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WestlawNext Review: Google for Lawyers

By: Marshall R. Isaacs

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from my Westlaw representative, Laura. I picked up the phone and instantly responded, “I’m not interested…I have that book already.” However, what Laura had to offer was something revolutionary. For those of you who don’t know me, I've used the adjective revolutionary only twice in my life, the first time to describe the internet and the second time to describe internet pornography. WestlawNext is revolutionary.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the old Westlaw. But I loved it in much the same way I love my boisterous, alcoholic uncle. When he's drunk, he's in his "natural language" phase and won't shut up. When he's hung-over, he's in his "terms & connectors" phase and won't give me the time of day. Fortunately, Westlaw appears to have completed its twelve steps and is now clean and sober. Like Cassius Clay, the new Thompson Reuters product has found religion, taken on a new name and is poised to capture the title in the legal research arena.

Having used WestlawNext for a few weeks, the simplest way for me to describe it is, “Google for Lawyers.” The days of terms & connectors and natural language queries are over. Now you can plug in anything; a word, a citation, a key number, and WestlawNext will list the most relevant results. You are no longer tasked with selecting databases; WestlawNext automatically categorizes search results by caselaw, statutes, treatises, forms, etc. According to Thompson-Reuters, WestlawNext employs a new algorithm which increases search efficiency by an average of 64%. Wary of statistics, I decided to put WestlawNext to the test. My name appears in four reported decisions so I plugged the words “Marshall Isaacs” into WestlawNext’s search box. WestlawNext displayed 31 cases. My cases came up as result numbers 21, 23, 26 and 30. When I performed the same search in the old Westlaw using natural language, I didn’t come up until result number 43. My test may have been somewhat unscientific, but I certainly found what I was looking for more quickly using the newer product.

My older colleagues will also be delighted to learn that Thompson Reuters has made the once onerous task of Shepardizing obsolete. Negative treatment, case history and citing references are now conspicuously identified in tabs at the top of every case.

The pièce de résistance, however, is that WestlawNext now operates like a Microsoft Office product. You can create folders in which to save your research, highlight relevant paragraphs and tag cases using a post-it-note-type feature.

Many of you no doubt want the answer to the 64 million dollar question, “How much more does it cost?” Of course, the answer depends on the amount and type of services you order and the number of users. WestlawNext costs my office roughly 33% more than Westlaw. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my new package comes standard with a handful of useful databases such as New York Jurisprudence and New York Business and Legal Forms which would have increased the price of my old Westlaw package by far more than 33%. In short order, WestlawNext is a bargain for a litigation practice like mine.

Comments (3)

I agree that WestlawNext is a great product. However, I'm very unhappy with the way West has handled pricing. Briefly, in my view, West should absorb the cost of its own R&D.

I wrote extensively about the progress of my WestlawNext upgrade negotiations on my blog at http://tinyurl.com/2azcz42. As a postscript, a few weeks ago, I communicated with Mike Dahn (who was in charge of WestlawNext development) himself concerning the 68% premium I was quoted for an upgrade. After running my plan details through the number crunchers in Eagan, the best they could come up with still involved a 20% premium to "upgrade" to WestlawNext, without gaining in-plan access to any additional databases.

Cliff Friedman:

LOL re your use of the adjective "revolutionary"! You made the subject matter a very entertaining and informative read.

Lisa -

Thanks for chiming-in. I read your articles on Legal Research & Writing Pro and can understand your frustration with WestlawNext's pricing.

Our very different experiences may may simply have something to do with our representatives. Mine have always been transparent and have helped me find ways to save money.

Also, I think of Westlaw the same way I think about air conditioning in the summer. I'm so happy to have it that price really isn't an issue.

Hope all is well.


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