Google and Westlaw had a baby and WestSearch is its name, O!

Beginning this fall, KU Law faculty, staff and students will have access to Westlaw’s newest product: WestlawNext.

I am going to try my best to not get into the super-geeky details here. Also, I’m going to avoid quoting West on this product. Instead, I am going to share with you my experience.

Many students who are starting to learn the online legal research process may find it difficult to switch over to using Westlaw. They are used to using search engines such as Google and Bing where they can just type in their question and go. Legal research just does not work that way. For example, to use Westlaw most efficiently, you have to understand three things: Boolean language connectors, West’s KeyNumber system and legal analysis. This makes online legal research particularly difficult for first-year students who have little if any exposure to these concepts.

Well, the magical minds at West have solved your problem. They have created a product that allows the user to use Westlaw the way that they use search engines: Just type in your question. You don’t have to pick a database or use exact search terms.

This doesn’t take away your need for legal analysis at all. But it does take away your need to understand Boolean logic and West’s KeyNumber system (well, not completely).

So here’s how it works.

  1. Pick a jurisdiction. No database choice is required.
  2. Type in your query however you are used to doing it: Boolean, natural language, citation or parties.

WestSearch uses the editorial additions already in place to rank the results and divide them up by type: case law, statutes, secondary sources, etc. You can then narrow your results using a checklist on the left side. Or find related materials on the right which WestSearch has flagged as AWESOME! Also, once you have looked at a document, West puts a neat little pair of glasses next to it so that you don’t go repeating yourself.

So who has access to WestlawNext? Currently, only faculty and staff. In a few weeks, all students will have access with the exception of 1Ls. Sorry guys! You still need to learn how to use Westlaw! But full access will be granted to you, too, come spring (maybe earlier if we so decide).

How do you get to WestlawNext? Simple. Sign in to Westlaw as you normally would. Once you do, you will see WestlawNext as an option at the top of the screen. Try it out. Play around. We will offer training as the semester rolls on. Otherwise, feel free to sign up for one of the webinars listed below. These are for FACULTY AND LIBRARIANS ONLY! Sorry students!

If you can’t make it, don’t worry! Westlaw will put these up on its TWEN page!

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian