As a first year, one of the key research tools you learned was the West Key Number system and the Digests. You learned that West editors examined every case and broke those cases down into specific topics and subtopics so that you the researcher could find the cases you need. And, while not perfect, you probably found that this system was pretty good at helping you find cases relevant to a particular issue.

However, when you began researching on Westlaw the warmth, comfort and familiarity of a keyword search made you forget all about the Digests and their many key numbers. You may even be asking yourself, “I wonder whatever happened to those key numbers.” Well, they’re still in the books, but just as important, they, and a Digest system, are on Westlaw too and are accessible to you as a researcher.

Just like when you are looking at a case in print, a Westlaw case contains West headnotes with topics and key numbers. In Westlaw the key numbers appear as links. When you click on the link to a key number you are directed to a Custom Digest where you can select the jurisdiction you would like to search to find other cases with the same key number (or in other words, other cases dealing with the same specific legal issue). The relevancy of your results is generally very high because your search was based on a specific subject rather than key words.

This is a great way to take one good case and find others.