The Perfect Storm of Legal Research
If there is to be a perfect storm in the tumultuous sea of legal research offerings, it is likely to hit sometime Monday at LegalTech New York. That is when Westlaw will formally unveil its most sweeping overhaul since its move to the Web and LexisNexis will announce what it says will be a major new product for legal professionals, even as it prepares to announce an overhaul of its own research service at a date yet to be specified.
These moves by the two giants of legal research have drawn the attention of The New York Times and in-depth coverage by the ABA Journal. Earlier this week, West brought a bevy of influential legal-technology bloggers and journalists to its home base in Minnesota to preview its new-and-improved research service, which it calls WestlawNext. Although I was not able to attend the preview, West gave me an online demonstration and a password to try it out. I've posted my first look at WestlawNext at my LawSites blog.
These developments come amid an unusual confluence of events already stirring the legal atmosphere, with Google making its first foray into legal research, Bloomberg Law positioning itself as a serious contender to take on West and Lexis, and Fastcase preparing to deliver free legal research to the iPhone (and the iPad?).
Helping to seed this brewing perfect storm is a growing movement to create a public repository of all primary legal materials in the United States. At the vanguard of this movement is free-access advocate Carl Malamud's Law.gov, which is convening a series of workshops and symposiums at law schools throughout the country, assisted by some of the nation's top legal academics. The first program was held earlier this month at Stanford, another took place last week at Princeton, one will be held Feb. 25 at Columbia, and still others are in the works.
Talk to the people involved in this free-access movement and you quickly realize that some of them have set their sights on far more than just primary legal materials. In their vision, they see a not-too distant future in which the Web offers a full selection of primary and secondary legal research materials every bit as robust and comprehensive as the commercial services offer today, only for free.
No doubt, the most-visible theme of LegalTech this year will again be e-discovery, as it has been for several years now. But there is sure to be a strong undercurrent of buzz about the tumult in legal research and plenty of forecasting about the storm clouds clearly visible on the horizon. Even if the forecast is stormy for providers of legal research, this much is clear: There has never been a better time to be a legal-research consumer.
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 28, 2010 at 12:45 PM | Permalink
| Comments (0)