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    January 27th, 2010

    ♫ Baby lovin’ you
    Is how it’s meant to be
    It’s something that is oh so natural to me

    Lyrics and music by: Cathy Dennis and A. Todd, recorded by S Club 7.

    WestlawNext is about to be released. Courtesy of Thomson Reuters, I was given a sneak peak at this new legal research offering. So without further ado, here is Dave’s Top 10 list on WestlawNext:

  • 10: You no longer have to select a database. Choose your jurisdiction (say California or Alabama) and the search engine under the hood will pull together relevant hits from all of West’s legal databases that are relevant to your search criteria. Considering that Westlaw has over 40,000 databases, this is a marked improvement. Furthermore, you get to see the results of all the hits in the Westlaw system and not just in the databases that you traditionally searched.
  • 9: You do not need to know Westlaw syntax or use boolean search logic (‘search terms and connectors’). Natural language searching is just fine. Of course you can use boolean search terms if you wish
  • 8: That search engine under the hood has been considerably enhanced. You do not need to spend time considering the precise language in framing your search. You can search by factual description (“right to trim tree when tree debris falls on neighbor’s property”), by legal concept (“res ipsa loquitur”) or statute terminology to retrieve your search inquiry.
  • 7: Your search term does not need to appear in the hit to be listed. For example, “DWI” is only one way of classifying driving under the influence. Behind the scenes, the search engine recognizes the variations and pulls up cases, statutes and relevant secondary materials related to the concept rather than the actual wording. This ensures that your searches are more effective than under the traditional way of searching.
  • 6: You can customize the search to display cases, statutes or briefs etc as your preferred search result.
  • 5: It provides you with “related topics” to your search which may assist in understanding your search query to lead you to resources that you may not have considered. This allows you to understand and comprehend the wider context of your query.
  • 4: WestlawNext has on-line folders in which you can store your search documents and results. Here the added benefit is that if any new materials are added to Westlaw, your online folder will contain the new items. Furthermore, other than the cost of subscribing to WestlawNext, there is no cost to searching all the databases in Westlaw. If a document in your hit list is part of your existing Westlaw plan, then you don’t pay anything to view that document (or place it in your folder). If the document is outside of your Westlaw plan, then you only pay if you choose to view the document. This way you can use the search power of WestlawNext and only pay for what you wish to see. When you place a document in your online folders, there is no additional charge to go back and view it. However, someone with whom you are collaborating may have to pay to view that document, depending on their Westlaw plan.
  • 3: Collaboration and workflow tools have been added. You can now share research with others in your firm.
  • 2: When you view a case, your case results are automatically KeyCited with that information displayed at the top of the screen. Case warnings are prominently displayed.
  • 1: Along with your preferred search result (cases, statutes etc) a panel on the right side of the screen brings up secondary materials related to your search. This way you can expand your research without having to do the search again, this time selecting another database.
  • WestlawNext has been designed under the hood to use the power of the West Key Number system along with other search algorithm improvements combined with human tweaks on how to improve search results. Not all improvements are in how WestlawNext functions. The way that WestlawNext displays its search results has also been tweaked based on customer insights, log analysis, eye tracking, design reviews, performance testing, usability testing, workflow observations and focus groups.

    The people at Thompson Reuters state that WestlawNext works best using Google’s Chrome browser. If you don’t use Chrome, users are advised to upgrade to the latest versions of their browsers to attain the best results.

    I do like the fact that all searches in WestlawNext are included in your existing plan; only viewing results comes at a charge. This feature that allows you to see the full extend of the resources available to you is a significant improvement, in my opinion.

    WestlawNext is clearly aimed at those lawyers who are more familiar with a Google search than a traditional Westlaw search. The appeal of WestlawNext to me would be the efficiency/effectiveness gains in using WestlawNext as compared to traditional legal research. Another appeal would be WestlawNext’s ease of use.

    In order to gain market share, a user would have to gain confidence that the results in WestlawNext are not just as good as, but in fact superior to, a traditional search; the people at Thomson Reuters confidently assured us that this is in fact the case.

    Given Google Scholar, Westlaw has to raise the bar to beat the competition and justify their value-added services. It looks like they have a winner on their hands.

    My only question is when is this coming to Canada? I am told it will be the last quarter of 2010 or the first quarter of 2011. Like most new technologies, those of us in the frozen white north will have to wait a bit before we see this in Westlaw Canada.

    It is something that is oh so natural to me; it will be worth waiting for.

    This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 at 10:44 am and is filed under Dave's Top 10 Lists, Law Firm Strategy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

    4 Responses to “Dave’s Top 10 List about WestlawNext”
    1. Legal links of the week: WestlawNext « Legal Current Says:

      […] Dave’s Top 10 List about WestlawNext […]

    2. NMissCommentor » More thoughts about WestlawNext Says:

      […] post in top-ten list form notes that synonyms and variations on search terms are used to produce […]

    3. WestlawNext: Legal Research Goes Human « Technology at Albany Law School Says:

      […] Bilinsky gives a Top 10 List of what he likes best about […]

    4. WestlawNext and the Small Firm | Small Firm Success Says:

      […] David Bilinsky:  Dave’s Top 10 List about WestLaw Next […]

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