Westlaw Adds 6 New Features: “Westlaw Answers,”
Research Recommendations, Snapshots, and  Folder Enhancements… At No Charge to

There has been great anticipation surrounding the recent
announcement that Thomson Reuters was entering into an alliance with IBM to use
their Watson technology.  Westlaw’s new features especially “Westlaw
Answers” caused me to assume that this must be a progeny of their Watson
collaboration—but I was wrong. Westlaw has just built a number of powerful new
features for workflow, analysis and collaboration using their existing algorithms and technology.  Westlaw doesn’t
seem to be promoting this as AI but the results are pretty darn close to what I have see from AI platforms. Since
Westlaw will not charge for “Westlaw Answers,” they may have finally developed the
long awaited antidote to associate angst about incurring charges on Westlaw. If
Westlaw has an answer to the associate’s question – the answer will be delivered
automatically without incurring any special charges.  Let me be the first
to shout “Hallelujah!”

All of the new features  released this week are available to all Westlaw
subscribers and do not incur any charges or supplemental agreement. Hooray!

Westlaw Answers  – I would describe this as the
first pass at the “robot lawyer.” You put in a question. Westlaw provides an

Westlaw Answers

Here are the caveats:

    It cannot provide answers to every legal issue.
  •                 Answers are limited to what West considers to be “black letter law.”
  •                 The answers are designed to address issues in individual states.
  •                 Typical questions involve:
      • Identifying legal elements of…
      • Statute of limitations for…
      • Judicially defined legal terms
    •                   Lawyers should still Keycite their results to validate that there are no recent adverse  treatments.
    • What about federal answers? Although the product was built to provide state law answers it can also provide federal law answers by circuit on topics which fit in to the “black letter law” criteria.

      How does it work?
      Westlaw Answers is powered by a combination of algorithms
      developed for the most commonly asked questions. Attorney editors have reviewed
      and validated answers.

      “Westlaw Answers” starts working when you type your query.
      Relevant questions  are suggested as   “ type ahead” text. The
      answer appears above the traditional search results.    

       Research Recommendations – This new feature  can
      be turned on and off with a “ Click”.  TR describes this feature as
      working like an expert researcher and applies Westlaw’s editorial enhancements
      (keynote, topics, synopses, keycite etc.)  to supplement search results.
      It automatically identifies legal issues during the research session and
      suggests  additional documents and key numbers which are relevant to the
      search session.  It analyses the entire research session and not just the
      latest query.  The research recommendations appear in a box above the
      research results and are designated with a  “pair of glasses” icon. The
      recommendations and can also be viewed in the researchers “search history.”


      When you are conducting legal research the result is
      enhanced with relevant “snapshots” which pulls information from specialized
      Westlaw databases.  Snapshots can be provided for:

      •                 Legal professionals (attorneys, judges & experts)  extracts data from Profiler
      •                 Companies extracts data from Company Investigator
      •                 Popular Names of Statutes provides codification and Public Law numbers from
        Popular Name tables.

      Only one snapshot will appear at a time. ( I assume this will be expanded since
      clearly many searches could trigger multiple snapshots)

      Judges Snapshot in Right column

       Folder Analysis

      For several years Westlaw has allowed researchers to save
      and share their research results using online “folders.”  Now Westlaw
      offers the ability to analyze the folder’s contents and  identify the issues in the cases
      and suggest additional relevant cases. A graphical view provides a visual display which allows a
      researcher to navigate documents based on each issue.

       The folder analysis is triggered when a lawyer opens their

      Folder Analysis

      Research Reports

       This is another new “folders feature” which allows
      lawyers to create a report which summarizes the research with in the folder.
      The summary includes all documents and all  personal or shared notes
      associated with each document.

      Shared Notes

      Another “folders feature” which allows lawyers to share notes
      with colleagues.

       Pricing All of these enhancement are available to all
      subscribers. These features will be “no standard cost” events in transactional pricing. (In hourly pricing mode- time online will be charged.)  Opening documents
      which are suggested by the enhancements will trigger normal document charges,
      but there are no charges for primary law documents. Clicking link in snapshots
      is a chargeable event for companies and people but not for statutes.

      Product  Integration and Augmented Intelligence

      Westlaw’s latest round of enhancements show TR’s commitment
      to integrating all of their resources from across TR platforms more seamlessly. It also shows how close
      Westlaw’s algorithms come to delivering an AI product  with Westlaw
      Answers. One has to wonder what will the “Post Watson” version  of Westlaw
      will deliver? All of the new features respond to the market demand for tools which support efficiency and collaboration. In January Thomson Reuters rebranded itself as “the answer company,” today they delivered their first feature which offers the elegant simplicity of a question and answer pair. Not a full blown AI system but an impressive foreshadowing of the future of legal research.

      As a long term observer of Westlaw, I am
      really impressed that they are finally releasing features without enraging
      their subscribers with the prospect of new charges, excluded content or
      contract addendum. Is this influence of BloombergBNA’s entry into the legal
      market with their  “everything’s included” contract model? Does it reflect
      a new pricing  philosophy from  Susan Taylor Martin, President, Thomson Reuters Legal?
      Whatever the cause – this new approach will be applauded in the legal
      information community.