Resource Spotlight: Lexis Context

For today’s litigators, analytics platforms are a useful tool, offering strategic guidance and a potential competitive advantage.  One such platform, available to members of the Northwestern Law community, is Lexis Context, accessible through Lexis Advance. In this post, we’ll walk through the content available on Context and consider some of its potential uses.

To access Lexis Context, first sign in to Lexis Advance, then click the “matrix” icon in the top-left corner of your screen, and, finally, select “Context.”  At this point, you’re able to enter the name of either (1) a state or federal judge or (2) an expert witness. For judges, Context provides detailed information for 100 types of motions, displaying your judge’s rates of granting, denying, or partially granting those motions.  Moreover, Context allows you to review your judge’s citation patterns, including which opinions and other jurists your judge cites most often in their opinions. Meanwhile, for expert witnesses, it’s possible to review a variety of helpful data, including how often an expert has been hired by plaintiffs versus defendants and how often they’ve appeared in particular types of litigation (e.g., trademark, antitrust, etc.).  In addition, you’re able to review the frequency, basis for, and outcome of challenges to admissibility of their testimony.

A screenshot from Lexis Context, displaying analytics pertaining to Judge Amit P. Mehta.

Using Context, let’s see what we can learn about Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Upon entering his name, we retrieve a graphical representation of his rulings on motions. Reviewing this display, we learn, for example, that Judge Mehta has ruled on 207 motions for summary judgment and has granted roughly 45% of these motions.  We could take this a step further and filter by practice area, allowing us to review how his rate of granting motions differs amongst various types of cases. Moving on to Judge Mehta’s citation patterns, we learn that he has cited Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) more often than any other case, and also that he has cited Judge Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit more often than any other judge.  Using filters, we can obtain more specific information; for example, in his rulings on motions for injunctive relief, Judge Mehta most frequently cites Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).

Unlike other analytics platforms, which scrape data from case dockets and court filings, Context pulls information from judicial opinions.  This means that while Context relies upon a smaller universe of potential data, its content is uniquely accurate. How might this data be used?  When drafting a document for a particular judge, it enables you to cite cases and language that your judge has found persuasive in the past. Meanwhile, when deciding whether to hire a particular witness, it makes it possible to review their prior involvement in cases and to gauge the likelihood that their potential testimony will be admitted.

Whether you’re clerking for a judge, involved in one of the clinics, working in a litigation practice group, or simply interested in legal analytics, I recommend taking the time to explore Lexis Context.

Posted in Library Resources, Resource Spotlight, Tech, Uncategorized

Resource Spotlight: Citation trails in NUSearch

Legal researchers are highly attuned to the importance of knowing if and how an authority has been cited.  It’s the idea behind Shepard’s and KeyCite.  The importance of determining whether something is still good based on how it has been cited is drilled into every law student from their first semester.  Leaving aside issues of “good law,” Shepard’s and KeyCite are helpful for journal and law review articles because they show whether an article has been cited and help researchers find related articles.  That’s why it can be very frustrating for legal researchers when they are faced with a tool that does not show how an article has been cited.

That is why it is so great to see the little arrow icons in NUSearch, Northwestern library’s catalog.  NUSearch is the tool that helps you search across all of Northwestern’s physical and electronic collections.  NUSearch has a feature they call “citation trails.”  The system looks for citations to an article.  If it finds some citations, you’ll see something that looks like this:

citation trails

See those little arrows pointing out and down?  Clicking CitedByThisRecord_Icon brings you articles that are cited in this article.  It’s like the table of authorities in a Shepard’s report.  Clicking CitingThisRecord_Icon brings you articles that cite this article.  That’s like the citing references tab on Westlaw.

There are some drawbacks to using this feature in legal research.  All of the drawbacks relate to how this tool gathers information and who plays well with others.  The information in NUSearch comes from many different databases.  That’s how you’re able to search NUSearch and get results from JSTOR right alongside results from HeinOnline.  The citation trails tool only pulls citation information from certain databases that share information with the company that runs NUSearch.  The article that I used for the screenshot above is available through JSTOR so it has citation trails.  Most notably for legal researchers, results from HeinOnline do not have the citation trails feature.  This is very frustrating because HeinOnline results are included in NUSearch. The law library is exploring ways to get HeinOnline included in citation trails.

Citation trials are also not available for results from Lexis or Westlaw, but that’s not surprising because NUSearch doesn’t search Lexis and Westlaw.  Let’s just say Lexis and Westlaw like to do their own thing and leave it at that, shall we?

The upshot for legal researchers is that NUSearch is a great place to look for articles, especially when you’re moving beyond law into interdisciplinary research.  It will search across many databases without you needing to know the name of the database that has psychology literature, for example.  What’s better, NUSearch will have a citation feature like what you’re used to seeing with Lexis and Westlaw.  So look out for those little arrows the next time you’re researching!


Posted in Uncategorized

Student Library Assistant Positions Available for Summer

The Pritzker Legal Research Center is looking for reliable law students to work at the library circulation desk in the evenings and on Saturdays during the summer. Duties include the following:

  • Check out and check in books, journals, reserve books and other library materials
  • Answer basic informational, directional and library policy questions, help patrons locate materials in the stacks, provide basic printer and copy machine assistance
  • Help troubleshoot public computers according to directions
  • Record and tally usage statistics
  • Search the stacks for books reported missing
  • Assist with opening and closing procedures

Interested students should send the completed application form and resume to James Driscoll, Circulation Services Manager.

Posted in Position Available

Resource Spotlight: SCOTUS Research

The Pritzker Legal Research Center has created a new LibGuide: Supreme Court of the United States Research. The new guide includes links to and information about both primary and secondary resources for Supreme Court research, including opinions, dockets, oral arguments, current awareness blogs, and more.

For instance, one of the highlighted current awareness resources includes our own Professor Tonja Jacobi’s SCOTUS OA website, which provides detailed analyses and forecasts of Supreme Court opinions based on the oral arguments.

While the guide contains the most essential materials at this point, look for additional resources to be added in the near future.

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Posted in Resource Spotlight

How to have a standout summer

It’s not too soon to start thinking about how to make the most of the summer. Are you ready to show off your research skills?  Are you sure?  Take one hour to have some pizza and come away feeling truly ready to stand out from all of the other summer associates.  The Pritzker Legal Research Center’s Standout Summer Research Training will be on April 11, 2019 at noon in Booth Hall (LM204) with lunch.  We can prepare you to tackle legislative history, the dreaded “find me the law on x in all 50 states” question, and things that you may not have researched much such as administrative law.  The best part of this event is that you help decide what you learn.  Fill out this 10-second survey and let us know you’re coming.  Then take an extra 20 seconds and let us know which topics interest you most.  We look forward to seeing you!

Posted in Uncategorized

New Exhibit at the PLRC

On March 14, the Pritzker Legal Research Center debuted its spring exhibit, Color of Law: Andy Austin’s Chicago Courtroom Sketches. The exhibit features eleven pieces from the Andy Austin Collection, which the artist generously donated to the library last year. The collection spans more than 40 years and contains images from some of Chicago’s most notable trials. This particular exhibit includes pictures of the governors, John Wayne Gacy, numerous Law School alumni, and others. Color of Law will remain on display on the third floor of the library through the rest of the semester.

Posted in Uncategorized

Resource Spotlight: Thomson Reuters ProView

Have you ever encountered a message on Westlaw Edge indicating that you do not have access to the full text of a particular treatise because it is outside of our subscription?

Before you resign yourself to looking for a different treatise on the topic or finding a copy of it in print, first check Thomson Reuters ProView (aka Westlaw ProView)! You may be able to access the treatise electronically through this resource.

Many leading treatises are available through ProView, including titles in the Practitioner Treatise Series, such as McCormick on Evidence, Hazen’s Treatise on the Law of Securities Regulation, and White and Summers’ Uniform Commercial Code. Additionally, ProView provides access to Illinois-specific practice materials, such as Illinois Evidence Manual, Courtroom Handbook on Illinois Evidence, and Trial Handbook for Illinois Lawyers, Criminal.

You will be prompted to sign in to Thomson Reuters ProView with your individual Westlaw ID and password. You can browse all available titles in alphabetical order or search for a specific title or author by keyword in the “Filter by Name or Author” search bar.

Adjust font, text size, line spacing, and color scheme by clicking on the settings icon in the upper righthand corner of the screen. Create a link or download a PDF for a section of the treatise by clicking on the share icon in the upper righthand corner of the screen. Highlight text in various colors, add notes and annotations, view the entire treatise’s table of contents, and search text by keyword using the options in the left sidebar.

In addition to reading these e-books on your desktop computer or laptop, you may also read these e-books on mobile devices, such as iPhones, iPads, and Android tablets and smartphones. Visit this webpage for app download options.

Bonus Research Tip: Need to identify a title of a reputable treatise on a topic? Check out the Georgetown Treatise Finders website or PLRC’s very own Treatises by Topic guide… or ask a librarian for assistance!

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Posted in Resource Spotlight

HistoryMakers Digital Archive: The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection

In recognition of Black History Month, this February we are spotlighting a unique digital repository of video oral histories that captures an admirable depth and variety of African American heritage. Billed as “The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection,” the HistoryMakers Digital Archive is a veritable treasure trove produced by The HistoryMakers organization, a non-profit educational institution that is “committed to preserving and making widely accessible the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans. Through the media and a series of user-friendly products, services and events, The HistoryMakers enlightens, entertains and educates the public, helping to refashion a more inclusive record of American history,” as stated in the HistoryMakers mission statement.

The holdings are already vast: 148,163 stories assembled from interviews with 2,691 historically significant African Americans as of February 21, 2019, to be precise. Because of the incredible scope of this project, with interviewees from all different backgrounds, fields, and accomplishments, it is an extraordinary undertaking. Recollections from the participants date back to the 1890s, spanning many landmark moments in modern Black history: the founding of the NAACP in Chicago (1909), issuance of the Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954), the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950-60s, and the election of our first African American President Barack Obama. However the histories collected here do not focus solely on one’s memories of a particular event or time; rather, individuals are interviewed about their entire life. This richness of context gives us a special view into how this amazing person emerged as the success he or she is today. Interviews began in 1993 and continue today.

HistoryMakers Born This Day is an interesting rotating feature of the homepage, and from there you can dive into the content in two ways: browse the Maker Directory, or search. Click the Maker Directory tab and you can use the filters on the left pane to filter by name, category, gender, decade of birth, or job type.






From this page you can also run a biography search, or a search about the men and women interviewed. Full interviews are broken down in a series of smaller videos called stories. Individuals have landing pages where all of their stories and biographical information is compiled. Compare Barack Obama’s landing page with his story about being a community organizer in Chicago. This is important to note because it affects your search results. Clicking into the ‘Advanced Search’ under the search bar from this page displays the fields you can choose to search: Accession, biography, description, first name, last name, preferred name, and occupations.

The stories search combs through what these men and women were talking about in their interviews, as opposed to their biographical information, and is accessed from the home page.





The stories are tagged so they can be found through designated categories: Historical Content/Context, Biographical Themes, Interview Qualities. These categories expand into subsets so you can find people based on topics, but a surprisingly low number of stories (only 359) have been tagged, which is a shame because the range of available tags is varied and would be very helpful discovery tool. Stories without tags will not be shown in the search results.







Two other features I want to point out is the ability to build a playlist and adjust playback settings. Videos can be added to  your playlist from the search results (by hovering over the video thumbnail and clicking the plus sign) or from the detailed page of a video by clicking “Add to Playlist.” When a video has been added to your playlist, the thumbnail image becomes grayed out so it is a clear visual cue as to what videos have already been added. Remove a video by hovering over the thumbnail of an added video and clicking the X that will appear. All of these features can also be managed under the MyPlaylist tab, which displays the current number of items on the list as you’re browsing. Under the ‘Settings’ tab you can customize your viewing options so videos will automatically play as soon as they load and advance to the next story from the same person when the video ends. These settings also apply to your playlist, and will remain until you deselect them. I recommend leaving them unchecked for searching, then check both once you have your selected list of stories and want to sit back and watch for a longer period of time.

Finally, as you’re exploring the volumes African American histories, use the “Title my playlist to save/share” link on the ‘My Playlist’ tab to share your curated playlist.

Posted in Library Resources, Resource Spotlight

Moving from book recall to ILL

As of March 1, Northwestern Libraries is dropping book recall, a service that caused confusion and disruption as competition was waged over a single copy of a book. In the place of recall, the Libraries are adopting a more practical alternative that is faster, more efficient, and less troublesome for all our patrons: interlibrary loan.

Because ILL items come from our partnerships with other academic libraries in the Big Ten Academic Alliance, they are likely to arrive faster than the 10-day grace period typical of recalls, and they come with a guaranteed 16-week loan period. Also, Big Ten ILL books are not recalled unless needed for course reserve.

For questions about ILL, please contact the Law Circulation Desk at

Posted in Library Resources

New Year, New Look for Westlaw

If you’ve used Westlaw this semester, you’ve likely noticed some major changes, or perhaps thought you’d accessed the wrong database!  Indeed, as of January 2019, all law students now have access to Westlaw Edge, the latest iteration of Thomson Reuters’ Westlaw platform.

Rest assured, the basic functionality and organization of Westlaw has stayed the same, so you won’t need to learn a new way of doing research.  That being said, though, a few new features are worth noting, each of which results from the system’s increased use of artificial intelligence.

WestSearch Plus.  This feature allows you to begin typing your terms or area of law into the universal search box and receive suggested search queries and secondary sources.  In the screenshot below, for example, typing “employment discrimination” into the search box results in suggested searches such as “What is pretext in employment discrimination?”  For a brief video overview of this feature, visit:

A Screenshot of Westlaw Edge's New WestSearch Plus Feature

KeyCite Overruling Risk.  Up to this point in time, Keycite flags have only applied to the case you’re viewing, not the underlying cited authorities.  So, for example, even if the case you’re viewing has not been explicitly reversed or overruled, it may be relying on one or more cases that are no longer good law.  KeyCite Overruling Risk addresses this by assigning a new treatment symbol to cases relying upon reversed or overruled authority–an orange circle with a white triangle containing an exclamation point.  For a brief video overview of this feature, visit:

Statutes Compare.  Statutory sections and regulations on Westlaw now include a “Compare Versions” button above the text.  This feature allows you to quickly review how the text of a statute or regulation has changed over time.  For a brief video overview of this feature, visit:

Litigation Analytics.  The largest addition to the platform in terms of content is “Litigation Analytics,” which allows you to gain granular insights into courts, judges, attorneys, law firms, and case types.  Using this feature, you can investigate questions such as “How often does my judge grant motions to dismiss?” or “What types of litigation does a law firm handle?” For a video overview of this feature, visit:

If you have any questions about these new features or anything else research-related, just ask a librarian.  We’re happy to help!

Posted in Library Resources, Resource Spotlight, Uncategorized