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Legal Writing

Introductory resources for legal writing and drafting.

What is a Preemption Check?

Before investing your time into research, it is best to check that your topic is not preempted either by law or by author.

Preemption by law is when you are working with "bad law" —a case that has been overturned, a statute or regulation that has been amended or held unconstitutional— or when the legal controversy becomes moot, e.g., the Supreme Court rules on a circuit split.

To check that you have not been preempted by law, you'll need to utilize multiple citators —BCite  CWRU Only, KeyCite  CWRU Only, and Shepard's  CWRU Only— and ensure your topic's legal controversy is not soon to be resolved. If the referenced law has the potential to become "bad law" within the deadline for your work, please discuss your topic's viability with your professor.  

Preemption by author is when someone else has already written about the same topic and discussed it in a substantially similar way.

To check that you have not been preempted by author, you'll need to survey legal and specialized databases to find as close to everything on your topic as possible.


Indexes list legal publications organized by subject. Starting your search here saves time by utilizing that organization. Develop a list of keywords, synonyms, and terms of art by noting common phrases in publications similar to your topic.


Legal Articles

Law review and other legal commentary. No database has all published work (not even HeinOnline), so it's important to check multiple databases.

Other Articles

Interdisciplinary and pre- publications. Authors who write on legal topics often post articles to SSRN months before publication. If you wish to cite a prepub, you must note this in your citation.


Search everything available through all campus and OhioLINK libraries. Advanced search allows boolean or keyword searching, and filters narrow by discipline, peer-review, library location, and more. Searches will produce results for articles on HeinOnline and treatises on Lexis and Westlaw. Limit by Source Type allows you to filter results to display only eBooks and Books.

Discovery Search



  1. Run a search or Shepardize a citation.
  2. If you run a search, apply filters before creating an alert to optimize relevancy.
  3. From your search results page or Shepard's report, click the bell icon at the top of the page.

Please see Creating Alerts on Lexis+ for more information.



  1. Select Notifications > Alerts from the top tab drop-down.
  2. Select Create Alert and choose which type from the drop-down or Create Newsletter for a report of multiple alerts.

Please see Create Alerts on Westlaw Precision for more information. See Use WestClip for more on search query alerts.



  1. Track dockets
  2. Save searches



  1. Create a MyHein account.
  2. Save search queries by running a search and selecting MyHein Search Queries from the drop-down menu provided above the results and click Save/Email.
  3. Create a SmartCILP Profile to get alerts from the Current Index to Legal Periodicals.



  1. Go to Google Alerts.
  2. Enter your topic and change settings by selecting Show options.
  3. Click Create Alert.

Please see Create an Alert on Google for more information.