Each case published in Westlaw is formatted so that they contain all of the following features:
Name & identifying information
Names of attorneys
Judges who heard case
Author of opinion
Text of Court’s opinion
What is a Digest?
A topical arrangement of cases
Divides law into 400+ topics.
There is a topic and key number for every possible legal situation.
Finding aid that provides subject access to all reported cases.
Indexed collection of all headnotes with citations to the cases.
Digests - the Creation Process
For each case, all legal issues are identified
A summary/headnote is written for each legal issue
The headnote is assigned a pre-existing topic and key number.
All of the summaries/headnotes from all cases are published in digests.
Use One Good Case
One case (even if it is very old or from another jurisdiction) can be used to find relevant, mandatory case law.
Read the case headnotes, pick ones that are on your issue.
Use that headnote’s Topic/Key Number to find other cases in any jurisdiction.
View the surrounding Key Numbers to find similar topics.
Use the tabs on Westlaw (the "Citator" features) to find more information
Westlaw's Notes of Decisions are short summaries of cases interpreting a particular aspect of the statute or rule and can quickly help you find what you need because they are organized by common procedural topics. They allow you to see how cases have construed an element or aspect of a statute or rule.
Westlaw's Citing References is comprised of everything that has ever cited your document, including not only cases and statutes, but also legal secondary sources, court document, regulations, etc.