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Product Spotlight: Shepard’s® Citations Service

March 31, 2023 (4 min read)

This post was originally published in January 2020 and was updated in March 2023. 

When citing a 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 during 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. Learn more about the history of Shepard's. 

Why Legal Citation Is Important

Simply put, a legal citation is when you refer to an authority in an effort to validate the points you’re making in your argument. As a 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 cited to an overruled decision or missed a conflicting case. 

Lawyers can quickly scan for Shepard’s Signal™ indicators 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.

How to Use Shepard’s Legal Citations

On the Lexis platform, after you conduct a search, you’ll be able to see Shepard's Signal indicators within your results list 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 that offers highlights of the Shepard’s Report breakdown. You can even access an exclusive Reason for Shepard's Signal feature showing you the strongest citing decision for that case. 

Within the Shepard's Report, lawyers can use graphical view to see how their case has been treated in different jurisdictions or over time. Using filters, you can easily sort to cases most relevant to you or find other Lexis content that cites to the case. Do a deep dive on Shepard's indicators and the Shepard's report. 

Expanded Shepard's Features on Lexis+®

Lexis+ also has additional Shepard's features not found anywhere else. Shepard's® At Risk identifies cases at risk of being overruled because they cite to cases that have been negatively treated. Shepard's At Risk can notify you that the case you are citing to may not have as much precedential value as previously thought. 

Lexis+ also has an expanded graphical history for each case. The expanded history tracks each action within a case including appeals, habeas petitions, court transfer attempts, and more to give you the full picture of the life cycle of the case. 

Why Build Your Case with Shepard’s?

Shepard's is the gold standard for citation validation. 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. Learn more about Shepard's Citations Service directly from the experts.

Should You Use Shepard’s Citations Service?

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®, Sheshunoff®, and A.S. Pratt® titles. You’ll also get exclusive time-saving visualization tools, along with the reassurance that you’re working with current information.

Gain confidence that you're citing good authority and make a stronger case with Shepard's

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