September 8, 2008
Are Librarians Training Lawyers and Law Students in the Use of Alternatives to LexisNexis and Westlaw
According to the ABA’s 2008 Legal Technology Survey Report, 96% of private sector lawyers perform legal research online, up from 79% in 2003. More interesting, much more interesting, is that the number of lawyers performing free online legal research has overtaken the number using fee-based services for the first time. In 2008, 89% used free online legal research while 87% used fee-based research services. [Click on image; Source: ABA Journal]
This probably is not the response the survey's sponsors, LexisNexis and Thomson West, wanted to hear. While free online legal research covers all sorts of Internet-based legal materials, the trend is clear, lawyers are seeking alternatives to pricey online legal research services. With the trend now very well-established, the outlook for free or "open access" legal research service providers PreCYdent, PLoL and AltLaw, to challenge LexisNexis and Westlaw is good and can improve if law librarians are using and training their patrons to use these free services.
Do law librarians regularly use PreCYdent, PLoL and/or AltLaw? Do law librarians train their patrons in the use of PreCYdent, PLoL and/or AltLaw in a manner similar to Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw training? I've split the questions into two spheres: academic law librarians (and legal research and writing profs) and all other law librarians because the former are responsible for training the latter's future patrons.
Back in 1872, John West had a good idea: publish and sell court decisions. PreCYdent, PLoL and AltLaw have a better idea: provide these materials free of charge. Of course, their coverage of court decisions, statutes, and citation indexes isn't as comprehensive as LexisNexis and Westlaw but this situation is improving. Plus some of these services are providing search engines that may be better than the for-profit alternatives. [JH]
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Hard to comment on this in a way that doesn't seem self serving... but isn't this the wrong question? There are also court websites, LIIs, agencies, and a variety of other authoritative free-to-air law providers, Justia..... Why limit the question to AltLaw, Precydent, and PLOL?
There seems to be a bias here toward services that are the most WEXIS-like in their approach ("put it all in a huge centralized bucket and turn a big search engine loose on it"). I realize that such services are way easier to teach. But sooner or later legal research teaching is going to have to come to grips with a much more diverse ecology of electronic sources than it has thus far -- and pretending that the only free information providers are the ones aping centralized services is probably not the way to do it.
Posted by: Thomas R. Bruce | Sep 15, 2008 3:56:19 AM
Hell, we can barely get students to attend Lexis or Westlaw training sessions! -- adding anything else is nigh impossible! Evidently law students are all power-searching expert savants with otherworldly database-fu (even though about 1/4 of them can't even log in without having their hands held through the process), and neither need nor want training of any kind.
It wouldn't matter to my students if I did a psychedelic striptease while doing a training (of any kind). They simply do not care. They think that because they can (kind of) run Google, they know all they need to know, and simply ignore all attempts to teach them otherwise. Honestly, the only two reasons they bother show up to Lexis and Westlaw training is 1) that the big two give out toys, and 2) some of their professors require it. They couldn't care less what the librarians say, since they don't respect us and aren't afraid of us.
Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 12, 2008 10:07:44 AM