According to Betsy McKenzie at Out of the Jungle, “WestlawNext has been in development for more than five years.”
Westlaw programmers studied legal researchers and analyzed the researchers’ interface with Westlaw. Academic law librarians provided feedback as part of the development process. Westlaw also conducted in-depth analysis of users’ real research logs, recreating the searches and looking for opportunities to improve the search, retrieval and ranking. Westlaw also convened focus groups, design reviews, and performance testing.
McKenize asserts that:
This is not “googlization” of legal research. There is some similarity because they are looking at customer linking. But they are building an enormous “back end” to this research system that looks simple at the front. The system does in the background all the things law librarians have wanted good researchers to do: do background reading, get extra terms, carefully choose database or even combine them, So it is also not dumbing down legal research. It is, rather, doing it for you, automatically. However, it still gives you the choice, and the tools to do the Boolean search, to use the field searching, and to do all the powersearching things that long-time skilled searchers have learned to do.
Westlaw plans to launch WestlawNext to law students in Fall 2010 semester, this is according to Anne Ellis, Senior Director, Librarian Relations Thomson Reuters as noted in Law Librarian Blog.
Brooklyn Law School Library will be demonstrating WestlawNext to faculty in March 2010, watch for details.