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Legal Research Database Interface-Hoopla: Westlaw, Lexis, and Beyond


Not unlike the iPad rollout, the new-interface rollouts for Lexis (aka New Lexis) and Westlaw (aka Westsearch or WestlawNext) are creating a lot of buzz.

Whether or not there is substance, improvement, change, or anything worthy of all the hoopla remains to be seen. We remain hopeful, although some of us still pine for the precision and speed of the old Westlaw (aka native Westlaw).

Law librarians, and librarians generally, are skeptical people by nature and training, usually reserving judgment until we see if performance matches hype. We also look askance when someone (Lexis and Westlaw aren’t the first and won’t be the last) says that their new search engine is “Just Like Google.”

While we are immeasurably glad there is a Google in the world, the phrase “just like Google” does not strike any joy into the heart of a law librarian, though it may strike joy into the heart of a lawyer who does do serious legal research. When opposing counsel rely on Google, the one who performs actual legal research can only watch and wait for the shouting to die down (assuming of course that the judge knows the law, which most do, no matter what anyone says).

In the future, “just like Google” legal research may mean something, but now, not so much.

For some preview articles (versus future ones that will review the new services and compare them to existing services, weighing pros and cons):

1) Legal Sites Plan Revamps as Rivals Undercut Price, by Ashlee Vance, New York Times, January 24, 2010

2) Exclusive: Inside the New Westlaw, Lexis & Bloomberg Platforms, by Jill Schachner Chanen, ABA Journal, Jan. 24, 2010

There will be more reviews and commentary on these new legal research database platforms as the year moves along. These will appear on blogs and news websites from the Law Librarian Blog to 3 Geeks and a Law Blog and beyond.

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