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!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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