WestlawNext Reinvents Legal Research

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - 00:00

With the launch of WestlawNext from Thomson Reuters, Legal, on February 1, legal research has changed dramatically. With a new interface and proprietary search engine, WestlawNext delivers more inclusive and better ranked search results. WestlawNext also was built with new tools to help researchers analyze, organize and share legal information.

So this month in the Westlaw column we're providing some insight into how attorneys and other legal professionals helped shape the new product. from Andy Martens, senior vice president in New Product Development at Thomson Reuters; and Mike Dahn, vice president of WestlawNext Product Development.

Editor:How much input did you get from legal professionals for the creation of WestlawNext?

Mike Dahn: Customer input is absolutely critical to our product development efforts. We've worked with literally thousands of practicing attorneys and librarians to better understand how customers approach legal research. Beyond focus groups and surveys, we do in-office workflow observation and full-day codesign sessions with our customers to get really nuanced feedback. We also use eye-tracking equipment to get a sense of which parts of a page attract the most attention, and we make sure that the most important information is in those places. We've also built long-standing relationships with lawyers and librarians to get frequent feedback on our design thinking - we consider them an extension of our product development team.

Andy Martens: We view our relationship with our customers as a team - a partnership. We leverage our unique capabilities and technologies to help our customers obtain the building blocks - on-point information and insight - they need to do what they do best. By streamlining the research process, we create value for our users so they, in turn, can keep their focus on analyzing and interpreting the law and providing their clients with sound, timely legal advice and counsel.

Editor:What's the most important insight you learned from studying how legal professionals do legal research?

Mike Dahn: If there is one thing that is common to the customers with whom we work, it's this: nearly all share a nagging anxiety that an important document might be missed.

When your reputation and credibility are on the line, it's inevitable that doubts such as: "Have I found everything?", "Is there something else that might pertain to this?", or "Is there a case I've missed?" can start to eat at you. The last thing an attorney wants is to be surprised by a piece of information from their supervisor - or worse yet, from the other side, in front of a judge. Today's attorneys want to focus on the part of their jobs they love the most - developing work product and advice to help meet their clients' legal needs. That's why we spend so much time summarizing the law, organizing it, and linking documents that attorneys need to know about. The less time an attorney spends on legal research, the more time he or she can focus on crafting work product and counseling clients - all with the confidence that they're delivering their best work, because we've delivered ours.

Editor:How does Westlaw's legacy of innovation figure into WestlawNext?

Andy Martens: Our legacy of innovation is helping to create the future of legal research. Our investments and innovations have resulted in unique processes and in products that make research and, ultimately, the practice of law easier. We bring all of the tools we've developed over time, such as West Headnotes, Key Numbers and KeyCite,®and combine them with the latest in search technology to create a powerful new system that allows attorneys to focus on practicing law rather than on searching for a needle in a haystack. By streamlining the research process, we create value for our users so they, in turn, can keep their focus on analyzing and interpreting the law and providing their clients with sound, timely legal advice and counsel.

Editor:Why is innovation important to your business?

Andy Martens: Innovation is more than important; it's essential. First of all, our users' needs and expectations change, and it's our job to figure out how we can meet those needs better than anybody else. Second, technology changes practically demand innovation, and have created tremendous opportunities for online advancements - we can do things now that weren't possible five years ago. And finally, our capabilities as a business change. We have enormous capacity and capabilities today - by continuing to build on our 140-year legacy, we have the tools, technology and people to make the lives of our users easier and more productive

More information on WestlawNext is available on www.westlawnext.com or on Legal Current, the corporate blog of Thomson Reuters, Legal, at www.legalcurrent.com.