June 16, 2011
WestlawNext: Pros and Cons and General Comments from Law Librarians
Published with permission from the AALL listserv (lightly edited):
Summary of Librarians’ Comments Given Regarding WestlawNext
Most comments were pretty black-and-white however [there were a] couple conflicting or contradicting comments. Most comments came from law firm librarians, but there were also comments from two law school librarians and one court librarian.
Comparable Lexis product – Lexis Advance for Associates – is coming out in the fall. This will probably make it necessary for Westlaw to come down on their pricing with the new competition.
We're not going to switch until Westlaw.com is retired. We don't want to pay more to access the same data via a new interface.
The WestSearch algorithm (their plain language search system) seems to work better when black letter law is sought or when searches are very simple; it seems to work less well for factually driven searches (not surprising, considering how they have put the system together) and more complicated searches. It is good to know that searching by terms and connectors is still possible (and necessary).
It would cost the [state judicial branch significantly] more than regular Westlaw so we are NOT going with WestlawNext.
I don't like it, but it's the wave of the future, and it's the way to go, since people no longer want to be bothered with learning "how" to do research.
WLN is being touted (with appropriate price increase) as a huge leap forward that will make Classic obsolete. To me, it looks like WL is just trying to make itself more palatable to new law grads who think Google is the alpha and omega of all knowledge - and if actual in-depth research suffers, so be it.
- Good for inexperienced searchers (Google-like).
- Good for case law research
- The foldering features and doc sharing tools are great.
- Will draw users that otherwise have an aversion to online research.
- Good for researching things you don’t know anything about.
- Much, much easier to search for law reviews/secondary sources.
- Some very nice new resource pages.
- The legislative history is much easier to use.
- Users vastly prefer WestlawNext Keycite and have commented that it’s easier to find cases using WestlawNext.
- The options for using it on a Kindle/tablet are superior.
- The appearance customization options are good for people with vision impairments.
- I like that West has decided to clean up their interface.
- Bad for seasoned researchers because it is too “dumbed-down” makes it harder to get results and results are less precise.
- Way too expensive.
- Seasoned researchers find it confusing.
- Have come across some very odd results with the West relevancy ranking. The most critical documents are often way down the list. Associates should not rely on it blindly.
- Don’t the ability to rank order chronologically by court.
- Don’t like not having the control that you have with traditional Westlaw.
- Without the good search terms and some basic understanding of the issue it can be difficult to use.
- Administrative law is even harder to find.
- Statutes are difficult to research.
- WestlawNext and Westlaw sales people don’t seem to communicate with each other.
- They’re doing weird things with solo pricing on it (incentive to switch w/o telling solos about better priced WestlawPro product).
- There is no star pagination in secondary sources.
- One retrieves way too much garbage in a jumbled fashion with WestlawNext.
- When we research an issue, it isn't unusual for an attorney to scan 40 or 50 cases at a time to get the total picture - the WLN pricing structure penalizes this kind of exhaustive research by charging for each result viewed, while the WL Classic model supports it.
- WLN seems optimized for the easy, quick answer, which isn't usually the kind of legal work we handle.
- Dislike. It is very expensive and our ability to bill back suffered as an overall percentage of recovery because with two systems, usage stayed the same but the bill got bigger.
OK, It is Admittedly an Informal Survey of Professional Law Librarian Opinions But... . In addition to the above less than stellar general comments, looks like the "Cons" out number the "Pros" and do so by highlighting serious search-related flaws. I'm thinking TR Legal's marketing mavens better start coaching the Exhibit Hall Dilbert booth dwellers at Philly 2011: Cream Cheese, Cheesesteak or Karaoke on what to say after "Hey, WestlawNext was named 2011 Product of the Year by AALL!" Lots and lots of coaching on the official script because it appears that Johnny and Jenny Westlaw have been "retired."
Being named Product of the Year by AALL doesn't mean a damn thing other than AALL failed to do its due diligence this year. Personally, I have to wonder how many of the Award Committee members actually used WLN daily before making the decision to recognize a legal search service that is still not ready for "prime time." AALL did nothing more than provide fodder for the TR Legal PR team. From the press release:
“The WestlawNext team is honored to be accorded this recognition from the customers who best understand our service and its value." -- Mike Dahn, chief marketing and product development officer, Westlaw U.S., and former law librarian.
Thanks for the advice, our firm is currently making a big decision on what to use for legal research.
Posted by: Lansing Personal Injury Attorney | Nov 30, 2011 9:59:09 AM
I am surprised no one noted the absence of Westclip from WestlawNext. Or the loss of the Retrieve-Most-Recent feature. Or the loss of the sort-by-most-cited feature when running a digest search....They tell me they are working on fixes.
Posted by: Gayle Dixon | Jun 16, 2011 10:12:22 AM