I recently wrote about LexisNexis’ new online legal research tool Lexis Advance. Since then, I’ve been trying out Westlaw’s new system, WestlawNext. Personally, I never saw much of a difference between the old systems. While I am predominantly a Westlaw user, that’s really only because they gave out better stuff the first few weeks of law school.
With that said, I still feel like both Lexis Advance and WestlawNext are pretty similar. Don’t get me wrong though; if you are a current Westlaw user, you are going to love WestlawNext.
WestlawNext was designed around three concepts:
1. Improve search
2. Organize research better
3. Make it easier to use
New Search Capabilities:
WestlawNext’s “WestSearch” was developed over the course of 5 years. Like LexisAdvance, the algorithm-based search system is the new key feature. Unlike the old Westlaw system, users no longer have to decide which source they would like to search. The simple search box can handle terms, citations, databases, and even questions. To the right of the box is a drop-down menu that allows you to narrow your search, if you’d like to. There is no longer any need to do Boolean or connector searches, as Westlaw’s algorithm is intelligent enough to make the connections for you.
Once you’ve run your search, you can easily narrow your results. Found on a collapsible menu, WestlawNext shows you what you can narrow by (case, statues, briefs, etc.) and also shows you how many results found in each. You are also given the option of setting a default search result, which is great for those times you find yourself researching alienation of affections cases in Mississippi (oh the things you learned in first year Torts class).
Another feature I really like is the “glasses” icon. It lets you know when you’ve already viewed a document. The old system would grey-out searched links, but this didn’t help when working across multiple computers. I also really like how related documents are shown alongside your current document. This isn’t necessarily a new feature, but it’s just done better now.
Comparison to Lexis Advance’s Search:
I never found much of a difference in terms of results between Lexis and Westlaw. After spending a good amount of time on Lexis Advance and WestlawNext, I don’t feel like this has changed much. Both are drastic improvements over their predecessors, but the amount of variation in their search results is negligible. I don’t notice much of a speed difference either.
If you are looking for a reason to switch from Lexis to Westlaw or visa-versa, this is probably not it. Kudos to both companies for really hitting the nail on the head in terms of search, but the two systems seem interchangeable to me.
WestlawNext Case Management:
Westlaw has done a great job in helping users organize their research. The “My Research” folders easily keep your searches organized and allow you to save highlighted and annotated documents. Within the folders themselves, you can organize by:
Another addition I find really useful is the export feature. Found within the options drop-down, users can export documents from Westlaw to their desktop or Amazon Kindle. Perhaps the most useful feature here is the ability to share folders. This makes it easy to tap into research from other attorneys or departments on your team. All you do is select the folder you would like to share, enter your colleagues email address, and assign the role of either “reviewer” or “contributor.”
As I mentioned, I’ve chosen to use Westlaw over Lexis in the past. My initial reaction so far is that I’ll likely use WestlawNext over Lexis Advance. They are both great systems and light-years ahead of their predecessors, but the Westlaw reps still seem to give out better stuff. And as much as I love legal research, there’s nothing I love more than free stuff.