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“Shepardize” Your Legal Research: Shepard’s Citation Guide Part 2

September 23, 2022 (8 min read)

Whether from a judge or supervising attorney, for years attorneys have heard: “Did you Shepardize® that case?” Shepard’s®, of course, refers to the Lexis Shepard’s Citation Service. Shepardizing is a critical step in any attorney’s legal research process. Utilizing Shepard’s Citator helps ensure your argument is rooted in a strong precedent, helping you to see the way the law has changed over time. Despite the importance of using a citator service, many attorneys don’t know there are multiple ways to use Shepard’s citator.  

Below, we’ll discuss four different ways to Shepardize a case or statute. 

A wealth of resources on Shepard’s Citation Service can also be found on: 

First, however, let’s establish a deeper understanding of the different Shepard’s signals and their intended impact on legal research.  

Shepard’s Signals™  

When Shepard’s was first created in 1873, its founder and inventor, Frank Shepard, used a system of letters to track the treatment of cases. In 1999, Lexis® upgraded those signals to intuitive color-coded shapes.  Now, attorneys can assess the validity of their cases quickly and confidently.  

The seven Shepard’s Signals below show the full scope of analysis available with Shepard’s. From the red warning symbol to the green positive symbol, each signal has a unique meaning to help attorneys understand the nuance in how their case has been treated.  

Shepard’s Signal  






Case has been overruled 


The overall precedent set by the case is overruled and can’t be relied upon; however, certain issues within the case may still be valid. More investigation is needed using features on Shepard’s citator that show a deeper level of nuance. 



Statute or a part of it has been overturned or labeled unconstitutional 

Examine this statute more closely; look at pending legislation for new updates 



A citing reference questions the continuing validity or precedential value of the case 

More investigation is needed into change in circumstances or legislative action 



Courts limit, distinguish, or criticize this case  

More investigation is needed on dissimilar facts or jurisdiction specific application 


Courts expressly follow or affirm this decision  

This case has precedential value and is “good law”  


Neutral Analysis 

Courts are explaining or harmonizing a decision in a neutral manner  

More explanation on this case may be available in citing cases 


Neutral Cited by 

Secondary sources or cases that cite to the case but do not have specific treatment applied.   

Citing references exist for the decision.  


Ways to Use Shepard’s  

Most attorneys think of Shepard’s as just the signal next to the case name, but there are many features of Shepard’s that can help validate a case and expand your research. Taking full advantage of Shepard’s features can give you a fuller picture of the legal landscape surrounding your case.  

A snapshot of Shepard’s and Reason for Shepard’s Signal 

When you’re first starting your research, a snapshot of Shepard’s analysis can be helpful to give you a quick, bird’s-eye view of the case. In addition to a Shepard’s Signal, the snapshot (as seen below) shows a breakdown of citing decisions, appellate history, and the Reason for Shepard’s Signal. 

Reason for Shepard’s Signal shows the specific language a court used to influence the overall Signal of the case. The Top Passage section tells you what case had the strongest influence on the Shepard’s signal and provides the passage where your case has been cited.  

Shepard’s Reports

Shepard’s Reports are the most commonly used and well-known feature. The report is broken up into four sections: 

  • Citing decisions 
  • Other citing sources (e.g., briefs, statutes, and treatises) 
  • Appellate history 
  • Table of authorities 

Each section can be filtered down to find documents that are relevant to an attorney’s research. For example, many attorneys are interested in cases from their jurisdiction only or from recent years if a law has changed. Using the filters on the left side of a Shepard’s Report, you can narrow your results list to match those criteria.  

Shepard’s Reports also has an alert feature that provides an email notification if a case is ever overturned so the most up-to-date information is on hand without having to search for it. 

Shepard’s Headnotes 

In addition to each case having a Shepard’s Signal, our attorney-editor team also adds Shepard’s Signals to Headnotes. Headnotes list out each legal issue discussed in the case, allowing attorneys to see exactly how their legal issue has been treated.  


Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote will bring up a list of citing cases specific to that legal issue.   

Shepard’s on Lexis® for Microsoft® Office

Shepard’s is also integrated with Lexis’s award-winning drafting solution, Lexis for Microsoft Office. Lexis for Microsoft Office’s Get Cited Documents feature pulls all citations from a legal document providing a hyperlink and Shepard’s Signal right in the document. Attorneys can quickly view or download Shepard’s Reports from within Microsoft® Word.  


Shepard’s Analytics

As analytics becomes a larger part of the legal industry, Shepard’s has added analytics to make research even easier. With features like Ravel™ View and Shepard’s® At Risk, attorneys get more in-depth analysis on searches and can be confident they are relying on the best possible case law. 

Shepard’s Citator

Shepard’s Citator also integrates with Lexis analytics. Alison Manchester, LexisNexis Vice President of Product Management, says “Shepard’s historically...was always a one-to-one relationship, one case talking about another...and with technology, you can expand that out exponentially. One case talk[s] about another, talk[s] about a third case, you can map the whole thing out.”  

Ravel™ View

The largest integration in Shepard’s Citator is Ravel View. When searching for case law, Ravel View plots the first 75 returned results in a graph, showing the timeline and court level. Each case is assigned a bubble, with larger bubbles representing more frequently cited cases. Finally, Ravel View provides details regarding how cases in your results list cite to each other. Using the same Shepard’s Signal color-coding, it provides an at-a-glance view that users quickly recognize.  

Shepard’s At Risk

The newest analytics integration is Shepard’s At Risk. Shepard’s At Risk provides an additional layer of analysis for researchers by showing when your case cites to law that has been overturned. Indirect impacts to the precedential value of a case can be difficult to track, but Shepard’s At Risk notifies attorneys of changes before citing it in a brief.  

Why Shepard’s is the Gold Standard Legal Citation Tool

Shepard’s Citator is the most comprehensive citation service available, with almost 37 million citations being Shepardized since its inception. Shepard’s doesn't just apply to cases, but can be found on statutes, court rules, administrative codes, and administrative decisions. The full range of analysis offered by Shepard’s is unmatched and lets attorneys see the nuance frequently found in the law. Alison Manchester says when a citation service is strictly positive or negative “it’s really narrow and in order to figure out what those finer distinctions are, you would have to go and read all the [citing] cases to know.” A full range of analysis allows an attorney to do what they do best – interpret the law to help their client.

Shepard’s Citator is also the oldest citation service available, with case analysis starting in 1873. Because of its long history, Shepard’s citation service has witnessed changes in the law for 145 years. This extensive history and deep understanding of the historical underpinnings of the law help guide the Shepard’s process today. Our attorney-editors follow a rigorous process to get Shepard’s on each court document and have a long history of working directly with courts and reporters.  


“It’s the precision of analysis that’s included with Shepard’s...isn’t available anywhere else”

- Alison Manchester, LexisNexis Vice President of Product Management


LexisNexis® is here to help you with your citation needs. Start Shepardizing with Shepard's Citations Services on Lexis+.  Contact a sales representative today!

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