PRODUCT REVIEW: Westlaw Drafting Assistant—Litigation

Vol 29 No 2

By

Ashley Hallene is a sole practitioner in Houston, Texas, specializing in oil and gas law, title examination, and oil and gas leasing.

 

Westlaw Drafting Assistant—Litigation (“Drafting Assistant”) is an exciting, multifaceted word-processor tool that allows users to research, format, cite-check, and analyze case law, and all within the document being drafted. The first time I opened a document to analyze with Drafting Assistant, I felt a part of my former law student self turn giddy at the thought of how many hours of cite-checking, quote-checking, and format-checking this piece of software could have saved me. It is really more of a software suite as it packages multiple tools, including West CiteAdvisor and West BriefTools.

Drafting Assistant integrates seamlessly with West’s case management software, West Case Notebook. Installing Drafting Assistant will add a toolbar to your word processor labeled “West Solutions.” I installed it on a Windows 7 computer running Microsoft Word 2007, but it is available for several other configurations as well. Drafting Assistant is not currently available for the Mac operating system.

Installation was a breeze, taking me precisely an hour, start to finish, including installation of Case Notebook along with Drafting Assistant. During the process, the technician assisting you can give you a general overview of the tools that are available with Drafting Assistant. West follows up every installation with a training session for one-on-one instruction and a chance to ask questions. Even though the interface was fairly easy to navigate, I would still recommend you take advantage of the training offer.

If you are drafting a new document, you can start by importing document templates, included samples from Westlaw, or documents from your colleagues. Just go to the West Solutions tab now in your word processor and click on Drafting Assistant under that tab (this step may vary depending on which word processor version you are using). From there, Drafting Assistant can guide you on how to format your caption, signature block, and any other tricky areas that may vary between jurisdictions.

When you activate the tool within the document, it brings up a mini-window menu along the left side of the document, which allows you to use Drafting Assistant and Case Notebook without ever having to leave your document. For example, say you are working on a response to a motion for summary judgment. You have Case Notebook already set up with your pleadings, documents, and research for the matter. With the click of a button, you can pull up this mini-window, select which Case Notebook file to open, and have everything you need to formulate your response. You can scroll through your Case Notebook file and send text directly to your document.

If you find yourself needing to conduct more research, Drafting Assistant makes this easy by allowing you to conduct research on Westlaw from within your document. Once you have your search results from Westlaw, you can highlight the relevant portion of the research in the Westlaw window, click Send at the top of the window, and the highlighted portion will be inserted into your document along with the citation.

Drafting Assistant does a stellar job with its Locate Authority feature. If you need to find support for an argument, highlight the text, click Locate Authority, and mark the text you want to support. Then you can search Westlaw for the most relevant cases to support your point. And you can narrow the search so that Westlaw brings up only those cases that are relevant to your jurisdiction.

Drafting Assistant includes too many features to cover in one review—format-checking, cite-checking with color-coded signature flags, templates from a wide variety of jurisdictions, and many more. The cost of the product varies, depending on what you arrange with your Westlaw representative. If cost is a concern for you, I strongly recommend you try the software and see what pricing arrangements are available. This is a strong tool for litigators at any size firm.

 

Note

West, a Thomson Reuters business, is a corporate sponsor of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services. This review should not be construed as an endorsement. The authors of these reviews receive complimentary review copies of the products being reviewed.

 

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