Because of the vast number of cases constituting of Westlaw’s material, they have taken the liberty of sorting the law by topic.

Online, you can use the “key” system to find topics starting broadly and working more narrow. There are 414 topics and more than 800,000 subtopics called key numbers. For example, there is a topic fro abandoned and lost property with the key number 11 for liability.

In print, West had published digests. A digest is simply a index to find the law. They contain headnotes from cases to help the researcher find the law.

To determine which keys to look up, you would take key words from a client’s facts using the TARPP system (Things, Actions, Remedies, People, Places). From these key words, we can find general key topics before moving to more specific fields of law.

If we start with a digest, we will want to look at the Descriptive Word Index. If you have selected the proper key words, you would be able to find the proper key number despite what key word you use.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.

Will Laursen

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