Tag Archives: Westlaw

Legal Intelligencer Releases “Best of” Survey; Jenkins Law Library Takes Second for “Online Research Provider”

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The Legal Intelligencer’s annual “Best of” survey was released today; as usual, the latest edition shines a light on what legal resources attorneys in the Keystone State are using. The survey’s respondents are readers of The Legal Intelligencer, the Philadelphia-based daily law journal that has been operating for more than 150 years.

A big kudos goes out to Jenkins Law Library for taking silver in the “Online Research Provider” category. Attorneys apparently view Jenkins as an “online research provider”; this is emblematic of law librarianship’s shift-to-digital, as well as proof that Jenkins has done an excellent job of adapting to the new, digital norm. Most strikingly, this shows Jenkins has succeeded in changing public perception to view a law library not as just a physical building but as a provider of online researching. Jenkins Law Library took silver to Lexis Advance and Westlaw Next who tied for gold. Bloomberg Law finished third in this category.

Notably, Lexis Nexis took home the gold in a number of categories, including E-Discovery, Online Research Provider, Legal iPad app, Case Management, Time and Billing, and Docketing; clearly, Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania as a whole, is a strong market for Lexis Nexis.

From a macro level, the survey shows the digital transitioning the legal field is strongly experiencing by having so many categories dedicated strictly to software and interfaces. Yet, it also shows that the big publishers have really striven to corner the market on specific, digital offerings (again, see how many categories Lexis Nexis took first in, above). With that said, the results are dotted with smaller companies who specialize in one area of the legal practice (Needles to case management, for example), which at least suggests there is still room for legal tech startups.

What can we glean from the results of the Legal iPad Apps category, where Lexis’s Lexis Advanced HD took gold, WestlawNext for iPad took silver, and Black’s Law Dictionary took bronze? Black’s has great name recognition, but the app is basically an e-book. Is this a sign that iPad use has not gained much traction in the legal profession, given that survey respondents may have just selected a name they knew (over, say, a more robust iPad offering like fastcase), or is this a sign that non-Westlaw and Lexis apps have been unable to penetrate if not the market, then at least public consciousness? Or, on the other hand, is Black’s a perfect iPad app deployment in that it eliminates the need to haul a big book around, and that it costs significantly less ($54.95 for the app, $81.95 for the book) than its hardbound brethren? Again, we seem to still be on the sidelines, waiting to see how legal apps shake out in the marketplace.

The Implications of Bestlaw

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On September 24th, Joe Mornin, a Berkely Law School student, released Bestlaw to the public-at-large (see the The Lawyerist‘s and The Recorder‘s admirable coverage of this story). In a nutshell, Bestlaw is a browser extension that improves upon the Westlaw Next interface. Remarkably, Joe Mornin designed the browser extension himself, and makes this piece of software freely available to download on his website (http://www.bestlaw.io/). Bestlaw’s website states the software accomplishes the following:

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THE CURRENT VENDOR SYSTEM

Legal research procedures are driven by vendors. At a basic level, getting to be a good researcher involves memorizing two bodies of knowledge: what legal information resources exist out there, and which vendors create those resources. Dovetailing into all of this, access of resources is controlled by the vendors as well; each vendor has their own, unique, separate interface. This environment makes practical sense because legal research is a commercial enterprise. Accordingly, vendors resemble information silos: their information is their capital. Would legal research be more efficient and effective if there was an incorporation of federated searching, which would enable searching across all of the vendor interfaces simultaneously? Of course! But, the current legal research business model necessitates individual, isolated research interfaces, with individual content collections accessible only via one point of access.

This current legal research business model introduces various problems for the user. Two of the more salient problems are: what information is actually unique inside a vendor interface, and how do vendors charge the user for non-unique content. Westlaw and Lexis, for example, charge transactionally, meaning every pull of information comes with a price tag. This is acceptable when a user pulls information that is absolutely unique to these specific vendors. However, users do not always pull unique information; commonly, they incur extra transactional fees by pulling information they could get for free from somewhere else. The issue, really, is the convenience of the interface: users are already inside a vendor’s specific pay environment, and it becomes really easy and convenient to pull resources inside the pay environment, rather than jump out and search for a free (and trusted) copy of the same resource.

PULLING INFORMATION FOR FREE

Bestlaw, remarkably, incorporates the ability to jump out of the Westlaw Next environment in order to get free copies of resources. As stated above, while inside the Westlaw Next interface, a user can pull free documents from free services like CourtListener, Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, Casetext, and Google Scholar. The convenience factor of being in Westlaw Next’s environment becomes partially moot. Just to step back: Bestlaw adds a toolbar to the Westlaw Next interface, when a user is viewing a document. The toolbar enables the user to pull the exact same document they are currently viewing from one of the above mentioned free resources (so, in my understanding, a user would have already induced a find and view charge, but could circumvent the print charge).

IMPLICATIONS OF BESTLAW

Again, federated searching is the concept of inputting a single search into a single interface, and having that search performed across a multitude of databases. Think of inputting a case law terms and connectors search into an interface, and having that particular search run across Westlaw Next, Lexis Advance, Fastcase, and Bloomberg Law simultaneously. The results could be sortable by some combination of relevancy and cost, meaning the user would get highly relevant results at a lower cost. Rather than be information silos that require users to log into their specific, isolated interfaces, vendors would have to compete in a new technological environment, one where open competition would require the highest relevancy at the lowest cost. The user experience would be improved.

Bestlaw’s ability to jump out and pull from free resources while the user is in the Westlaw Next environment is a step in the direction towards federated searching; Bestlaw is forcing a mash-up of Westlaw Next and a handful of free legal information sources. The user, despite being in the Westlaw Next environment, is no longer restricted to pulling just Westlaw Next content, thus enabling the user the ability to circumvent “print” fees they would typically incur. This is a very intriguing development, and all credit has to go to Joe Mornin for getting the ball rolling.

Perla Makes a Point on PACER

filestackFew things have raised such hue and cry in our industry this year as the announcement that PACER was going to be without certain courts’ materials.  The concern expressed by law librarians and legal researchers clogged newsfeeds for weeks and made its way – all the way – into the halls of politics.  Yet while many saw an immediate challenge to the way we work, others saw an opportunity to turn an old model on its head.  Bloomberg BNA president, David Perla, in a recent article for Law Technology News, was among those not only seeing the glass as half-full but also thinking of newer, better ways to make it overflow. Continue reading

Ravel Law: Visualizing Legal Research

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Ravel Law incorporates the age-old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” into legal research. Visualization is fundamentally incorporated into Ravel Law’s software design. When users conduct a search on a legal topic, or a prior case, Ravel delivers an interactive graphic displaying cases associated with this topic or prior case; the cases that are the most heavily cited have larger icons, thus signifying quickly to researchers which cases are fundamentally important to whatever topic or prior case they’re researching.

Ravel_Map1 Continue reading

What the ILTA Technology Survey Says About Mobile Legal Research

Recently released, the ILTA Technology Survey offers information professionals great insight into how lawyers are interacting with technology at their firms. The organization, made up primarily of firm IT and KM professionals, produces an annual technology survey, and, thankfully, releases it for free (the AmLaw Tech Survey and the ABA’s Legal Technology Survey Report will run you a few dollars).

Notably, among the many topics it covers, the survey focuses on attorneys’ use of tablet pcs and apps.

The results for the question “to the best of your knowledge, which non-native tablet/iPad apps are most used at your firm for business purposes (choose up to five apps)” are as follow, with a brief/not-all-encompassing description from me on what these apps do:

1. Citrix Receiver – enables access to Citrix environments from mobile devices

2. LinkedIn – social media platform for business professionals

3. Dropbox – cloud-computing storage service

4. Adobe Acrobat – .pdf viewer and editor

5. Skype – remote video and voice or instant messaging platform

6. FaceBook – social media platform

7. Documents to Go – enables users to view Microsoft Office and Adobe files in the iOS environment.

8. Evernote – enables users to take electronic notes

9. GoodReader – annotate and read .pdfs

10. Mimecast – enables access of Mimecast email environment

Interesting results:

14. TrialPad – presentation tool tailored to attorneys

15. Westlaw Next – legal research system

27. iTimeKeep – time tracking utility

39. iJuror – jury selection app

Westlaw Next’s inclusion is notable, in that it signifies tablets are being used for legal research, but its location on the list shows the strong popularity of the more well-known productivity-oriented apps (dropbox, evernote, documents to go, etc.). The answer to the overarching question how much traction is there for tablets and mobile devices to be used for legal research is still a little nebulous. Will user behavior change to where tablets and mobile devices are commonly used to conduct legal research? It’s hard to say. Is there a legal research platform that could really exploit the unique characteristics of tablets or mobile devices, to the point where the mobile-version would offer something valuable that would distinguish it from the desktop version?

Also notable is that attorneys themselves are typically not the respondents to the survey questions–rather, it’s the membership of ILTA who are queried. And, it is important to point out, once again, that those queried were to only chose 5 apps, and not every app they have observed/encountered their attorneys using.

Great Blog Posting on New Westlaw: Jason Wilson

As much as we here at iBraryGuy pride ourselves on original content, sometimes we come across postings written by others that are just too good to not share.  So it is with this exceptional teaser on the forthcoming changes to Westlaw.  For you law librarians and legal researchers, Jason Wilson’s blog is an excellent source of news and information.  Check out his musings on Westlaw’s “Project Cobalt“.  Exciting!
Great work, Jason!