Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What is citeKeeper, anyway?

Now that we've welcomed you to citeKeeper, perhaps we should explain what the site does!

citeKeeper is built around three main features: quotes, snippets, and projects.  In addition citeKeeper relies heavily on a technique called "tagging."  I'll explain each in greater detail in future posts; this post is meant to provide a high-level view of citeKeeper's main features.


I created citeKeeper to keep track of my most frequently used quotes and cases.  As a result, the research function of citeKeeper is based around quotes.  Unlike traditional research tools, citeKeeper does not contain the full text of every published legal opinon.  Instead, users enter only the portions of opinions that they believe are important.  These "quotes" are what you search through when you browse the tag library or search by text.

When you add a quote, it is automatically added to your tag library.  But citeKeeper also contains hundreds of quotes that are not in your tag library.  These can be found by searching your firm's tag library (if you are in a firm) or the global tag library.


A tag is a concise, descriptive word or phrase associated with a quote.  When you add a quote, you can (and should!) specify one or more tags to help you find it later.  For example, let's say you want to add the following quote:

Generally, a complaint on breach of contract must allege: (1) the existence of a valid and binding contract; (2) the plaintiff's compliance with the contract and his performance of the obligations under it; (3) a general averment of the performance of any condition precedent; and (4) damages suffered as a result of defendant's breach.

These are the elements of a breach of contract action.  Accordingly, you might chose to tag this quote with "contracts," "breach," and "elements." Indeed, this quote is already in citeKeeper and has been tagged with those tags.  If you frequently work in contract law, you can copy the quote and its tags into your tag library.

As you add tags to quotes, they appear in your tag library.  The more quotes you have tagged with a given word, the larger the word appears.  For example, if you have a large number of quotes related to contract law in your library, "contracts" will likely be one of the largest tags in your library. This will allow you to quickly access your quotes whenever you need them in the future.  If you need them in a pleading, a report, or a letter to opposing counsel, they will be right at your finger tips. By using Tags in citeKeeper, you will (hopefully!) never have to start your research by scratching your head and asking, "What was that case again?"


Much of attorney writing is repetitive, but not all of it comes from cases.  Practicing attorneys will no doubt recall dozens of times that they had to hunt through older motions to find and reuse a legal standard that they previously wrote.  citeKeeper allows you to keep track of frequently used work product in much the same way it keeps track of quotes.  The main difference is privacy-- while everyone can see a quote that is added to the system, only you (and sometimes members of your firm) can see snippets.


The last major piece of citeKeeper is projects.  It is easiest to think of projects as corresponding to cases.  Projects are invitation only areas where you can work privately alone or with others on specific tasks.  They contain their own tag libraries and discussions.  Projects also can include timelines to keep track of key events in your case.


As you can see, the core features of citeKeeper are quite simple.  citeKeeper is designed to help you quickly find your most frequently used citations and work product.  Our goal is to continue adding features that take the repetition out of practicing law.  Please don't hesitate to tell us how we are doing and what we might do better!


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