Well researched and accurately referenced legal arguments are key contributors towards winning a case. However, this task is easier said than done. For decades, legal practioners traditionally spent many hours sifting through cases, statutes, regulations, and legal journals in order to find the most relevant information that would help strengthen their case. Not only is the traditional form of legal research time consuming, it can also be as frustrating as looking for a needle in a haystack.
To understand the challenges of legal research, LexisNexis South Africa recently sat down with lawyers from leading South African law firms, who shared their insights. Commenting on research through print mediums, Megan Osborn from Norton Rose Fulbright said that not all law firms were adequately resourced with up-to-date content in their libraries, while Peter Evelyn from Shepstone & Wylie mentioned that research via free search engines can be unreliable. “Google is great in saying, ‘this is what I need’ and they’ll give you a book but they won’t let you look at it,” he said.
Nicola Nel from Bowmans added that time restrictions were always a challenge. “Basically you just want to access what you can, or know where to access everything as quickly as possible because there will usually always be time constraints in some way or the other,” she said.
Fortunately, things have changed for the better since 2002 with the availability of Legal Citator, an online research tool unique to LexisNexis which gives users a consolidated view of several aspects of a case in one place at the click of a mouse. It was designed to reduce research time from hours to mere minutes with expert analysis that assists with determining the precedential strength of a case being referenced.
Subject matter is captured from a number of specialised series unique in the market, including the All South African (All SA), Butterworths Labour Law Reports (BLLR), Butterworths Constitutional Law Reports (BCLR), Competition Law Reports (CPLR) and South African Law Reports (SALR), with parallel citations to any instances of a judgment published in another law report series.
Legal Citator provides a full picture of cases and is used by attorneys, advocates, judges, in-house legal advisors, legal librarians, students and researchers. Its judgment treatment feature reduces the risk of misinterpretation of a judgment and indeed eliminates the need to evaluate cases yourself through its ability to show the full judgment history. This includes whether the case was subject to review or appeal (as published in the law reports), what the result was, subsequent appeals and where the case fits in the appeal hierarchy.
Among other features, Legal Citator provides a summary of how a particular case has been utilised by other courts, outside of appeals, including a list of which courts have referred to or discussed the case, which portion of the case was discussed, and where in the case it was cited, together with coloured signal indicators that give researchers a quick indication of the case’s precedential strength.
A new feature unique to Legal Citator is the Dual View which allows user to view various aspects of the Legal Citator alongside the law report.
“Legal Citator gives users confidence in knowing that they are relying on accurate, authoritative law for supporting their case and arguments,” said Sumantha Reddy, Content Manager: Legal Loose-leaf and Law Reports, from LexisNexis South Africa. “It also helps ensure you are not missing pertinent legal information that could harm your case.”
Since making the move from traditional research to online, Peter Evelyn said his every day work life has greatly improved. “You don’t have to come to work and stress about how you are going to find things out because something has actually been created to assist you,” he said.