"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.

N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lexis Advance: It’s What All the Kids Want, Right?

I have a bit of good news for the good people at Lexis Advance: This will be my penultimate post on Lexis Advance. Good or bad, right or wrong, after my posts this week, I will refuse to write blog posts regarding this currently unsatisfactory, inadequate, and unacceptable excuse for a legal search tool. I can't guarantee that one or more of my co-workers won't pick up the mantle and write future posts regarding Lexis Advance, but I will not.

In fact, I had hoped that my last post on Lexis Advance would have been my last, but another librarian has offered yet another glowing, albeit superficial, review of Lexis Advance that demands a response.

"We Should Encourage Citations to Wikipedia! And While We're at It, Let's Ignore the Bluebook, Too!"

I don’t know about you, but that heading sounds absolutely crazy to me! And yet, that is the gist of every one of the positive reviews of Lexis Advance (and, to some degree, WestlawNext as well). As the latest Lexis Advance parrot points out, "One of the factors influencing the development of [Lexis Advance] was a recognition that today's information seekers are accustomed" to certain characteristics, functions, and displays of results because of their familiarity with using Google and similar online tools to fill their usually simplistic, easily-satisfied "information needs".

Yes, yes! As law librarians, that's exactly what we should do: We should abdicate our responsibilities to our patrons, our profession, and the legal community as a whole and instead encourage the adoption of practices based solely on what your average, 21st-century teenager expects when searching the Internet for the lyrics to the latest Flo Rida song. This isn't just putting the cart before the horse; this is keeping the horse before the cart, but then dropping the reins, thereby letting the horse dictate where the cart goes, and then declaring that such an approach is the best way to get to market.

[Here's a hint: Whenever you hear or see anyone referencing "today's information seekers", they are (whether knowingly and intentionally or not) specifically talking about the behaviors of people who are not even old enough to attend law school, let alone understand the nuances of actually doing legitimate legal research, not the people who actually do legal research as part of their current jobs.]

So using that logic, shouldn't law librarians be encouraging students to rely on citations to Wikipedia entries rather than wasting the time to discover actual authority? I mean, most of the important cases and all of the primary legal concepts and theories have Wikipedia entries; since it's what the kids are going to do anyway, why not allow them to rely on Wikipedia? Similarly, shouldn't we be encouraging courts and law review editors to accept almost anything that might lead back to a resource, any resource, as an appropriate citation? In fact, why even require citation at all?!

Or are we, as law librarians, supposed to be taking the lead in shaping how law students and new associates perform adequate and efficient legal research? Oh wait . . . That would require us, as a profession, to take a stand and tell LexisNexis and Westlaw what they can do with their new, shiny, "customized 'out of the box' search engine[s]", and that is something we are, apparently, incapable of doing.

Next (and Last) Time

As an aside, in this latest Lexis Advance love-fest, the blogger reveals that MarkLogic is the company behind the creation of this monstrosity. Interestingly, when you view the company's What is MarkLogic page, you see the company's tagline: "Next generation Big Data needs a next generation database. MarkLogic is the ideal platform for Big Data applications designed to drive revenue, streamline operations, manage risk, and make the world safer." [Emphasis added.] In other words, Lexis Advance was NOT designed as "a response to our customers' research needs" nor to "drive better outcomes for [our customers]", as the early Lexis Advance literature claimed. Just as I thought was obvious from the start, Lexis Advance is merely an attempt to gouge the legal community with a completely unreasonable and predatory pricing scheme. (WestlawNext utilizes this pricing scheme as well, but WestlawNext is not "merely" such a ploy; it actually contains improvements over regular Westlaw and is, all in all, a mostly useful product.) This will be the focus of my next, and last, post involving Lexis Advance. Stay tuned!

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