Treatises offer interactive Table of Contents

Today Thomson Reuters is announcing the release of re-designed Westlaw Secondary Sources  experience. The marketing materials promise that researchers will “start  stronger and finish faster.” Secondary source content includes more than 4,000 treatises encyclopedia and serials, including titles such as the iconic Wright  and Miller on Federal Practice and Procedure, Corpus Juris Secundum, American Jurisprudence 2d, state practice guides including Rutter  and even Black’s Law Dictionary.
This is not a new product. It is an upgrade that all Westlaw subscribers will experience when they select secondary sources in Westlaw. This new display format will also appear for users who access treatises using CUIs  “custom user  interfaces.”

When I first became a reference librarian – I experienced the West treatises in the “bad old days” before caselaw was fully digitized. I noted with frustration that the indices to West treatises were hierarchical – meaning that you could not search directly for the word “rescission” –you had to know that it was a type of contract remedy and you would leaf through the index hoping to stumble across the right subcategory. In other words, you had to know about the subject in order to learn about the subject. The digitization of treatises has enhanced keyword access while reducing precision.  The enhancements offered by the new secondary source filters and navigation tools improve focus and precision of results.  As many partners, professors and law librarians worry that young lawyers  are unfamiliar with the major treatises in each legal subject area – the enhancements of Westlaw secondary sources should  drive up  associates exposure to and use of major treatises. Every legal publisher including Thomson Reuters is focused on enhancements  which support the client demand for lawyer efficiency – getting lawyers to the best insights and relevant content in the fewest clicks!

 Megan Riley   a product developer at Thomson Reuters provided an advance demo for me. According to the  Thomson Reuters press release, secondary sources are the second most heavily used content type on Westlaw following case law .  Riley highlighted the fact  that the new enhancements will free researchers from the constrictions of a linear research path. The goal is to enable users to more quickly identify filter and interact with relevant resources. The impact is that the experience of searching across the entire repository of secondary sources and the search and navigation within individual resources is dramatically improved.
Favorite Publications Display

New features include:

  • Streamlined navigation, browsing with enhanced access to contextual materials.
  • Cleaner more intuitive look and feel.
  • Search across all secondary sources with filters which can be combined to enhance precision such as targeting California resources addressing zoning laws.
  • “Reading mode” enables researchers to scroll through multiple documents in a single display. This mode is for reading only– printing is not supported in this mode.
  • Scope screens provide a quick overview of key relevant factors regarding content and updating and include links to related sources.
  • Search results display related documents  as additional options for a researcher to explore.
  • A research trail persists across the top of the page.
  • Favorite publications can be selected and displayed in a bookshelf like format at the top of the screen displaying familiar “book cover” icons.
  • Rutter publications will include pinpoint linking to  enable navigation directly to a referenced citation rather than current process of scrolling.
Rutter Materials offer Pinpoint Linking
The US secondary source re-design is the first of a global redesign plan. Redesigns of  WestlawUK and WestlawNext Canada secondary sources will follow. I queried whether this enhancement to secondary sources within Westlaw signaled and change in their ebook strategy. I was told it did not- they remain committee to their Proview ebook platform.
A Few Humble Suggestions: 
The new tables of contents feature are a big improvement, but I  have a few suggestions:
  • Add an “expand all” feature rather than having to expand topic by topic.
  • Add an “updated” as of notation  adjacent to titles when searching for a source- this will enable a searcher to quickly determine which of the list is the most current resource and bypassing the need to check individual scope notes after selecting a publication.
  •  Since users remain concerned about client charges, I think it would be a good idea to have a single print charge for viewing any document in chapter rather than triggering a series of charges from reviewing different parts of a chapter.