By Chelsie Meredith, CRRL Volunteer
Westlaw is one of the leading legal research databases used by lawyers and other legal professionals in the United States. It is a subscription service paid for by the Central Rappahanock Regional Library and is available to all library visitors at the Headquarters Branch's Law Library.
The service includes access to more than 23,000 databases of case laws, state and federal statutes, court case histories and decisions, administrative codes, public records, as well as copies of professional law journals, reviews, and downloadable legal forms.
Westlaw is used by small as well as large firms, law students and schools, corporate as well as nonprofit organizations and governmental businesses. It was preferred "two to one" over the closest competitors in Law Office Computing's Readers' Choice Award for the past eight years. It has also been preferred by American Bar Association members in a survey about its Legal Technology Resource Center.
Westlaw offers the largest online collection of briefs, trial documents, and expert testimony on cases. It also provides access to the complete American Law Reports as well as jurisdictional and practice area resources.
Researchers can find accurate and up-to-date information—for example court cases that have been overruled are identified and edited within 24 hours. Its attorney-editors work around the clock with actual courts to correct court opinions before publication. Westlaw employs easy search tools such as Boolean logic as well as a means to search using natural language.
The database also provides information that is useful to non-lawyers. Looking to file for divorce? Wondering how to contest a charge brought up against you? Considering leasing part of your property, but have a need to understand the laws that your tenants will hold you accountable for? Westlaw is helpful in these situations.
High school and college students may be interested in learning the precedents for important Supreme Court cases such as Roe v. Wade (legalized abortion), Plessy v. Ferguson (legalized "separate but equal" accommodations for African-Americans), or Miranda v. Arizona, which ruled that each citizen has the right to be read their rights upon arrest.
Westlaw is a viable resource to anyone wishing to explore topics in the legal field. It is easy to learn as well as user-friendly, and its potential in legal matters is unmatched by any other official database on the Web to date.
Our contractual obligations do not allow Westlaw to be used off-site, so plan a visit to the CRRL Law Library to use this database. Our reference staff will be happy to help you get started.