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Searching Case Law with LexisNexis: Searching Strategies

Need to do legal research and stumped by LexisNexis? This LibGuide is for you!

Searching, Made Easy.


See these  gray boxes across the bottom? These are three specific search ares in LexisNexis. The box in the middle is specific to legal research. Let’s take a closer look.



There are three ways to search for case law within LexisNexis: Citation, Party, & Topic.

Let’s discover case law via citation first.



Reading Legal Citations


Before we begin, let’s break down the legal citation. 

There are three parts to a legal citation: volume, abbreviation for book (reporter), and the page number.  Can you guess which is which?

- The volume is indicated by the first number of the citation.  Since there are numerous volumes of reporters, this helps you locate the specific text in which the case is located.

- The book abbreviation or reporter abbreviation is next.  In this example, the Northwestern Reporter is abbreviated as N.W. Pay attention to the abbreviation next to it. 2d indicates the series number of the reporter.  Most reporters are well into their 3rd series, and knowing this piece of the citation is important in locating your specific case law. 333 N.W. 67 will present a completely different case law than 333 N.W.2d 67

- Finally, the last number of the citation is always the page number of the reporter in which the case law is found.

Search By Citation

Once you know the legal citation, you can enter it into the ‘By Citation’ Field and presto, the case law appears! (Hint: Make sure you put a space in between each part of the legal citation).  The picture below is an example of the results produced after entering an exact citation.  The citation itself is highlighted in red.



Searching By Party Name

Let’s move forward. 

Sometimes, you don't know the legal citation but know the party name(s). Don’t know both short party names?  Not a problem!  It’s not necessary to know both names. 

Another great thing about searching for case law via party name is that the order of the names does not matter.  Searching Jones v Clinton will retrieve the same results as searching Clinton v Jones. 

Searching By Topic

When you search by topic, LexisNexis searches the case law’s headnotes.  Headnotes quickly identify the different legal topics/issues covered in that case. 

TIP: LexisNexis will search for the singular, plural, and possessive forms of your terms.

Quick Note: 99% of cases deal with multiple issues


The example below illustrates the results for a search conducted for "first amendment" and "free speech." 

Interested in reading a specific section in further detail?  Click on one of the cases  to view all the headnotes relevant to your search.