A new semester is about to begin, so it’s time to take a look at changes in legal research.  The biggest change is the new version of LexisNexis that our students and faculty will now have access to: Lexis Advance.  Lexis Advance is Lexis’s competitor to WestlawNext, which BYU law students received access to last January.  Lexis Advance is still in Beta and BYU Law is one of about 50 schools to have access to it this semester.  So, while I encourage you to test it out, realize that it’s not complete.  For example, Lexis Advance still does not have law reviews or journals, ALRs or legal encyclopedia databases.  These things should be included in the full release, which at this point is scheduled for December 2011.

In short, Lexis Advance takes its cues from Google and WestlawNext in providing one search box where users can search multiple databases.

Searching can be done in plain language or with terms and connectors.  Search results are ranked by relevance, but can also be arranged by date or jurisdiction.  Lexis Advance has also added folders for organizing research, which can be quite useful to researchers.

Within the cases, Lexis has dropped the “More Like this Headnote,” which I thought was a useful feature.  I hope they’ll bring it back eventually (and I’ve been letting them know about that).  I still think some tweaking needs to be done to the search engine to improve performance.  For example, if I search for trespass consent in Utah I get several good hits, but my first hit is a sexual assault case that doesn’t mention trespass and isn’t relevant.  I’m perplexed as to why it shows up first.  (To that end, it would be nice if we had more information on what the search engine was looking at when ranking the results.)

You should also be aware that printing to the Lexis printers in the law school will not work from Lexis Advance and that you will have to have a separate username and password to log-on to Lexis Advance.

One of the things I like best about Lexis Advance is the pricing structure.  While this doesn’t affect you as students right now, it will.  Lexis Advance will be rolled out to law firms that already have Lexis.com at no additional charge.  That’s a lot different than Westlaw, who is charging a premium to add WestlawNext.  That means that while some firms will have WestlawNext and some will have Westlaw.com, if you’re firm has Lexis.com it will also have Lexis Advance.  I think that’ s a big plus for Lexis.

I know Lexis is looking for feedback since this is still in Beta, so if you have any, please pass it along.