Last October, West launched the Headnote of the Day as a way to highlight West headnotes that are especially “humorous, profound or interesting.”
Using the text of the headnote – plus, an illustration especially suited to it – the Headnote of the Day is designed to offer a diversion during a legal professional’s day.
Headnotes, of course, summarize points of law in judicial rulings. They are written by West attorney editors and classified within the exclusive West Key Number System®.
The Headnote of the Day is the brain child of Al Maleson, a senior copywriter at West, who in addition to writing advertising during his workday also gets to choose which headnotes to publish.
But it’s not easy.
“I am continually trolling for headnotes,” Maleson says. “I go into ALLCASES on Westlaw and enter various search terms in the Headnote (HE) field. I enter search terms likely to dredge up headnotes that are amusing, serious or profound. I also enter random combinations of words. My goal is to bring up a wide variety of issues thus increasing the odds that I will find a variety of interesting headnotes.”
Maleson says a good Headnote of the Day has one or more of the following qualities – though, obviously, no single headnote will have them all:
- It is clear and easy to understand
- It is amusing
- It states a fundamental principle or value of American law
- It has strong appeal to a specific segment of the population (Californians, baseball fans, bankruptcy lawyers, etc.), which might encourage people to forward the headnote
- It lends itself to a good illustration
- It doesn’t deal with matters that are especially morbid, depressing, violent or otherwise likely to be offensive or upsetting to readers
Maleson estimates he’s received between 75 and 100 suggested headnotes from West customers and fellow West employees. Most months, he uses up to five of these suggested headnotes.
Illustrations for the Headnote of the Day are done by Curt McAloney.
You can subscribe to the West Headnote of the Day by email or click on the Headnote of the Day page on the West website, or check out the archives back to last October. A Westcast podcast with Maleson also is available.
Posted by Kevin Hunt, senior communications specialist, Thomson Reuters