Key Numbers And Legal Research
Legal research is generally regarded as an essential skill needed for the practice of law. The American Bar Association requires all accredited law schools to train their students in legal research along with substantive law and other practice skills. A cornerstone of legal research is the key number system, which is a classification system of U.S. law. For over 100 years, these topics and key numbers have allowed lawyers and law students the ability to focus directly on a particular legal issue and quickly find on-point case law.
Legal research often involves the search for concepts or principles not easily retrieved with literal word searches. The system indexes cases into more than 400 topics and 98,000 points of law. Further, it identifies and indexes legal concepts producing cases stating or applying a legal concept, even if the search terms are not in the opinion.
The key number system is current and accurate evolving as the law evolves. Annually, hundreds or even thousands of changes are implemented. New key numbers for emerging topics are added and expanding areas of the law are reclassified.
The first step in utilizing the key number system is finding an applicable key number. Key numbers may be browsed to the level of specificity by topic. Two options are available: 1) search headnotes or 2) key numbers and topics. The main search bar at the top of the screen will search across all headnotes within the key number system allowing the user to find headnotes related to the issue and then see where they are classified within the key number system.
The second option helps to find specific key numbers that use the language used by the search, whereas the search in headnotes provides a broader option to find helpful headnotes or related key numbers. Finding one case on point will directly lead to others through key numbers. Applicable headnotes are always listed at the top of a case and provide a good alternative entry point into the system.
Attorneys must be prepared to satisfy clients regardless of the nature of the services provided. Attorneys need to utilize the soft skills necessary to achieve clients’ goals. The CDTA provides the training that attorney-advocates require to meet the needs of clients in the 21st Century. At CDTA, we train, educate, and develop students to be exceptional attorneys and trial advocates. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.