February 1, 2010
Where to Start Reading Professional Critical Analysis and Commentary on WestlawNext
Now that West's non-disclosure agreements have expired, the blogosphere is exploding with commentary and analysis of WestlawNext by legal information professionals who were given a sneak peak in Eagan last week. Lots of excellent posts offering critical analysis of Cobalt to read but where to start?
Recommended Readings. In addition to the previously noted video discussion featuring Tom Boone, Greg Lambert, Jason Wilson and Jason Eiseman, I suggest starting with Jason Wilson's WestlawNext Review: Ending the Tyranny of the Keyword. Don't let the title mislead you. This is an excellent detailed analysis with commentary that covers much more than just Cobalt's new search engine (which is covered well). For another fairly comprehensive review and critique, turn to Tom Boone's WestlawNext and the future of legal research instruction post. Equipped with the information provided by Jason and Tom's posts, the legal information professional will find many additional posts worth reading.
Going to a Free Cobalt Preview? Attendees of one of TR Legal's free Cobalt preview breakfasts in select cities starting on Feb. 10th will find Jason and Tom's posts to be an excellent basis for preparing specific questions to ask at the meetings. Good luck getting specific answers to upgrade pricing. See LLB's earlier post about the Cobalt previews at Cobalt 2010: The Doors of Perception Tour Begins
"Nudging" TR Legal to Provide Cobalt Information to Professional Legal Researchers. It's typical for a publisher to give "exclusive" interviews to major media outlets ahead of a product roll-out, knowing that the authors, none experts but all under deadlines in a rush to publish "news" will "borrow" heavily from vendor-supplied "information" without publishing much, if anything, in the way of evaluation. Did TR Legal's planned marketing staging of this unpaid publicity ahead of product demos include last week's pre-release preview for legal information professionals or was that a later accommodation to address the hue and cry for Cobalt information published in the law librarian blogosphere? We'll never know for sure -- can we trust whatever West would say about the matter? -- but I'm leaning toward the later accommodation view. (Bob Berring's students reportedly were given a sneak preview of Cobalt -- no surprise there considering the very close and a wee bit too comfortable relationship between Berring and West.)
Giving TR Legal Credit When Credit is Due. Someone, who requested to remain unidentified, asked if I was invited to Eagan for last week's sneak preview? My response was "do you read LLB, LOL?" No I wasn't and, no, my professional whatevers were not hurt by this "petty omission" (the emailer's characterization, not mine). I would have fallen off my chair if I had been invited.
WEXIS roll-outs, OMG, I've lost track of the number of WEXIS rollouts and pricing plan changes I've lived through since my fingers first touched a dedicated Lexis workstation keyboard in 1979. Are Cobalt and "New Lexis" going to be significant events with substantial consequences for users and license-payers of very expensive legal search services? You bet they are but "I've been there, done that before" and before and before... Bottom line: the vast majority of the legal information professionals who attended the Eagan event are doing a much better job at delving into the guts of Cobalt than my small brain could have ever accomplished.
To TR Legal's credit, the Company went beyond the Berringesqe 'friends of West" clique in the professional community to invite a number of very well qualified law librarians and other legal information professionals who the Company knew could not be controlled in what they would eventually publish. There's nothing wrong with NDAs (been there, done that) and, in this case, TR Legal's NDAs did not stipulate a publication embargo until after the free Cobalt breakfast tour concluded. Now, such an embargo would have be unacceptable. Instead the legal information blogosphere, once again the place for advocating on behalf of users and libraries, is providing analysis and commentary and is identifying issues that will need to be discussed before West reps come a-knocking on our doors.
Me? I'm just waiting for an invitation to have a beer with TR CEO Tom Glocer but I'm not holding my breath on that ever happening. [JH]