Monday, August 9, 2010

What's New with Lexis and Westlaw

Returning law students should now have fully restored access to their LexisNexis and Westlaw accounts, which may have gone dormant over the summer (if you did not fit the criteria for a summer extension). Over the coming months, everyone will notice a few changes to both research systems: some dramatic and some gradual. Here are the highlights of each.

Westlaw launched its new WestlawNext interface in the spring, offering access to law firm subscribers and selected law school faculty. Effective August 16, Duke Law students are also able to access this new version of Westlaw—just log in to and look for the link to “WestlawNext” at the top of the screen. (Don’t panic – a link to “classic” Westlaw is still available, too, and both systems will remain available to subscribers indefinitely.)

WestlawNext is a radical departure from the typical Westlaw search, where users must first select the appropriate database of content and then devise appropriate search terms. On WestlawNext, researchers do the reverse – enter search terms in the box, select a jurisdiction, and then filter results by document type, additional search keywords, and other limiting options. There are huge improvements to the display of search results and individual documents (for example, cleaner display of headnotes and footnotes, easy access to KeyCite reports at the top of a document, and useful links to “related content” which is generated by Westlaw from your search words).

The downside? WestlawNext is currently unable to print to the Law School’s dedicated Westlaw printers, meaning you’ll need to download documents and print on the Law School networked printers instead. (The upside of this extra step? You can review your print job before sending it to a printer, selecting only the pages you really need instead of accidentally printing 300 pages of case annotations!) Because WestlawNext is still in beta mode, users may also occasionally experience technical errors such as slowness. Finally, not all Westlaw content is yet migrated onto WestlawNext (particularly international law materials), although links are provided back to for the missing materials and new items are added daily.

LexisNexis is also undergoing a big interface redesign, although the changes will be rolled out more gradually. Phase one included the release of Lexis for Microsoft Office, an add-on for Office 2007 and 2010 which incorporates LexisNexis research right into your Office programs’ “ribbon.” A split screen view allows you to quickly access the full text of cited cases, Shepardize your document’s authorities, and pull up background information on companies, people, or terminology mentioned in your text—without ever leaving your document screen.

The LexisNexis Total Research System will still look familiar—for now. Lexis is currently working behind the scenes on Lexis Advance, a major overhaul of the research system interface which should go live for Duke Law users in spring 2011. In the meantime, Lexis has added some new content to its familiar interface, including full access to docket and court filing content for academic subscribers, and expansion of its New & Business tab to include the content of selected blogs, Twitter accounts (including tweets from members of Congress), and news transcripts and videos.

New 1L and LLM students will receive their Lexis and Westlaw passwords from their LARW research instructors. New transfer students, and any continuing students who are having problems accessing Lexis or Westlaw, should see the Reference Services desk in the library for assistance.