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We all analyse documents to determine if they can be used as an effective legal argument. However, there is no one method for determining if a case is good law. Here are some tools and practices to help with your research.

How to use vLex to determine if a case is good law

Finding out if a case is still good law used to take up a lot of time. It meant reading countless subsequent judgments to review treatments that it had received. Now, vLex features, such as the Precedent Map, Vincent AI, and the editorial treatment types, can do this work for you.

Validating a case with vLex

A common determinant is how a case is referred to, positively or negatively. Without the use of technology, this can be a long process, but with vLex's Precedent Map you can get a visual breakdown of these relationships instantly. If you would prefer to read this information in list format, click on the Cited in and Cited authorities tabs.
If you find that a document has been widely criticised or distinguished by other cases, you will want to investigate why before relying on it as a precedent.

Seeing the context of citations

A good way to gain more understanding of a case, as well as why it has been used as a precedent in other arguments, is to use key paragraphs. When you open a case, at the top you will see the most cited passages of the judgment, giving you an instant insight into why this case is important. Furthermore, all quoted sections will be highlighted within the judgment. Citations are shown in different shades of blue; the darker the shade, the more cited they are. Click on a highlight to open a window where you will see where the case has been cited, as well as the whole citation with more context. If you find a relevant case, you can click through to it directly.
This feature expands on the analysis

How to use vLex to answer a legal question

Think about the question you want to answer:
  • Make sure you understand the goal and clarify uncertainties.
  • List keywords and key concepts.
  • Think about what sources should be used.
To explore the resources that are available, navigate precedents and related cases to find strong cases that exemplify arguments that answer your question. Also, analyse the documents you are using and use vLex on your writing to see if you have used authorities that can be improved.
When you find a case, you might have different sources to choose from. Identify and weigh in on the source credibility: Who is providing the information? Is the source an expert or an authority? The more authoritative your source is, the more persuasive your answer will be. As an extreme example, a Times Law Report will be better than a blog from an unknown author. vLex provides all types of documents from reputable sources, including official documents, analysis, law reports, news, blogs, books, and journals.
Also, determine your sources' level of objectivity. Read the texts you are citing and determine if they have a balanced viewpoint, if the texts are objective, or if there are factors that might skew the information given, like advertising or funding. For example, research about the health benefits of sugar published by a candy company might not be the best resource.
Try to use the most up-to-date information, and if you are using older sources, try to keep historical context in the picture. If you are arguing about inclusion, documents published in South Africa during apartheid might not work best.
Verify the information that has been claimed. Try to find two or more reliable sources that provide the same supporting information. Use primary sources for facts. Secondary sources should provide context and cited references. Reliable sources will meet quality criterion, and cross-referencing them will not find them to be contradictory. You can use Vincent for this.