The Legal Research Tournament, The Semifinals, Game 2: WestlawNext vs. Bloomberg Law

The Legal Research Tournament continues with the Semifinals! You can review the rules of the Tournament here, or take a look at any of the Round 1 matchups. With only four teams remaining, the favorite WestlawNext is trying to fend off challenges from Bloomberg Law, Books in the Library and Critical Thinking. We continue today with the second semifinal matchup:

(1) WestlawNext vs. (4) Bloomberg Law.

This is a more typical matchup than in our other semifinal, featuring general legal research databases—both produced by major companies trying to capture large shares of the legal research market. Unfortunately for Bloomberg Law, WestlawNext is largely able to respond to any of Bloomberg’s challenges with the classic tune Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. Bloomberg Law is essentially trying to butt in on research methods that Westlaw has been refining for years. Bloomberg is doing a good job of it and its database is improving in both content and features, but it has not yet arrived at WestlawNext’s level.

In its current form, Bloomberg Law’s bid to upset WestlawNext is like trying to beat the U.S. women’s hockey team by using only good goaltending. Bloomberg Law does certain things well. As discussed last week, its BNA practice guides and newsletters are great resources for staying on top of developments in a particular legal field. Bloomberg’s federal docket searching is a nice feature, providing more consistent access to the actual documents in the dockets than what you’ll find with WestlawNext. If you want to do basic legal research though—looking up statutes, cases, regulations, law review articles and the other basic building blocks for legal research—Bloomberg Law just does not yet have the overall game to compete with WestlawNext. Bloomberg Law offers no annotated codes, its case searching lacks the refined tools you’ll find with WestlawNext (like hyperlinked headnotes), and its law review collection does not have enough content to make it worth searching when you could search a fully stocked WestlawNext instead. It may be that in a few years Bloomberg will be able to really compete with WestlawNext, especially if Bloomberg can somehow purchase Lexis’s legal content and put it into Bloomberg’s better interface. For now though, use Bloomberg Law for its unique features like the BNA materials and the federal docket access, but use WestlawNext for your general legal research.

                Winner: WestlawNext. 

Next week: The Championships! WestlawNext vs. Critical Thinking

– Ben Doherty 

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Ben Doherty

Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.

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Legal Research Tournament, Round 1, Game 4: WestlawNext vs. Fastcase

Welcome to the last installment of Round 1 of the Legal Research Tournament, where 8 teams (or legal research resources) will begin the competition to answer the question: If you had to pick just one resource to use for all of your legal research, which one would be the best? For a description of the rules of the tournament, the teams competing and the tournament seedings and bracket, please see our previous post, The Legal Research Tournament Begins!

[Opinions expressed during this completely objective competition are solely my own, and not those of the UVA Law Library, UVA Law School, or former and still champion LawDawgs softball team.]

And on to the fourth of this week’s four matchups!:

(1) WestlawNext vs. (8) Fastcase.

WestlawNext is by far the most popular choice among UVA Law students; and with good reason. WestlawNext has done a superb job transitioning to the Google-like approach to search by offering a user-friendly interface with different search options that appeal to all types of users. Like the simple Google approach of typing some terms into a box and letting the search engine do the work for you? WestlawNext’s main WestSearch box works surprisingly well, allowing users to do a broad search and then narrow the results by document type, jurisdiction or other facets. Prefer to do more precise, controlled searching? You’re in luck as well. Just browse from the main screen to one of WestlawNext’s many specific databases and click on the word “advanced” next to the search box.

That opens up a user-friendly Advanced Search screen tailored specifically to the database you have selected. There you can use their Fields template to search only selected portions of documents, and be reminded of the different term connectors WestlawNext uses for sophisticated Boolean searching.

WestlawNext’s smooth combination of basic and advanced searching works well, allowing for more powerful search techniques than just about any other database available at UVA.

Fastcase counters by offering a nice database with many of the same features as WestlawNext, but at NO COST to members of many state bars, including Virginia’s. Ok, the no cost part is no big deal to our law students because they get free access to WestlawNext while in school anyways (plus Fastcase is not actually available at the law school). However, no cost is often a BIG DEAL to practicing attorneys and Fastcase is a good database. It provides advanced case searching for all U.S. federal and state cases and easy access to all current federal and state statutes. Unfortunately for Fastcase in this tournament, WestlawNext does all that plus way more. WestlawNext offers features such as detailed case headnotes and well-edited statutory annotations that Fastcase just cannot match. Keep Fastcase in mind as a nice, no-cost alternative for practicing attorneys on a budget, but here it’s just not able to match up with WestlawNext.

                Winner: WestlawNext.

With that, four teams move on and four go home. For those teams ending on a loss: Keep your head up—just making it into our Final Eight was a big accomplishment in itself!

Stay tuned for Round 2: The Semifinals!

– Ben Doherty  

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Ben Doherty

Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.

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Legal Research Tournament, Round 1, Game 3: Lexis Advance vs. Critical Thinking

Welcome once again to Round 1 of the Legal Research Tournament, where 8 teams (or legal research resources) will begin the competition to answer the question: If you had to pick just one resource to use for all of your legal research, which one would be the best? For a description of the rules of the tournament, the teams competing and the tournament seedings and bracket, please see our previous post, The Legal Research Tournament Begins!

[Opinions expressed during this completely objective competition are solely my own, and not those of the UVA Law Library, UVA Law School, or former and still champion LawDawgs softball team.]

And on to the third of this week’s four matchups!:

(2) Lexis Advance vs. (7) Critical Thinking.

Out of respect for its age, we’ll give Critical Thinking first shot in this matchup. People have been using Critical Thinking to figure things out for eons. No different with lawyers. Before the internet, before computers, lawyers have been finding precedent and critically analyzing how it should apply to their clients. Even now that sophisticated databases make finding legal information easier than ever, the need for critical analysis of what you have found is no less. Just ask some judges about the importance of being able to critically analyze cases in your research and not just find them. As a future attorney, you may not know which legal research database you’ll get to use in your practice. Armed with a focused critical mind, however, it should not matter, as you will be able to find the information you need and apply it to your client’s situation no matter the resources available to you. That’s a good tool to have.

Lexis has been competing with Westlaw for the bulk of the computerized legal research market for decades. LexisAdvance, the company’s foray into the new world of search had inauspicious beginnings. It has improved since then and, like WestlawNext, benefits from the huge breadth of legal resources Lexis is able to provide. From cases to annotated statutes to regulations to law review articles, Lexis Advance provides access to just about any information a lawyer would need, all fully searchable. The problem is it is not always easy to figure out how to do so. Unlike WestlawNext, Lexis Advance does not feel intuitive and user-friendly. It often feels like a database that has been pasted together from disparate parts: a bunch of fixes on top of fixes on top of fixes—the Millenium Falcon approach to constructing a legal database.

Granted, for basic searches, it works o.k. I can plug the term “felony murder” into the main search box and then narrow down by legislation and jurisdiction to easily pull up Virginia’s felony murder statute. Great! However, what if I want to look at LexisAdvance’s treatises on employment law? Where are they? When I click on Browse Sources I am confronted with LexisAdvance’s A-Z list of every single source it has. After regaining my orientation, I can use Narrow By to reduce my options to Secondary Sources and Treatises, but that still leaves me with an unmanageable list of hundreds of options. Now what? The only other option to Narrow By is jurisdiction, and employment law covers all jurisdictions. I suppose I could use the Search Sources option, but for what? Do I search for the word labor? Or employment? Or occupational? All three? Where am I? How did I get here? This is not my beautiful house.


Lexis Advance too often leaves me with questions. When I use Critical Thinking as a resource, I want it to generate questions: Have I uncovered everything I need for this problem? Am I using the best source for this information? What precisely have I found in my searches? Unfortunately, using Lexis Advance doesn’t allow me to answer those types of questions satisfactorily. I never feel comfortable enough with the database to know I have found all the information I need. Lexis Advance will be adding enhancements in mid-February, but that’s too late for this tournament. Maybe next year! And we have our first big upset of the tournament!

                Winner: Critical Thinking.

Tomorrow’s match-up to finish Round 1: (1) WestlawNext vs. (8) Fastcase

– Ben Doherty 

 

Written by

Ben Doherty

Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.

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Legal Research Tournament! Round 1, Game 2: HeinOnline vs. Books in the Library

Welcome to Round 1 of the Legal Research Tournament, where 8 teams (or legal research resources) will begin the competition to answer the question: If you had to pick just one resource to use for all of your legal research, which one would be the best? For a description of the rules of the tournament, the teams competing and the tournament seedings and bracket, please see our previous post, The Legal Research Tournament Begins!

[Opinions expressed during this completely objective competition are solely my own, and not those of the UVA Law Library, UVA Law School, or former and still champion LawDawgs softball team.]

And on to the second of this week’s four matchups!:

(3) HeinOnline vs. (6) Books in the Library.

HeinOnline is of course the journal cite-checker’s best friend, providing PDFs taken from the original source of Supreme Court Opinions, law journal articles, UN Documents including major treaties and International Court of Justice Opinions, state and federal statutes and much more—often going back in time to the first run of these documents. It’s a great, one-stop shopping experience that can help you collect the documents you need for your cite check before the weekend even begins! In addition, Hein has partnered with Fastcase to provide access to all federal and state cases (having previously only provided U.S. Supreme Court cases) either by plugging in a citation or linking from another Hein document. It’s a smart partnership by two niche providers of legal research services, although for law students, it’s really not a game changer.

Hein remains a nice depository of PDFs for cite checkers, but not a general legal research database. Even with the Fastcase feature, you still cannot do full-text keyword searching of any cases except for the Supreme Court opinions. Hein also has no annotated codes, case headnotes, or other features found in the major legal research databases like WestlawNext or LexisAdvance. It’s a great place to go to pull up an original document when you have a citation already, but not really a general legal research resource.

The Books in the Library, on the other hand, are the original legal research resource. Yes, they are slower and more cumbersome to use than WestlawNext, for example, but this is a head-to-head matchup so we’re not concerned with WestlawNext at the moment. All the mainstays of legal research, such as treatises, annotated codes, published cases, and case digests, originated in the books and can still be found there. It’s true that in these days of instant, online research feedback, using the books seems like a step backward. In this matchup, though, books have the advantage over Hein’s online database. If you need to do some basic research on a topic of Virginia law—finding relevant statutes, regulations or cases—and your choice of sources is between HeinOnline and the Books in the Library, you’ll be much more successful with the books.

                Winner: Books in the Library.

Tomorrow’s match-up: (2) Lexis Advance vs. (7) Critical Thinking. 

– Ben Doherty 

Written by

Ben Doherty

Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.

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The Legal Research Tournament, Round 1, Game 1: Bloomberg Law vs. Google

Welcome to Round 1 of the Legal Research Tournament, where 8 teams (or legal research resources) will begin the competition to answer the question: If you had to pick just one resource to use for all of your legal research, which one would be the best? For a description of the rules of the tournament, the teams competing and the tournament seedings and bracket, please see our previous post, The Legal Research Tournament Begins!

[Opinions expressed during this completely objective competition are solely my own, and not those of the UVA Law Library, UVA Law School, or former and still champion LawDawgs softball team.]

Without further ado, on to the first of this week’s four matchups!

(4) Bloomberg Law vs. (5) Google.

The 4/5 matchup is always a tough one to call. On the one hand, we have Bloomberg Law, a new player in legal research databases, but backed by the research power of the Bloomberg company and featuring established practice guides and treatises from BNA. On the other hand, we have Google, which owns Search, and gives us completely free access to state and federal cases, statutes and regulations.

Bloomberg Law is a nice database. It is user-friendly, easy to navigate and visually appealing. For basic legal research, Bloomberg Law is not bad—at least as useful as a database like Fastcase. It allows for basic keyword searching of all state and federal cases, or easy access to more sophisticated Boolean searching, including proximity connectors, through its Search Help pop-up. It also provides easy access to current federal and state codes, either by browsing or searching. However, Bloomberg’s codes are not annotated, a problem for two reasons. The first is that the code annotations are a great way to easily find those all-important cases interpreting a code section—without them you have to look the cases up separately on your own. The other is that when you search code sections without annotations, you have to be completely accurate in wording your search or you won’t get any results. For example, a search of the Virginia Code Annotated in either WestlawNext or Lexis Advance for “felony murder” will get you to the right statute even though technically it is called “felony homicide” in Virginia because plenty of the case annotations use the more common term “felony murder.” Doing the same search in Bloomberg Law, you get no results because there are no annotations. The other big hole in the Bloomberg Law lineup is law reviews—a great source for background research when confronted with a legal issue new to you. They have some law reviews, but relatively few compared to the other major legal research databases (although they are working on it).

Bloomberg Law makes up for those gaps in coverage somewhat with great access to federal court dockets. They have a great system for mirroring PACER, the federal courts’ electronic records system—just go to Search Dockets under the Litigation & Dockets tab. As lawyers know, a lot of important legal developments occur in filings that are never published in traditional case reporters. Through Bloomberg you can easily access everything that has happened in a federal case and track new developments. It is a nice feature, and one that Bloomberg does better than either Westlaw or Lexis.

Bloomberg Law also provides access to all of the great BNA daily and weekly newsletters on specific practice areas. These are among the most valuable resources out there for staying on top of developments in an area of law so that you can anticipate your clients’ needs.

Google, on the other hand, has the advantage of being free to everyone: law students, lawyers, the general public—everyone. And everyone knows how to use it. In particular, Google Scholar allows nice, free access to just about all federal and state cases in an easy-to-search database. It has few of the bells and whistles for case research you’ll find in the other databases, but for just doing some introductory case research or looking up a case when you know the citation, it is easy, effective and cost free. Google also allows easy access to state and federal statutes. Just Google “Virginia Code” and you can get right to the online Code of Virginia provided by the legislature. O.k., Google doesn’t really own those codes, but it is the tool that gets you there. As long as you are attentive to what you are seeing, there is a surprising amount of legal research you can do through Google for free: case law, statutes, regulations, and law review articles. Legal research does not necessarily requiring signing onto an expensive database.

All in all though, in this matchup, Bloomberg Law has the advantage. It may have gaps in its content, but overall it allows for more sophisticated legal research, without having to jump around to different sites on the web for different legal resources. Google and Google Scholar are nice places for the public to do legal research or for a lawyer to do some preliminary looking, but Bloomberg Law provides more of a one-stop shop, with the added bonus of the easy docket access. 

                Winner: Bloomberg Law.

Tomorrow’s match-up: (3) Hein Online vs. (6) Books in the Library.  

 – Ben Doherty 

 

Written by

Ben Doherty

Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.

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The Legal Research Tournament Begins!

Law students have at their hands a variety of good databases and other resources to use for legal research, including WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, Bloomberg Law and HeinOnline. With free access to them all, law students tend to gravitate towards one or another of these databases, but is the one they choose truly the best database for legal research, or just the first one they learned or the one that offers the best rewards prizes?

We thought it would be useful to address the question: If you had to pick just one resource to use for all of your legal research, which one would be the best?  However, picking “the best” out of so many good choices poses a methodology problem. After all, each database or resource has its pros and cons, and each resource operates a little differently. Is there really one method we could use to single out a database or resource as hands down better than all the others? Fortunately, we did some of our own research and found that among other governmental institutions, there is a preferred method for determining who or what is “the best.” We found that the NCAA, the National Football League, the Australian Open, Pokemon and King’s Landing have all settled on a format known as a “tournament”—that familiar, objective format for leaving only the best team standing. With the format decided, on to The Legal Research Tournament!

The Rules

The eight top teams, or legal research resources, will face off against one another in a three round, knock-out tournament. The teams will compete head to head, in draws based on their seeding, with the winner moving on to the next round. The winner of each matchup will be determined by a completely objective comparison of their features until all teams are eliminated except for our Champion. Simple. [Any views expressed in these competitions are my own and not necessarily the views of the UVA Law Library, UVA School of Law, or the former LawDawgs softball team].

The Eight Teams

Listed in order of their seeding:

(1) WestlawNext. Every tournament has its favorite. When it debuted, WestlawNext was the 2011 American Association of Law Libraries’ New Product of the Year. It has evolved since then, making helpful changes in response to user suggestions, continues to win awards, and seems to be the choice of most UVA Law students. WestlawNext is highly favored to win the tournament, so much so that they fired hundreds of their employees shortly before this tournament began.

(2) Lexis Advance. The other big power in the computer-assisted legal research business. Westlaw and Lexis have set the standard for computerized legal research for decades. LexisAdvance has struggled in its introduction, but is backed by a company with a long history of providing legal research solutions. It is hard to imagine Lexis Advance will not go far in this tournament.

(3) HeinOnline (now featuring Fastcase). HeinOnline has long been a favorite of cite-checkers, providing original source PDFs of a large volume of legal documents. It recently made a step up by partnering with Fastcase so that Hein can now offer access to all federal and state case law and not just Supreme Court decisions. It may make Hein more of a one-stop shopping experience.

(4) Bloomberg Law. Bloomberg is best known as a business research and media company, but recently successfully entered the legal research marketplace by offering a user-friendly interface and partnering with BNA to provide popular legal practice guides and tools. Bloomberg Law is dangerous in this tournament because it provides free access to federal court dockets by mirroring the PACER system—a great feature.

(5) Google. Wait . . . Google? For legal research? When we have all of these other fancy, expensive databases? Yes. Why not? You use it for everything else. Actually, Google Scholar has the best free-for-everyone federal and state case law database available right now. Google is also the gateway to all sorts of other free legal resources. You can do a lot of legal research online without having to pay a dime to some of our more heavily-favored competitors.

(6) Books in The Library. Lawyers have been using the books for legal research since long before computers were invented. All online research systems are actually based on the books. Ok, maybe it takes a bit longer than online research, or even a lot longer. What happens, though, when you are doing last-minute research for a major brief you have to file tomorrow and the power goes out? Books are still a player.

(7) Critical Thinking. People have been using critical thinking to solve problems since long before books were invented. Like books, it doesn’t require electricity; and it can be applied in almost any situation. Critical thinking might be a low seed, but don’t sleep on it.

(8) Fastcase. Our law students are generally unfamiliar with Fastcase because we do not offer it at the law school. However, it is offered to many lawyers, including Virginia lawyers, at no extra cost as part of their bar membership. It does not have all the features you’ll find in WestlawNext or Lexis Advance, but it is a pretty good database for basic legal research. Yes, it has partnered with HeinOnline, another tournament team, but we’ll give it its own shot at victory.

The Bracket

                Round 1

                (1) WestlawNext vs. (8) Fastcase.

                (2) Lexis Advance vs. (7) Critical Thinking.

                (3) HeinOnline vs. (6) Books in The Library.

                (4) Bloomberg Law vs. (5) Google.

 

                Round 2

                (1)/(8) winner vs. (4)/(5) winner.

                (2)/(7) winner vs. (3)/(6) winner.

 

                Round 3 – The Championship!

                Remaining two teams square off for the championship!

 

Stay tuned for Round 1!

– Ben Doherty  

Written by

Ben Doherty

Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.

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Wondering Where Your Old Lexis Went?

Lexis recently converted to having all law school users access its services through Lexis Advance, http://advance.lexis.com.

While the new interface may have advantages, many experienced Lexis users continue to prefer the source selection and search capabilities of the older lexis.com interface. Some materials, particularly in foreign and international law, are still only available in lexis.com. Lexis.com has not disappeared, but you have to know where to look for it.

To get to lexis.com, go to Lexis Advance and click on the down arrow next to “Research” at the top left of the screen:

Lexis-research-menu

This will produce a menu of choices, one of which is lexis.com:

Lexis-research-menu-more

Unfortunately the lexis.com now available cannot be personalized, so you can no longer see your search history, select favorite databases, or run alerts. Search results are displayed in groups of 10 rather than 50. Most of lexis.com’s resources and functionality, however, are still there.

Any Lexis alerts you set up before the conversion are gone, but Lexis has maintained a record of these old alerts. UVA Law users should contact refdesk@law.virginia.edu for help with finding out about alerts and/or setting them up in Lexis Advance or elsewhere.

– Kent Olson 

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

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International Law Cite Checking Made Easier

You’re probably already used to using HeinOnline to quickly look up cite-check-worthy PDFs of law journal articles or U.S. Supreme Court cases. Did you know you can now do the same thing with United Nations treaties? If you have a citation for the United Nations Treaty Series or the League of Nations Treaty Series, you can get a PDF reproduction of that treaty through Hein’s UN Law Collection. Go to “Enter a United Nations Treaty Series Citation” under Finding Aids and type in the volume and page number just as you would to get a law review article. No more having to figure out how to navigate the UN’s own online collection of treaties. The Hein UN Law Collection also includes the International Court of Justice’s official Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders back to 1947, along with UN publications on international trade, the Law of the Sea, disarmament and other issues.

Still not finding the treaty or international document you need? Try our International Law Guide, or check with a librarian (come to the reference desk or email refdesk@law.virginia.edu).

– Ben Doherty 

Written by

Ben Doherty

Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.

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New Database: NAACP Papers

The
first release of the new NAACP Papers collection is now
available to students, faculty, and staff through the ProQuest History Vault
database. The material now available includes records from the national office
and documents emanating from the NAACP’s efforts to promote equality in education,
voting, housing, employment, and the armed forces. Later this year, documents relating to Scottsboro, lynching, criminal justice,
peonage, labor, and segregation and discrimination complaints will be added, as well as the
Legal Department’s working files for over 600 cases from the 1950s through
early 1970s. A full
description of content
is available on ProQuest’s website. Materials that
are not yet available online can be found at Alderman Library on
microfiche
.

Amy Wharton 

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

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Bloomberg Law: Prepare to Practice Sessions Offered

Just in time for those summer research assignments, rep Beth Goldfinger (egoldfinger@bloomberg.net) returns next week to help students get up-to-speed on Bloomberg Law. If you missed Beth's first visit, this another chance to sign up, get training and ask questions. Beth will be located in the former Lexis lab (close to the Caplin Reading Room) on April 16 and 17 (drop by any time). She'll also hold several training sessions:

Apr. 16:   10 a.m. & 1 p.m. (WB103)

Apr. 17:   10 a.m. & 1 p.m. (WB114 – Fox Seminar Room – located across from the Circulation Desk in the library).

Each session will last an hour. If you plan to attend, you can send Beth an e-mail in advance or simply show up.

– Jon Ashley 

 

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

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