There are strengths and weaknesses of legal citators. One strength is that a citator can provide a researcher with pin-point updates when a later decision has made reference to a particular passage within an earlier legal decision. JADE’s CaseTrace provides that pin-point accuracy as well as general references made by later decisions. The references turbo-charge your research efficiency. One potential risk of using a citator is that unless it is kept up-to-date, the absence of a reference might suggest that a decision has not been considered at all. We call this citator currency.
The risk of missing a later decision by relying on an out-of-date citator is why many of us learn to undertake a search on the decision as well. If a decision of the High Court of Australia or an intermediate appellate court casts doubt on a legal proposition, the astute legal researcher needs to know about this immediately.
When we have been teaching students how to do legal research, we have regularly compared CaseTrace with other systems. One of these is AustLII’s LawCite. LawCite has many more citations in it. At the time of writing (14 February 2015), there are 4,638,414 citations in LawCite and 1,149,123 citations in JADE. It is not possible to know how many of the Citations in LawCite are references to secondary materials.
Citator Currency in Jade’s CaseTrace and AustLII’s LawCite
JADE CaseTrace. All CaseTrace references in the JADE legal research platform update instantly, as soon as JADE has parsed the most recent decision referring to a judgment or statutory reference. The paper clips on the right hand side of the JADE page are instantly updated. Searching also works immediately.
AustLII’s Law Cite. The story is quite different with AustLII’s LawCite. Since we started monitoring the published update frequency within LawCite in August 2014, we noticed the following:
|Our Review Date||When LawCite was updated||Last update||Period between updates||Cases and Articles in LawCite|
|26-Aug-14||25-Aug-14||1 day||49 days||4,550,035|
|27-Aug-14||26-Aug-14||1 day||1 day||4,563,832|
|04-Nov-14||26-Sep-14||39 days||31 days||4,577,280|
|10-Dec-14||02-Dec-14||8 days||67 days||4,613,759|
|28-Jan-15||12-Dec-14||47 days||10 days||4,616,118|
|14-Feb-15||10-Feb-15||4 days||60 days||4,638,414|