schmidlawlibrary

What is WestlawNext?

In Check This Out, News & Notes, Read This on September 1, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Returning students should have noticed that Westlaw looks different. There is an option for something called WestlawNext. Its name implies that it is new and different. It is. Is it simply a fancy new interface or a whole new way of doing online legal research?

Interestingly, even the folks at West have a hard time answering that question. After countless questions and conversations with the good people in Eagan, MN, this much is clear: It is an entirely new system. WestlawNext is an entirely separate database carried on separate servers from the “old, classic” Westlaw. West intends to ultimately phase out classic Westlaw. At present they say that it will disappear in a “few years.”

The contents of Westlaw classic and WestlawNext are <i>not</i> the same. How they are different isn’t completely clear. It seems that the two systems are about 85-90% identical. Differences are largely reflected in access to third party databases.

The search engine that’s driving WestlawNext is very close to the kind of “cloud” algorithms that Google uses to rank search results. That is, some users’ searches, search results and browsing behaviors are valued/weighted higher than others. For example, information about an attorney’s searching and browsing patterns are gathered and used to weight subsequent searches using similar key words. The algorithm is extremely complex and West is very tight-lipped about all the elements of it.

The best thing about WestlawNext is its clean interface, and the ability that it gives to users to manipulate search results.

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