New Interfaces for Legal Research

The ABA Journal’s story titled Exclusive: Inside the New Westlaw, Lexis & Bloomberg Platforms discusses the new research interfaces for Westlaw and LexisNexis The New Lexis platform is expected some time later this year. WestlawNext – the public name for Cobalt – is due February 1. Some of the New Lexis’ features cited in the article include:

• no more Boolean search; natural language only with an algorithm boosted by artificial intelligence to help get the most relevant information;
• results broadened beyond Lexis’ own proprietary databases to include relevant open source legal information from across the Web;
• results page is dramatically revamped, to include folders along the margins containing categories of relevant results, such as cases, statutes, and regulations;
• pop-up preview panes containing summaries when you hover over a result and integrated Shepherd’s results for each case;
• graphical presentation of Shepherd’s results and the history and timeline of cases;
• collaboration tools and the ability to store results in folders for later use;
• productivity tools to assist in evaluating the strength of a case, the costs, and potential value to lawyer and client.

WestlawNext will have similar features, using a simple search box for a natural language query that does not require identifying a desired database up front. West has not decided yet to drop Boolean searching Searches can filter results by jurisdiction, type of content and other factors The service will allow bookmarking of favorite databases. KeyCite will also be incorporated directly into the results. There will be similar collaboration features, such as saving work in folders by client. Researchers can use these folders to review their own search history. West also will incorporate some editing features, such as highlighting and noting on cases.

Bloomberg Law is in the process of being tested in a small number of law firms and schools, including Brooklyn Law School. While there are noted limitations in the beta version with respect to the scope of accessible materials, testers are giving the product high marks for intuitiveness and ease of use. Plus, a docket search feature distinguishes Bloomberg from Westlaw and LexisNexis.

The Big Three legal research databases are blending their vast information resources with slick, modern interfaces and productivity tools. These databases will however face strong competition now that free Google offers a viable option especially as legal professionals look to minimize costs.