WestlawNext: Perspective from a Law Student

Great post over at Social Media Law Student by law student Laura Bergus. Laura got access to WestlawNext, and took it for a test run. Here are the results of her testing:

First, she tried the current version of Westlaw.

  • Using a natural language search for “wrongful discharge public policy exception,” in the OK-CS database in the current Westlaw the key case (Burk v. K-Mart Corp, 770 P.2d 24) came up ninth on the list.
  • Using a terms and connectors search of (wrong! & discharg!) & (“public policy” /s except!) in the same database, the most-recent-on-top results put the case I needed at 59 out of 69…

Next she tried Google Scholar:

  • I plugged my “wrongful discharge public policy exception” search into Google Scholar (having selected only Oklahoma cases), and Burk v. K-Mart was #1.

Finally, she tried WestlawNext:

  • Now, WestlawNext has a single search box. There you plug in whatever you want: a terms and connectors search, natural language search, case citation, database name, party names, you get the idea. Putting my same natural language query here, WestlawNext delivered by top case right on top. Finally!

Laura also offers some extremely valuable advice to law students, heck…her advice really applies to any legal researcher (all emphasis is mine):

Listen to the professionals (especially your legal librarians) who tell you what is important in legal research. Know how to connect the dots so you can get results when they aren’t all handed to you in a filterable, searchable, savable, instantly-available format. Get as good as you can using free legal research tools, and be as fearless as possible about learning new things. WestlawNext is a good indicator that certain useful aspects of search and research are becoming standardized, but the paywall between you and easy access as a professional is still high and strong. If you haven’t yet, make good friends with the internet to at least bolster your Wexis searches.


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