Because a large part of my law practice is devoted to appellate litigation and complex litigation at the trial court level, legal research is an important part of my law practice. When I was in law school in the early 1990s, Westlaw and Lexis certainly existed, but much legal research was still done with books. If you are old enough to remember the process of using Shepard's books to research subsequent history in a case, you know how much of a pain it was, having to check many different books and pocket parts and updates with small type just to make sure that a case was still good law. I'm thrilled that those days are gone. Legal research using a computer is infinitely better, especially with the advanced tools that are now a part of Westlaw and Lexis.
Having said that, one thing that I hate about spending a significant amount of time doing legal research on the computer is that staring at a screen for a long period of time turns me into a zombie. My Apple Watch taps my wrist and reminds me to walk around once every hour, and I am often amazed to learn that a full 60 minutes has passed since the last time I felt that tap. After staring at the monitor screen for too long, I find that my senses are somewhat dulled, and I fear that it may have an effect on the quality of the legal research that I am doing.
For me, a good solution is to switch between using a computer and using an iPad to do legal research. The simple change from one platform to the other seems to give my brain a surge and makes me more sharp as I am reading cases. Plus, in many ways I prefer doing legal research on an iPad. There is something about holding caselaw in my hand and being able to lean back in a chair — much like I used to do with a book back in the 1990s — that makes me feel more connected with what I am reading.
I mention all of this today to make sure that you know how easy it is to switch from a computer to an iPad and back again. If you use Westlaw, right on the home page of the app there is an area that shows recent searches:
Additionally, when you tap in the search bar at the top of the Westlaw app, you will see recent searches:
Similarly, in Lexis, there is an area right on the main screen of the app that shows you your recent search history:
If you use Fastcase, you can tap the Recent button at the bottom of the app. That will show you a list of recent research that you have done on both the computer and the iPad. (You may need to tap the refresh button at the top right to see your very latest research.)
Of course, both Westlaw and Lexis also have a dedicated history section of each app where you can see all of your recent searches and recent documents. But if you are shifting from your computer to your iPad just for a change of venue, you'll most likely just want to pick up with the last search that you were just doing on your computer. On Westlaw and Lexis, you can do that without even invoking the history function by using the most recent history lists located on the main screens each app, and on Fastcase it is almost just as easy to tap that Recent button.
Legal research on the iPad is not 100% the same as legal research on the computer; you typically get more sophisticated search options on the computer. But it is usually possible for me to do a significant portion of my legal research on the iPad, and I can always switch back to the computer whenever I need the full set of tools. Going back and forth every once in a while is actually a good thing, in my opinion, because it stops me from staring at any one particular screen for too long and stops me staying in any one particular position for too long.
If legal research is a part of your law practice and you aren't currently using an iPad to do a part of that legal research, I encourage you to give it a try.