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Your “Good” Case Might Not Be So “Good” After All: BCite, KeyCite, Shepard’s


Golden Rule of Legal Writing: Never, ever cite to anything you haven’t read carefully.

There is a reason law librarians try to drill that rule into the heads of lawyers and law students (and journalists):

“Is it a “Good” Case? Can You Rely on BCite, KeyCite, and Shepard’s to Tell You?,” by Kristina Niedringhaus, JOTWELL (April 22, 2019) (reviewing Paul Hellyer, Evaluating Shepard’s, KeyCite, and BCite for Case Validation Accuracy, 110 Law Libr. J. 449 (2018)).


“Every law student is told repeatedly to check that the cases they are relying on are still “good” law. They may even be told that not using a citator such as Shepard’s, KeyCite, or BCite could be malpractice and multiple ethics cases would support that claim. But how reliable are the results returned by these systems?…

Paul Hellyer has published the surprising results of an important study investigating this question. Hellyer looked at 357 citing relationships that one or more of these three citators labeled as negative. “Out of these, all three citators agree that there was negative treatment only 53 times. This means that in 85% of these citing relationships, the three citators do not agree on whether there was negative treatment.” (P. 464.) …. ” [Link to blog post summary of the Hellyer study.]

Link to Paul Hellyer article, 110 Law Libr. J. 449 (2018).
[Internet Archive link to Hellyer article.]

Hat tip to beSpacific and KnowItAALL for their legal and legal research current awareness alerts.