Getting Creative with Field and Segment Searches: Using Advanced Search Options to Research Judges

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Considering a clerkship? Preparing for an interview? Read on to learn how the field and segment search options in both Westlaw and Lexis can help you target your searches to identify material that can assist in interview prep!

What is Field and Segment Searching?

Field and segment searching refers to the Advanced Search options available when searching through a specific type of primary law or secondary source document in a legal database. Most primary legal documents have common structures, and field and segment searches allow you to target specific portions of those documents. For example, when searching in case law, field and segment searching provides options for searching by party name, citation, headnotes, docket number, judge, and attorney, among others. These advanced search options allow you to create more targeted searches, depending on where in a legal document you think relevant information is most likely to appear.

This blog post will highlight how to use the field and segment search features to target judicial opinions authored by Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the recent nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Westlaw

To get to the field and segment search options in Westlaw, you need to first click on “Cases” from the available Content Types on Westlaw’s homepage. Once you see “Cases” as a search filter to the left of your search bar, you can click on “Advanced” (located on the right-hand side of the search bar) to view the field and segment search options.

From the list of available fields and segments, I decided to search in “Written By,” so that my search targeted those opinions authored by Judge Barrett. I also chose to use a jurisdictional filter to limit my results to cases from the Seventh Circuit.  

As you type into the field and segments boxes, you should see the database automatically building your search for you. In my case, I saw the following search: WB(Amy Coney Barrett). It’s fairly basic, but effective. Note that I did not put her name into quotations, as I did not want to miss any variations – for instance, when she is referred to as “Judge Barrett.” I had 93 search results, but I could see from the synopses that opinions and dissents from Judge Barrett are showing up in my top results. These are all opinions I would review to learn more about Judge Barrett’s judicial writing.

Lexis

The field and segment search features in Lexis are very similar to those found in Westlaw, so you can take advantage of these advanced search features regardless of which database you have access to in practice. Again, you will want to select the content type to view – cases – and then select “Advanced Search” to view the available field and segment search options.

I ran the exact same search in Lexis, relying on the “Written By” option to search for Judge Barrett’s opinions. You may notice that Lexis builds out your search like this: writtenby(Amy Coney Barrett). I had a similar number of search results here – 91 – and I also noticed that Lexis recognized Judge Barrett and provided her Context profile as an option for me to explore. Below that profile of Judge Barrett are a list of opinions.

Why Field and Segment Searches?

Having the ability to search specific portions of a legal document can enhance your research effectiveness and efficiency. Be sure to give field and segment searches a try next time you want to search for specific information inside a case!

One other option for research judges and attorneys is to use judicial analytics software. Both Westlaw and Lexis provide UNC law students with access to this technology. To see a blog post overview of how to search for individuals in those platforms, check out this blog post.

In case you’re interested in learning more about Judge Barrett, the Congressional Research Service has put together an overview of selected primary material. This document includes a biographical sketch and links to a selection of Judge Barrett’s publications and judicial opinions.


Posted by Melissa M. Hyland on Tue. October 13, 2020 3:00 PM
Categories: Uncategorized


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