Westlaw and Lexis and Bloomberg, Oh My!

With the introduction of Bloomberg Law, UVA Law students now have access to five different general legal research databases: WestlawNext, Westlaw.com, LexisAdvance, Lexis.com, and Bloomberg Law. With so many choices, which one should be your go-to information resource? If you know that your future employer uses one of these databases in particular, it would be a good idea to practice using it yourself. Better still would be to practice them all and be “multidextrous.” It’s true, though, that some of these databases work better than others for different types of legal research. In the law school world, where you have free access to all five, it may be useful to know which work best.

Here is our collective opinion as librarians on how you might rank these databases in order of currently most useful:

1. WestlawNext. At this point, WestlawNext is the most well-developed and easy to use of all the choices for general legal research. With its sophisticated digest system, West has long had an advantage for case research. WestlawNext has preserved that advantage in a user-friendly interface that provides easy searching of cases, statutes and secondary sources such as law review articles.  If we had to pick one database to use for most of our legal research, this would be the one.

2. Lexis.com.  Lexis.com is of the previous generation of legal databases and may soon be obsolete. However, it’s still a good database for some types of information. Its news searching is comprehensive and sophisticated, providing easy access to papers such as the New York Times,Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. It also contains a number of legal treatises, such as Lex Larson’s Employment Discrimination, that you won’t find elsewhere. We don’t like the case searching features of Lexis as much as Westlaw’s but if you know that your future employer uses Lexis, this is still a good general legal research database to use for case, statutory or secondary source researching.

3. Bloomberg Law. At this stage in its development, we don’t use Bloomberg Law for our general case, statutory or law review searching as it doesn’t compare to WestlawNext in those areas. However, Bloomberg Law is a great resource for some specific types of information. Through Bloomberg’s Docket Search, you can access filings from all the federal courts and get documents such as complaints or orders you will not be able to access through Westlaw or Lexis. It also has useful practice treatises on several business-focused legal topics. Before entering the legal world, Bloomberg focused on news and business information, so those areas of its database are already well-built. We frequently turn to Bloomberg Law for this type of information, which we cannot get as easily through Westlaw or Lexis.

4. Westlaw.com. Like Lexis.com, Westlaw.com is a previous generation database and will inevitably give way completely to WestlawNext. Since WestlawNext has done a nice job of preserving the useful search features of Westlaw.com in a more user-friendly format, there are few reasons to use Westlaw.com for basic case, statutory or law review searching. Even if your future employer is committed to keeping Westlaw.com for now, it shares its advanced search techniques with WestlawNext so that you can switch between the two databases with ease. However, WestlawNext has not yet incorporated some of Westlaw’s resources, such as foreign and international legal materials, and features, such as WestClip. Since the migration to WestlawNext is not complete, there is some research that requires a return to Westlaw.com for now.

5.  LexisAdvance. In our opinion, its searches produce too many documents without enough ways to narrow retrieval or achieve confidence in your results.

– Ben Doherty 

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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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A Dramatic Beginning to the New Academic Year

Mother Nature’s boisterous greeting on Tuesday is a tough act to follow.  Nevertheless, we’d like to welcome our new and returning students. We feel very fortunate to be able to tell you that the earthquake, though it was centered just a few miles from here, left our books on the shelves and our digital resources online.

As classes begin in earnest today, we’d like to share some news to help new students get acclimated and let our “old” students know about some of the changes that took place over the summer:

Not your father’s Reference Desk. You may already have noticed that the Library has been spruced up with new carpet, new chairs, and a brand new Reference and Information Desk. The new desk features a seating area where librarians can offer more in-depth help. We’re still moving in, but the desk is now open for business.

Where are the Ks? You’ll notice that we’ve shifted some materials to make better use of our space. Check the call number maps before you go out into the stacks, or stop by the Reference or Circulation Desks if you need help.

VIRGO looks different. VIRGO continues to evolve from a traditional library catalog into a powerful tool for finding information. Last week, an article search feature was added that allows researchers to search for books and journal articles from a single box. You can choose to search both the catalog and the articles database individually or simultaneously. The article search feature aggregates content from many different journals. Not all journals we can access are covered, so you might want to use it in addition to (not instead of) article searches in Lexis and Westlaw.  Ask a reference librarian if you have questions about finding articles with VIRGO.

More new library services, collections and features are planned for this fall. You’ll hear about them first right here. Meanwhile, as always, let us know how we can help you as you settle into research assignments and cite-checking projects.

– Amy Wharton 

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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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Supreme Research

Now that you’ve made your oral argument in Legal Research and Writing class, continue developing your advocacy skills by listening to how the pros make their cases in the Supreme Court. You can hear oral arguments from as early as 1955 on Oyez.org (for example, check out the Nixon administration’s argument in 1971 that newspapers shouldn’t be allowed to publish the Vietnam War Pentagon Papers in New York Times v. United States). Oyez has audio for select cases starting with the 1955 Term, and all available audio from 1970 to the current Term. You can also listen to audio of oral arguments as soon as the Friday after they are made on the Supreme Court’s website (written transcripts are posted to the site the same day a case is argued). Visit the Court’s site to hear U.Va. Law’s own Supreme Court Litigation Clinic in action in this Term’s cases Abbott v. United States (Jim Ryan), Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri (Dan Ortiz), and Fox v. Vice (Mark Stancil). Both Oyez.org and the Supreme Court’s website let you listen online and download MP3s.   

The Supreme Court did not even require parties to file briefs in the 1790s and early 1800s, instead basing its decisions on hours (and sometimes days) of oral argument. Nowadays, attorneys’ written briefs can make or break their case. Briefs also can help your research by alerting you to relevant cases, statutes, and regulations, and by explaining legal concepts. Find PDFs of briefs filed in older cases in the subscription database U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978. This database’s records of what happened at the trial and appellate stages can be great sources for researching the factual background of a Court case. You can download briefs filed in more recent cases for free on the American Bar Association’s website, or link to them directly from cases in Westlaw. SCOTUSblog can keep you up-to-date on all things Court-related with live feeds describing opinions as they’re issued, e-mail alerts, and handy summaries of this Term’s cases.

– Kristin Glover

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Kristin Glover

Kristin Glover is a Research Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

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Shining Bright This Summer, Part 2: Handling a Project

Now you’ve started your summer job, and you’ve just been handed a real research project. What should you do?

WHEN YOU ARE ASSIGNED A RESEARCH PROJECT

Ask questions. Make sure you understand what you are being asked to do. Do you know the facts? Do you understand the legal question you have been asked to research? Did the assigning attorney suggest any sources? Do you know what type of final product is wanted? 

Don’t panic. You are not expected to be an expert at the beginning of the summer. You will be asked to research unfamiliar areas of the law. Stay calm and start with basic background research using familiar tools like Google or a blog search

Make a plan. Think about your research before you get started. Issue spot and identify the primary sources that are likely to be relevant. Write out your Lexis or Westlaw searches before going online, and take advantage of their online chat or reference lines to help you craft your search.

Go to the experts. Start your research in secondary sources, such as treatises and law reviews. Ask the librarians if there is a leading state-specific or subject-specific treatise that would help you. You might also consult the list of major treatises the Law Library provides on its website. Tables of contents and indexes may help you quickly locate relevant information and alert you to issues you may not have already considered.

Keep track of your research. Make notes of the sources you use and the searches you run. This will save you a lot of grief if you have to recreate or defend your research. 

Be thorough. Keep in mind that various layers of law (e.g. federal/state/local or statutory/regulatory) may apply and don’t forget to Shepardize or KeyCite.

Keep your facts in mind at all times.  This is real life. Don’t write a 30-page dissertation on the topic generally, but focus on the facts in your case.

There is no such thing as a draft. The assigning attorney is your client, so edit, proofread, and Bluebook your work before it leaves your hands.

– Leslie Ashbrook

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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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Shining Bright This Summer, Part 1: Preparing for Work

You have a summer job lined up. The only thing standing between you and a successful summer is finals – that is until you start thinking about the research you may be asked to do this summer. Whether you are working in a firm, for a judge, in a non-profit, with an agency, or researching for a professor here in Charlottesville, your librarians have put together a short “how-to” guide to help you through summer research. 

BEFORE YOU START YOUR SUMMER JOB

Go online and take some time to get familiar with your organization, judge, or professor. Refresh yourself on the attorneys in your practice group and look to see if there are major cases or matters in which your firm is involved. Does your judge handle a particular type of case? What areas of law is your professor researching?

Become acquainted with your jurisdiction. If you will be working with state law issues, become familiar with the state’s court structure and the state legislature. Most official state websites provide free access to the state code, pending legislation, and recent court decisions.

Attend Lexis & Westlaw training sessions. These can help you be more cost-effective researchers. 

WHEN YOU FIRST START YOUR SUMMER JOB

Take a tour of the library, if there is one, and introduce yourself to the librarian. There are likely to be sources that are important to your practice group or supervising attorney, and the librarian can point you towards those sources and help you learn to use the ones you haven’t worked with before. Your librarian can also tell you how Westlaw and Lexis are billed in your organization and about other databases available to you through the organization. 

– Leslie Ashbrook

 

On Friday: "Shining Bright, Part 2: Handling a Project"

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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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Taking Advantage of WestlawNext

With its tasteful use of orange highlights, WestlawNext has been taking UVA Law by storm.  At the library we’re enthusiastic about this new direction for legal databases (and are looking forward to Lexis’ future contributions to the trend). If you’ve hopped on the WestlawNext bandwagon, we say good for you, but make sure you are using it as a critical researcher:  taking advantage of everything it has to offer and noting what it may not provide.

While WestlawNext’s main search box works well for many searches, be sure to take advantage of its advanced search screens.  The advanced searches available in specific databases are particularly robust.  For example, try selecting the “Federal Cases” database under the Federal Materials tab and then clicking on the “advanced” button at the top. That opens up all of the document fields and a list of “connectors and expanders” to which expert Westlaw and Lexis searchers are accustomed.  You can do the same types of advanced searches from Next’s main search screen. However, you have to know the right connectors or field abbreviations to enter, kind of like having to know to order your burger “animal style” at In-N-Out Burger, even though it’s not on their menu.  Using the advanced search option in the different WestlawNext databases gives you the menu, so that you can take advantage of those more precise search tools.

Keep in mind too, that WestlawNext is a work in progress. There is a lot of information that you can get in Westlaw.com (or Lexis) that has not yet migrated to WestlawNext, such as foreign or international legal material. As a savvy researcher it is as important to realize what Next cannot yet do as it is to take advantage of all it has to offer.  Finally, our law firm colleagues would have our heads if we did not remind you that once out of law school you’ll need to pay attention to cost. Like its content, WestlawNext’s pricing structure is evolving, but upon arriving at a firm or other organization, asking the librarian or whoever is in charge of Westlaw or Lexis there how the pricing for your organization works is always a good idea.

– Ben Doherty

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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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Getting Started on Researching Your Paper

Once you’ve explored ideas for a paper topic, perhaps by using sources like blawgs and tweets, and have decided what to write about, start your research by looking at what other people have written.  Running searches for law review articles and books on your subject will help you to refine your topic (or change it if someone else has already written about the exact same thing), and to find relevant cases and statutes.  Using a legal periodical index that categorizes law review articles by subject, like Legal Periodicals Full Text and LegalTrac, can lead you to helpful articles even more quickly than keyword searching.  For example, if you’re writing about insanity pleas in criminal cases, browse the articles listed under the subject heading “insanity defense” and then get to the full text articles by clicking the “Find at UVa” links. These indexes also index articles written about specific cases or statutes, so you can use them to find the most pertinent articles if you already have a particular primary source in mind for your topic. You can also Keycite or Shepardize a case or statute and narrow your results to secondary sources.

Also consider expanding your research to non-legal sources.  For your paper on insanity pleas, look for relevant articles by psychologists in the PsycINFO database.  U.Va. provides access to a number of useful business, public policy, medical, and many more topical databases.  A complete list, and research guides by subject, are in the University Library’s guide to databases.

Check out Principles of Legal Research for help developing a research plan, and Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review for help thinking through the writing and editing process. 

 – Kristin Glover

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Kristin Glover

Kristin Glover is a Research Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

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Making Use of Blawgs and Twitter Feeds

Have you returned from Spring Break in need of a paper or note topic?  With their focus on hot legal issues, blawgs can be a great place to troll for ideas.  Although blawgs can be quite sophisticated in their analysis of current legal trends, they tend to catch on to developments in their early stages, before anyone has addressed them in a scholarly paper.  You can use blawgs, then, to find issues that legal scholars or lawyers care about, but have not yet been covered by scholarly literature.  There are blawgs on almost any legal topic, and even a blawg on “circuit splits,” that always popular avenue for student note or comment publishers who would like to have their article noticed by the Supreme Court.  A good place to start is the ABA’s Blawg Directory, where you can browse hundreds of the most popular blawgs, grouped by topic.

Twitter feeds are not as useful for paper ideas because of their limited content, although there are a number of legal academics on Twitter.  Perhaps more useful to soon-to-be attorneys is that government agencies are increasingly using Twitter to communicate with the public.  The White House tweets, as do major agencies. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission puts out its product recall announcements through Twitter. While Twitter’s main use may always be for professional athletes to insult one another, why not make use of the service as a good way to stay on top of legal developments as well?

– Ben Doherty

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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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