If you logged into Westlaw today you probably noticed that it looks a little different. Westlaw rolled out their new Precision platform today for all law students and faculty across the United Sates. Here is a brief rundown on the new features:
- Westlaw Precision Research has new filters designed to help you with case research. Westlaw hired 250 attorney editors to hand code case attributes including motion types, elements of fact patterns, party types, and more to give you a more refined way to search for cases. Westlaw is already saying the tool is helping attorneys find cases twice as quickly as before by reducing unwanted noise and focusing on the relevant issues you care about. Because of the huge human investment involved in coding cases, Precision research filters are not available for all cases. They are included for cases in about a dozen areas of law right now and only go back to cases from 2010 and later, though some significant older cases were included in the coding. Current topics include commercial law, federal civil procedure, federal evidence and discovery, employment, insurance, securities, and antitrust. Westlaw will continue to roll out new topics, including state law topics, throughout this year and in the future. Your search results will look different, with a new “browse box” highlighting relevant facts, etc. from the new filters. If a case in your search results has not been coded with the new Precision tags, you will see a “best headnote” that Westlaw thinks is the most relevant to your search. The browse box provides an option to click to view similar cases which may surface additional helpful cases without the effort of using headnotes and filtering.
- Outline Builder. Using a split screen or toggling back and forth between Word and Westlaw can be a pain on a laptop, so Westlaw added an Outline builder tool within Westlaw you can use to add headings, notes, and citations and quotes to cases and other material directly within Westlaw. The outline can be exported later to Word.
- Keep List/Hide Details. This new feature is designed to help you sort through your search results more quickly. Often researchers are trying to quickly assess the quality of their results and get a feel for what’s out there during the early stage of research, and saving cases or articles to a folder is slow and not worth the time if you’re not sure something is worth keeping yet. With the new keep list, you can save cases quickly to a list to review again later. Minimize unwanted results with the hide feature if you want to quickly rule results out. The hide tool does not remove cases from your list, just lessens the amount of screen real estate they take up and helps you remember which results you reviewed already.
- Graphical View of History. Hopefully you are aware you can pull up your research history on Westlaw and Lexis if you want to revisit a search you ran days or weeks previously, but now you can view your history graphically, like a flow chart. This should be a nice tool for people who love visual tools like Ravel in Lexis+.
- KeyCite Overruled in Part/Cited With. Last but not least, Westlaw added a striped red-and-white flag for cases that have one or more headnotes that have been overruled or superseded by statute but have other headnotes that are still good law. The purpose of this flag is to help researchers feel confident that the case may still be worth their time and merits a closer look to see if the point of law they care about is still valid. Westlaw also added a “cited with” feature that points out cases that do not cite your case directly but have been frequently cited with your case, listed in order from most to least co-cites. This feature may help you find important related cases (such as case causing a circuit split) that you may not locate through a keyword search or citation review alone.
I’m looking forward to trying out these new features.
Important note: Upgrading to Westlaw Precision requires an additional uncharge for firms and other Westlaw subscribers, so your workplace over the summer or after law school may not have these new features.