Research Smarter and Faster with WestlawNext: Free at the Law Library

One Search Box, Multiple Content Areas

Visitors to the Alameda County Law Library can now use the WestlawNext database free of charge on library computers at the Main and Branch locations. Designed to be more intuitive and user-friendly than the “classic” Westlaw platform, the WestlawNext homepage features a simple, uncluttered interface reminiscent of the Google homepage.

From the single, versatile search box located at the top of the homepage, users can retrieve a document by citation or party name, access a publication or source (e.g. Rutter Group California Practice Guide: Bankruptcy), Keycite an authority, or research an issue. WestlawNext will automatically run a search executed from the homepage across thirteen core content categories, including cases, statutes and court rules, regulations, trial court documents, briefs, forms, and secondary sources. This is a major departure from the traditional Westlaw platform, which requires a user to select one of more sources before performing a search.

Search results appear in an “Overview” screen, which displays the most relevant document identified in each core category. Because WestlawNext searches for your terms across multiple categories of primary sources, analytical materials, and court filings, the resulting “Overview” page can serve as a customized research guide for the narrow issue that you are researching, identifying sources you may wish to consult before concluding your research. Select a specific content category to view all results found in that category.

Plain Language Searching, Improved Research Outcomes

WestlawNext also simplifies the task of formulating an effective search query, allowing users to retrieve highly relevant results by describing their legal issue in simple, plain language terms. While the classic Westlaw database features a “literal” search engine that requires searchers to carefully express an issue using synonyms, Boolean logic, proximity operators, and root expanders, WestlawNext de-emphasizes the importance of proper search syntax. When a user performs a descriptive word search, WestlawNext’s “intuitive” search engine applies its proprietary WestSearch algorithm to the search terms. Leveraging the West Key Number System, KeyCite, editorial content, secondary sources, and aggregate user behavior, WestSearch expands the search beyond the actual terms used to retrieve an inclusive, relevant results set. WestSearch displays documents that are strongly associated with the original search terms, even if the precise terms do not appear in every document.

Narrowing Results and Annotating Documents 

WestlawNext searchers can manipulate an overly broad results’ list and display a more targeted selection of documents by applying filters, or using the “Search within results” feature. Depending on the content category, users can filter search results by jurisdiction, date, party, attorney, judge, publication name, practice area, topic, or form type. Entering a word or phrase in the “Search within results” box retrieves only those documents from the original results set that contain a specific word of phrase.

WestlawNext has also developed several interactive tools that enable researchers to annotate documents and extract passages of text. Users can select the “Highlight” tool to highlight passages of text in pale yellow, or “Add a Note” to insert a virtual sticky note next to a specific paragraph. The “Copy with Reference” feature allows users to copy and paste passages of text, followed by the official Bluebook or California Style Manual citation.

New Tools for Searching Primary Law 

Like the classic Westlaw platform, WestlawNext provides full-text, electronic access to state and federal cases, codes, regulations, and court rules. Case results can be filtered by key number, party name, docket number, judge, attorney, law firm, or reported/unreported status. A list of “Related Documents,” including secondary sources, briefs, and trial court documents, appear to the right of the case results.

WestlawNext users can search the full-text of West’s Annotated California Code, or browse individual titles. The California Statutes Index – Words and Phrases helps researchers quickly identify governing code sections and statutory definitions. When viewing a code section, click on the “History” tab to view legislative history materials and read the text of the statute as it appeared on a particular effective date. The California Statutes Annotated – Historical file contains full-text, archived versions of West’s Annotated California Code dating back to 1987.

Search Analytical Materials

WestlawNext users can access analytical materials, including legal encyclopedias, treatises, practice guides, and law reviews, by clicking on the “Secondary Sources” link on the homepage, or by entering the title of a specific secondary source (e.g. California Jurisprudence) in the main search box. The library’s WestlawNext subscription includes full-text, searchable versions of the Rutter Group series of California practice guides, West’s California Code Forms, California Transactions Forms, Miller & Starr California Real Estate Forms, California Jurisprudence, American Jurisprudence, American Law Reports, and select law reviews. Users can run a search across all secondary sources, or within a single title.

Retrieve Trial Court Documents

The California Trial Court Documents file contains select pleadings and motions filed in California state and federal trial courts since 2000. Search by cause of action or motion type to review legal arguments and authorities used in similar cases. These successfully filed documents can serve as model forms for drafting pleadings and motions.

Try WestlawNext Today

With a Google-style interface and expansive, plain-English searching, WestlawNext is easy to use and quickly delivers meaningful results. Visit the library’s Main or Branch locations to explore the features of this exciting new research platform.

One thought on “Research Smarter and Faster with WestlawNext: Free at the Law Library

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