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A Second Look: Lexis Advance Revisited (Part 1)

About seven months ago, I offered some first thoughts on what was then branded Lexis Advance for Law Schools BETA (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). In those postings, I listed quite a few complaints I had about the product. Now that it has been released from Beta (and rebranded as simply Lexis Advance), I will re-examine the product to see whether any of my complaints have been addressed.

First, the Good News

In Part 1 of my original critique, I bemoaned the fact that, at that time, one could not perform a Focus search within a results set, a staple of not only legal research, but instruction as well. This feature has finally been added to Lexis Advance (and is now called Search within results).

In Part 2 of my original critique, I lambasted LexisNexis for claiming to have created a product specifically for law schools although that product contained no administrative materials and little secondary sources that law schools would actually use, but instead offered a grand selection of Briefs, Pleadings and Motions, Jury Instructions, Jury Verdicts and Settlements, Expert Witness Analysis, and Dockets (i.e., materials that few law professors and even fewer law students would need access to). Although I believe that the general gist of that complaint is still valid, I am pleased to report that most of the law school-needed materials have finally been added, and more is on the way. Content currently available through lexis.com but not yet available through Lexis Advance will continue to be added throughout 2012 (and possibly into 2013) until it is all available through Lexis Advance or the world ends, whichever comes first.

Also in Part 2, I denounced LexisNexis's decision to do away with most of the Connectors available in lexis.com. And let me make this clear: Some may claim that, since Lexis Advance was still in Beta, they were just testing out the new set of Connectors, but the fact is that their marketing materials clearly stated that, with Lexis Advance, they had already made the decision to do away with all Connectors except AND, OR, NOT, and W/n (inexplicably renamed NEAR/n), as these were "the new web standard" (see Faculty FAQs Q8). Thankfully, LexisNexis has done an about-face and made most (if not all) of the old lexis.com Connectors (including W/n) available in Lexis Advance. And if anyone actually grew fond of the NEAR/n Connector, it is still available along with a new Connector, ONEAR/n, which is functionally equivalent to my favorite Connector, PRE/n. These changes address what I previously identified as Unnecessary Change #1.

In Unnecessary Change #2, I discussed the change to what would be recognized as "universal characters". To summarize, the exclamation point (!) is the root expander and the asterisk (*) is the placeholder in lexis.com, but in the initial Beta of Lexis Advance, the asterisk was the root expander and the question mark (?) was the placeholder. Now that Lexis Advance is out of Beta, they have made a change. If one clicks on the Search Tips link in Lexis Advance and then clicks on Connectors and scrolls down to the bottom, the screen explains that the exclamation point has been retained as the root expander (just as in lexis.com), but that the question mark is the placeholder (just as in the Beta version of Lexis Advance). Anyone who made it through all three of my original postings might expect me to go nuts on this right now, but I'm actually okay with the current state, provided it remains this way. You see, the developers kept the Lexis Advance Beta universal characters, but also added back in the lexis.com universal characters! So now, the asterisk can be used as either a placeholder in the middle of a term or as a root expander if placed at the end!! In other words, as long as it stays this way, you only need the asterisk; it is truly a "universal" universal character!

In Part 2 of my second look at Lexis Advance, I will examine the status of my other original Lexis Advance-specific complaints and issue a call for action.

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