Site Search | Site Index

Site Search | Site Index

Law Library News

Law Library News Archive

Feb. 21, 2005.
Kristy Moon, editor.

Westlaw Tips That Are Worth Remembering

--Rachael Smith, Reference Intern

Many of you might feel completely familiar with Westlaw. However, for those of you who know that there are tricks to using this online service more efficiently but cannot remember them, here are several tips:

How to find an appropriate database

  • The Directory link takes you to a list of general subject headings. These range from “Public Records” and “International/Worldwide Materials” to “Topical Practice Areas” materials. Clicking on a subject heading and drilling through the folders and sub-folders will eventually lead to a select list of databases.
  • From the Directory, or by clicking on the Westlaw tab, you’ll see "Find a Database Wizard" link on the left frame. The wizard will walk you through an interactive process to determine an appropriate database for your search.
  • KeySearch - bypass selecting a database by using the West Topic and Key Number which is based on West's own organization of legal issues. You choose a Topic and run a keyword search to retrieve relevant cases or secondary sources.

How to refine or brush up on your research skills

“Understanding Westlaw” and “Effective Research on Westlaw” links,, lead to online tutorials and FAQs on topics such as basic searching skills, primary law research, secondary law research, and topical areas research.

How to keep up to date and informed on a topic of interest

Browse recent newspapers, periodicals, caselaw, Federal Register, Congressional Record, Andrews Litigation Reporter, Westlaw Bulletins, and Westlaw Topical Highlights through:

  •, or
  • from, click on “News Bulletins” (second link up from the bottom of the screen).
  • WestClip – set up a clipping service to monitor news and legal developments in your areas of interest. Access WestClip by clicking on the “More” drop-down menu located at the top right corner of the screen.

How to cite check quickly and effectively

  • WestCheck automatically extracts citations from a word-processing document (or you can create your own list of citations) and checks the citations for validity and citing references in KeyCite. Go to or download WestCheck software from (click on Discover Westlaw > Westlaw Services > download WestCheck).
  • WestCiteLink automatically finds the legal citations in your word-processing document and links them to the full-text documents on Westlaw. It can also create a table of authorities for your document. Download WestCiteLink software from (click on Discover Westlaw > Westlaw Services > download WestCiteLink).

How to access the table of contents for basic legal sources

Table of Contents link, at the top center of the screen, provides TOC for sources such as federal and state constitutions, codes, regulations, court rules, and numerous secondary sources. TOC lets you view a document in the context of the sections surrounding it and makes it easier to retrieve related sections.

Where to get additional help

  • Westlaw Account Manager for UW School of Law, Anna Guerra, 800-600-6435.
  • Westlaw Reference Attorneys, 800-REF-ATTY (24/7).
  • Westlaw Technical Support, 800-WESTLAW (24/7).
  • Westlaw Live Help, click on the “Help” link (7am-midnight CST).
  • Reference Librarians – walk in, telephone, or email the Reference Office

Hopefully, these tips will hold true when you are researching in the “real world” using the different levels of Westlaw access that are provided by employers. These tips are important because in most setting you will not have the luxury of unlimited access with respect to money or time. Time is already a luxury for most law students!

Stay tuned for LexisNexis tips coming in the near future.

Book of the Week and Trivia: America’s Lawyer-Presidents

--Kristy Moon

In honor of Presidents’ Day holiday, here is a trivia contest based on Norman Gross (Ed.), America’s Lawyer-Presidents: From Law Office to Oval Office (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2004) (KF353.A46 2004 at Classified Stacks).

The book is an undertaking of the ABA Museum of Law,, as a part of their America’s Lawyer-Presidents project. (Did you know that there was a Museum of Law? I’m definitely checking it out the next time I’m in Chicago.) The book has an encyclopedia look and feel with glossy paper and beautiful color photographs. (When was the last time you read a book with pictures?) Although there are plenty of books that profile American presidents, none focus on their legal careers and the impact that the legal training had on their presidencies.

Here you’ll find fascinating quotes and observations about the subjects’ legal abilities and law practices from their contemporaries and later historians. For example, here is a colorful insult and praise about one lawyer-president: He was “an artful, cunning, intriguing, selfish lawyer,” concerned only with “office and money”…but “give him time to collect the requisite information…and no man can produce an abler argument.” Take a look at this book and learn more about your favorite lawyer-president.

Can you answer the following questions without looking in the book? Give it a try (answers are at the bottom).

  1. Who was America’s first lawyer-president?
  2. He was the first lawyer-president of the twentieth century and had the most diverse legal career of all the lawyer-presidents, serving as a law reporter, prosecuting attorney, superior court and federal judge, law school professor and dean, U.S. solicitor general, and chief justice of the United States.
  3. Although he claimed, “I am not an accomplished lawyer,” he handled more than five thousand cases, including four hundred before the Illinois Supreme Court, and his clients included railroads, banks, and corporations.
  4. He argued before the Supreme Court in the high-profile case of Time v. Hill. Although he lost the case five to four, he received high praise for his legal scholarship and oral arguments.
  5. This lawyer-president was “the most roaring, rollicking, game-cocking, horse-racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow” who “did not trouble with the law-books much [and] was much more in the stable than in the office.”
  6. This eloquent lawyer-president defended the African slaves before the Supreme Court in the Amistad case in 1841.
  7. How many of the forty-three presidents have been lawyers (five, fifteen, or twenty-five)?

Match the president with the most appropriate description:

  1. Thomas Jefferson
  2. William Howard Taft
  3. Richard M. Nixon
  4. Woodrow Wilson
  5. Andrew Jackson
  6. Martin Van Buren
  7. Abraham Lincoln
  8. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  9. Grover Cleveland
  1. Mr. Chief Justice
  2. Contrarian Counselor
  3. An Honest Lawyer
  4. Reluctant Lawyer
  5. Boy Lawyer
  6. Legal Wordsmith
  7. Prairie Lawyer
  8. Frontier Justice
  9. Biocoastal Practitioner

(1. John Adams, 2. William Howard Taft, 3. Abraham Lincoln, 4. Richard Nixon, 5. Andrew Jackson, 6. John Quincy Adams, 7. twenty-five, (1) f, (2) a, (3) i, (4) d, (5) h, (6) e, (7) g, (8) b, (9) c)