Online legal research platforms have come a long way since the days of a dedicated Lexis or Westlaw terminal, and this month the Penn Law community has access to the newest development in online legal research, WestlawNext.
WestlawNext looks and performs very differently from classic Westlaw. Some examples of differences between these two research platforms are:
- Unlike classic Westlaw, WestlawNext does not require that you select a database before you begin your search.
- WestlawNext searches do not require boolean search operators. As a result, searching in WestlawNext is more similar to a natural language search in classic Westlaw.
- Printing from WestlawNext to the dedicated Westlaw printers in the law school is currently not supported. You must bring up a document in classic Westlaw to print from the Westlaw printers.
- WestlawNext offers the ability to annotate materials online, organize materials in folders, and send documents to your Kindle e-reader device.
- Not all content available in classic Westlaw is available to search on WestlawNext. If you are curious about whether a specific resource is available on WestlawNext, you can search for the title in the main search box, browse WestlawNext to locate your title, or ask a reference librarian for assistance.
For more information on the differences between WestlawNext and classic Westlaw, consult Westlaw’s own guide, Comparing Westlaw and WestlawNext. If you’re interested in responses to WestlawNext, a roundup of reviews is available here.
Generally, users more familiar and comfortable with Google searching might prefer WestlawNext and researchers that like more control over their searches and results may prefer classic Westlaw. Knowing how to navigate both systems is essential, as legal practitioners may have access to only one (or none) of these systems in their practices. For assistance with WestlawNext, speak with a reference librarian or attend a WestlawNext training sessions provided by the law library early this spring semester (dates and times to be announced).
Many thanks to my colleague Jordon Steele and the Biddle Archives for locating excellent examples of Biddle Law Library’s old Westlaw and Lexis terminals.