes format, it’s a powerful legal citation tool that can help attorneys build stronger strategies.
Lawyers rely on Shepard’s in the course of their legal research to help them build and refine their legal strategies. It allows attorneys to reveal the strength of the law they’re using—which can potentially affirm an argument (or unravel it).
Shepard’s Citations Service has its roots back in the 19th century and has evolved in the era of digital online research to become synonymous with legal citations. It’s so trusted in fact, that it’s turned into a verb—judges have asked if you had thought to Shepardize® your work.
Shepardize: A legal research method of locating reports of appeals decisions based on prior precedents from Shepard’s Citations Service; determining if a case is “Good Law,” valid and citable.
Simply put, a legal citation is when you refer to another authority in an effort to validate the points you’re making in your argument. As a general rule, the more precedent you’re able to cite in support of your legal strategy, the stronger your argument can be in the eyes of the court.
That’s why a legal citations tool like Shepard’s can be extraordinarily helpful—you don’t want to find out in court that you’ve missed an overruled decision.
Lawyers can quickly scan for Shepard’s Signal™ indicators (more details in the next section) to quickly determine the strength of the law found within a case. That makes it easy for an attorney to decide whether to use that case in their argument or abandon it in search of stronger precedent.
If you’re a Lexis® subscriber, then you can take advantage of this powerful legal citation software already, because it’s built right into the legal research service.
After you conduct a search, you’ll be able to see these indicators within your results to help you navigate to the cases with the strongest precedent to support your strategy.
Then, when you select a case and enter the full-text view, you get a Shepard’s preview (more on that in a moment) that offers highlights of the Shepard’s report breakdown, as well as a link to the citing reference that most strongly influenced the Shepard’s Signal indicator—not to mention a handy “Shepardize this document” tool.
On certain cases you can even access an exclusive Reasons for Shepard’s Signal feature.
Even better, lawyers can leverage helpful graphical tools to quickly see when a case was treated positively by one court and negatively by another.
To make it even easier to get a quick look at a case’s Shepard’s treatment when you view a full-text case, you can see a Shepard’s preview that offers highlights of the Shepard’s report, as well as a link to the citing reference that most strongly influenced the Shepard’s Signal indicator.
You’re also able to refine your search and uncover direct relationships between your case and others in the history chain. See the direct path from a major citing event to your case so you can quickly focus on the cases you need to read. This is an extremely valuable feature that can help you validate your position and uncover additional support.
See some of these handy case analysis tools firsthand. Here's a quick video that'll show you a trio of handy Shepard's tools inside the Lexis service: Reason for Shepard’s Signal™, Shepardizing™ Case Headnotes and Shepardizing Statutory Subsections.
With the advent of the Lexis+ platform, the Shepard's Citations Service introduced some new tools and enhancements, particularly the Shepard's At Risk feature. This video walks you through Shepard's At Risk, plus highlights some powerful Shepard's analysis tools within Lexis and Lexis+.
Experienced attorney-editors read each case and make their assessments according to strict standards and guidelines. Editors map the history chain and also provide headnotes written in the language of the court to ensure a true reflection of court holdings.
Perhaps more importantly, you can easily spot splits of authority. That’s because Shepard’s attorney-editors are not just looking for negative treatments, they’ll also reveal when a case has been “followed” in whole or in part.
The human component is important because, through that careful analysis, the editors are able to identify the subtle ways a court may refer to a case, picking up nuanced treatments a computer algorithm might miss.
Shepard’s offers a full range of editorial treatments—positive treatment as well as negative treatment like Overruled and Distinguished. And the service will highlight the relevant areas in which you need to investigate, helping you jumpstart your legal research.
And, to ensure the highest accuracy possible, the team at Shepard’s works hand-in-hand with courts to identify, clarify and correct substantive factual and legal errors in cases. Cases are received electronically from courts every 15 minutes and new information is added to Shepard’s every 15 minutes. On average, Shepard’s analysis for new cases is available online within 48 – 72 hours.
Legal citations are an essential component of any legal argument, so it’s imperative that lawyers use some criteria for vetting the citations in their work.
While there are other legal citations resources out there, Shepard’s gives you access to powerful treatises including Matthew Bender®, LexisNexis® Sheshunoff® and LexisNexis® A.S. Pratt® titles. You’ll also get exclusive time-saving visualization tools, along with the reassurance that you’re working with current information.
If all of that sounds good to you, experience Shepard’s firsthand with a Free Trial of Lexis Advance.
Click here to get your free trial*