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On the Lexis and Westlaw of the (Very) Near Future

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  • On the Lexis and Westlaw of the (Very) Near Future

    You’ve got to give credit to the folks behind Westlaw and Lexis. Yes, sometimes you hear complaints that the products are too expensive. But you rarely hear people complain about the products themselves.

    That’s largely because each company continues to be pushed hard by the other, and neither has become overly complacent. They continue to try out ideas to gain marketshare. Some work, others fail. But they innovate constantly and diligently, and as a result, legal research continues to get easier, quicker, cheaper, more user-friendly.

    For this reason, it should be fascinating to watch the effect that two big entrants — Google and Bloomberg — could have on the duopoly. Click here for a post we did from last November on Google Scholar, which added state law and federal law and patents to its database.

    The ABA Journal weighs in on Monday with a nice story looking at Westlaw and Lexis’s new big iterations. West’s is slated to roll out shortly; Lexis’s will reportedly follow later in the year.

    How will the tweaks help you, LBers? We’re not exactly sure, but according to the ABA Journal story, expect products that feel a lot more like, well, Google.

    Writes the ABA Journal:
    An early preview of the New Lexis opens with a simple query box. Boolean search terms—like “Roe and Wade” or “Scalia or Roberts”—are a thing of the past. Users can type a simple query with natural language, a la Google or Yahoo. Queries can be filtered by jurisdiction, type of content or other restrictions. The search engine, like Google, has artificial intelligence that will help pull more relevant results.

    And the results are not just pulled from Lexis’ proprietary databases. According to Kilmer, users can obtain results from tens of thousands of legal websites Lexis has identified on the open Web. Those results will also be filtered for relevance, Kilmer says.

    And Westlaw?
    A preview of WestlawNext also reveals it no longer requires users to learn the structure of its underlying databases. Instead, it allows users to enter a simple search term in natural language. As of late December, the company was debating whether to eliminate Boolean searches from the new platform or keep them as an option.

    Searches can be narrowed by jurisdiction, type of content or other features, and artificial intelligence is used to help pull relevant results. Search results are returned in a list, but windows also appear sorting by content type—such as cases, statutes or legislation. The new platform also allows users to bookmark favorite databases and to track those they use most frequently. Westlaw’s KeyCite results—its counterpart to Shepard’s—are also incorporated into the results.

    Of course, notes the story, there’s also Fastcase, as well as other research tools. For now, Bloomberg’s keeping its rollout pretty quiet, while Google insists it’s not trying to slay any Goliaths.

    Still, 10 years from now, we imagine your father’s research tools will be a distant memory.

    Photo: iStockPhoto

  • #2
    Re: On the Lexis and Westlaw of the (Very) Near Future

    beware for google's a comin'


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