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A Second Look: Lexis Advance Revisited (Part 2)

I am re-examining Lexis Advance in light of its latest release to see how many of my concerns have been addressed. In Part 1 of this second look, I applauded LexisNexis for some of the changes they have made to Lexis Advance. In this continuation, I will address a few other changes I would still like to see and issue a call to action.

In Part 2 of my original critique of Lexis Advance for Law Schools BETA, I complained that many of the features and tools that make a great tool for legal researchers were not available in the Beta version of Lexis Advance. Unfortunately, on this front, nothing has changed yet.

However, all is not lost. Lexis Advance does not currently allow for pre-search source selection, but I strongly believe that this will change. Sure, it provides those three pre-search filters that are surprisingly clunky and unwieldy, but even the newest legal researcher would like to be able to search in a specific source when they know that is where the document they need resides -- and sometimes, even the combination of pre- and post-search filters won't get you there. For example, let's say you're looking for a specific law review article you've seen before, and you can't remember the title or author, but you think you remember which law review published the article. You can use the pre-search filters to limit the search to Analytical Materials and then use the Content Type post-search filter to limit the results to just Law Reviews and Journals. Can you limit it further? Well, if you remembered in which state the law review was published, you could use the Jurisdiction filter to further limit the results, but sooner or later, your only choice will be to rely on the Source filter. Oh, but there's a problem with that: The Source filter only lists the titles of the law reviews with the 20 largest numbers of articles in your results set. So, if the law review you need is number 21 (or worse), you're out of luck! Your only option will then be to scan the entire results list for articles from that law review!!

Here's another example of how unwieldy the filters can be. Let's say you need a case from the US District Court for the Western District of New York. The pre-search filters will allow you to narrow the search to Federal, but it doesn't let you limit it to just federal district courts, let alone the WDNY court specifically. So you run your search, and retrieve thousands (if not millions) of results. "No problem," you think (just as LexisNexis hopes you will), "I'll use the post-search filter labeled Court." Perusing the list of "Courts", you don't see individual federal district courts listed, but you do see District Court (although you may have had to click the More link to get the full list). Yes, that will reduce the number of cases in your results list, but the new results list doesn't give you any information regarding which cases are in which district courts, which, of course, means you'll have to click into each case to determine its issuing court (and, thereby, incur a separate charge for each one). At this point (or instead of using the Court filter, if possible), you could use the Source filter and select 2nd Circuit - US District Court Cases, but, again, the individual district courts are not identified on the results list. Counter-intuitively (at least to me), the way to get to just the WDNY decisions is to use the Court filter but select 2nd Circuit; then, the Court filter will allow you to further limit the results to New York Western District Court.

Accordingly, it's difficult to believe that LexisNexis would bend to such minor complaints as the available Connectors or universal characters without working on getting pre-search source selection into the product. For similar reasons, I have to believe that segment searching capabilities are on the horizon as well. Otherwise, why would they make the W/SEG Connector available in Lexis Advance?

Unfortunately, despite all my hopes, I currently do not have the same optimism that the old Commands will receive the same treatment. Since Lexis Advance was first announced, every person I have spoken with about this issue has consistently informed me that there are no plans to include Commands or their equivalents (i.e., ATLn or some other frequency capability, CAPS/ALLCAPS/NOCAPS or some kind of forced capitalization commands, and PLUR/SING, or any kind of forced pluralization control) in Lexis Advance. In my opinion, this demonstrates that the people driving the development of this product are not the people at LexisNexis who actually deal with the customers.

So let's make them.

A Call to Action

In the past, I have also complained about the syntactical problems associated with the Lexis Advance search box and its Word Wheel (see Unnecessary Change #3 in Part 2 of my original critique and Part 3 of my original critique), as well as the abhorrent and deplorable decision to alter the pricing paradigm (see Part 3 of my original critique). These issues remain, and I have little hope that LexisNexis will correct these flaws.

And yet, I am hopeful. Clearly, LexisNexis is listening. Although they made a huge mistake unleashing Lexis Advance before it was ready (considering it's still not where it needs to be), it is obvious that LexisNexis is paying attention. How else can you explain the complete flip-flop on the Connectors issue? And, not to toot my own horn, but I know of no one else who would have even noticed the change in universal characters let alone found it sufficiently important to complain about, and yet LexisNexis did make that seemingly insignificant change.

And so I have hope. And you should too. But to turn that "hope" into "change", you have to let LexisNexis know. You have to tell them that you don't like the new pricing scheme. You have to tell them you want to be able to limit your search to specific sources or to specific segments. You have to tell them you want a term frequency tool.

And you have to tell everyone. Tell your LexisNexis reps, all of them. Tell LexisNexis Customer Support (call either 1-800-543-6862 or 1-800-45-LEXIS, either one's fine); call them up if for no other reason than to give them your feedback on Lexis Advance (tell 'em Dan says Hi!). Send letters to the corporate offices. Write blogs; send tweets; post comments to their Facebook page (! And do it repeatedly!! The more significant the change demanded, the more significant the number and quality of the demands required to effect that change. Sure, they may change the Connectors available because a blogger and a couple of law library directors complained about it, but that's not enough to change the pricing; that's not enough to have them rewrite the search syntax; that's not enough to force them to make Lexis Advance at least as good as

We are the consumers. This is our chance. If you are that one person who is not a LexisNexis employee and yet thinks Lexis Advance is the bee's knees as it currently is, then let them know that as well. But if you're like me and don't want to be forced into the clutches of Westlaw by a deficient product, then you need to let LexisNexis know what changes you would like to see in Lexis Advance. Representatives are standing by.


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