In searching the internet for tasks that take approximately 16 minutes, several solutions appear that might occupy any given day, including downloading an app for an iPhone, preparing a healthy meal, or tidying up your desk. Although many of those tasks are necessary, it pales in comparison to how Lane Kowitz, a Minnesota School of Business-Moorhead paralegal program graduate, spent 16 minutes of her day recently.
Kowitz, a KeyCity Analyst for Thomson-Reuters, a New York based international firm, performs invaluable legal research services for the legal research community. In her role, she reviews a lot (thousands, in fact) of decisions every year for direct history. Using well-defined steps to review a case for direct history, Kowtiz examines each to determine how the cases relate to each other. She then selects from the hundreds of phrase codes available to accurately and succinctly describe those relationships.
“The goal is to create a history chain, so attorneys, judges and other Westlaw users can understand how the case made its way through the legal system,” said Jerry Barnaby, Kowitz’s supervisor. “The direct history, along with any negative indirect history from subsequent decisions, helps legal researchers answer the question, ‘Is this case still good law?’”.
Recently, Kowitz was selected to review a high-profile Supreme Court decision dealing with the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Accordingly, she created a relationship between the new decision and the Eleventh Circuit’s decision of Aug. 12, 2011, showing the earlier decision had been affirmed in part and reversed in part. This relationship placed a red KeyCite flag on the Circuit Court’s decision.
In just 16 minutes after it was released by the Supreme Court, Lane assisted ALL Westlaw Classic and WestlawNext users by placing a red flag relationship indicating that the case is no longer good law for at least one point it contains. After this she continued to create the history links. To date, the chain includes 36 relationships, linking decisions from the District, Circuit and Supreme Courts.
Kowitz mentioned that her training at Minnesota School of Business helped significantly in her role.
“Legal Terminology certainly helps out a lot,” Kowtiz said. “The biggest thing I learned is identifying and analyzing the holding of an opinion along with an understanding of how the different courts relate to each other and move through the appeals process.”
Although just another day at work for Kowitz, she used her 16 minutes to make a national difference in the legal research world for all those impacted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
It does beg the question, “what did you accomplish in the last 16 minutes?”