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Case Finding and Advanced Searching Strategies

Segment Searching

If you are looking for a very specific case or set of cases, such as every opinion that a certain judge has written or dissented in or a case with a particular party name, you can conduct a segment search.  In both Westlaw and Lexis, you access this option by navigating to the Cases page then selecting the Advanced Search option.  Note that you do have to navigate to the Cases page first; if you just go to "Advanced Search" from the home page, you won't see the advanced options that are specific to cases. 

Lexis: On the home page, select "Cases," then pick the particular jurisdiction of interest (e.g., All federal, 9th Circuit - US Court of Appeals Cases, California Federal District Courts, etc.).  Click on "Advanced Search" just above the search bar. 

The advanced search form contains a section for Terms and a section for Document Segment/Fields.  The Document Segment/Fields section allows you to search by Party Name, Court, Date, Number, Citation, History, Disposition, Core Terms, Summary, Headnotes, Overview, Outcome, Attorney Name, Judges, Written By, Opinion By, Opinion, Concurrence By, Concurrence, Dissent By, and Dissent.  In the right sidebar, you can click on the images under "Segment Examples" to view illustrations of where each segment is located in a case. 

Westlaw: On the homepage, select "Cases," then pick the particular jurisdiction of interest.  Click on the "Advanced" link next to the search bar to access the advanced search form. 

The advanced search form contains sections for finding documents that have specific terms, excluding documents with specific terms, and document fields.  The Document Fields include Date, Party Name, Citation, Synopsis, Digest, Synopsis/Digest, Judge, Attorney, Court Name/Prelim, Docket Number, Background, Concurring, Court Abbreviation, Dissenting, Full-Text, Headnote, Holding, Lead, Notes, Opinions, Panel, Topic, Words & Phrases, and Written By.  In the right sidebar, you can click on the image of the sample case to view where each advanced search field is located on the document. 

Court Filings

If you find an on-point case, you may also find it helpful to look at the briefs that were filed in that case to see how the lawyers structured their arguments and what cases they relied on for authority.  Westlaw and Lexis might provide briefs under the "Filings" tab for a given case, but its coverage is far from comprehensive.  Bloomberg Law pulls dockets directly from PACER, the electronic public access service for federal court documents, so it is an excellent resource for retrieving federal court filings.  For more information on how to conduct docket research using Bloomberg Law or other databases, please see our Docket Research Guide.

Note that you need an individual user ID and password to access Bloomberg Law.  These accounts are available to current Stanford Law School faculty, staff, and students.  Please stop by the Reference Desk or email us at for registration information. 

Research Consultations

Although we are not able to do your case law research for you, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss strategies for finding cases and to assist you with brainstorming useful search strings.  You can set up an appointment with a reference librarian on the Robert Crown Law Library's homepage (just click on the "Request a Research Consultation" button). 

Case Law Research Cheat Sheets