A legacy of customer-inspired innovation
This year, we are celebrating 150 years of customer-inspired innovation. Founder John B. West created the first iteration of what would later become West Publishing Company 150 years ago, which lead to the development of the most trusted online legal research platform — Westlaw. Decades spent collaborating with customers and studying how lawyers work, combined with the collective brainpower of top legal professionals and best-in-class technology, has set the stage for a legacy of industry-leading legal research tools that help our customers solve even the most complex research questions with accuracy and efficiency.
Let’s explore three pillars that support Westlaw Edge’s unparalleled performance and how those pillars make a major impact in your legal research.
1. The voice of the customer
Westlaw Edge builds on the iterations of Westlaw that came before it. Every feature of Westlaw Edge — from those that are immediately apparent to those so refined it would take a trained eye to detect them — is developed in concert with Westlaw customers.
“We always ask our customers about their legal research challenges and test our products with customers to make sure we’re solving for those challenges,” Senior Director of Westlaw Product Management C.J. Lechtenberg said. “What does their legal research and writing process look like? What takes the most time? What do they find the most challenging?”
Anticipating the needs of the customer doesn’t stop with interviews, surveys, and usability tests, however.
“We can go beyond that because we can analyze what content and features of Westlaw Edge are being most used and how they are being used,” Senior Director for Westlaw Product Management Erik Lindberg said.
“We look at overall usage patterns — which are anonymized, encrypted, and secure, from the thousands of research sessions conducted by legal professionals every day and use those patterns to improve our search algorithms and other recommendation engines. We also can see if there is a useful feature that doesn’t seem to be getting the play it deserves and whether we need to make that feature more visible by integrating it within particular research workflows. We want to make sure our customers know all of what is available and how to use each feature or content set to its best effect.”
2. The human touch
Westlaw’s legacy of quality and accurate legal research was built by hundreds of bar-admitted attorneys. Even as the benefit of interwoven technology has increased, the role humans play in delivering Westlaw Edge’s superior performance has not diminished. “What really gives Westlaw such an amazing lift are those editorial enhancements that are all created by humans. We have human attorney editors who are reading virtually every case and every statute, and then summarizing, organizing, and classifying the most critical parts,” Lindberg said.
“For example, in cases judges often will refer to the people who are suing each other by their individual names or by their company names, which makes it really hard to search for other cases involving similar parties. Our attorney-editors can abstract the relationships between those parties and clarify when an employer is being sued by an employee or when it is dispute between a landlord and a tenant.
“By using those kinds of abstractions and summarizing how the judges applied the law to the facts of each case, our attorney-editors introduce search terms and connect the legal concepts to draw together relevant documents much more effectively.”
3. Best-in-class technology
“One of our greatest advancements has been our use of artificial intelligence (AI) in our legal research products. But AI isn’t created in a technology vacuum,” Lechtenberg explains. “Superior AI really requires three things: domain expertise, quality data, and AI experts. Fortunately for us, Thomson Reuters is uniquely positioned as having superiority in all three areas. Legal issues are very rarely black and white; they are often riddled with nuance. And nuance in language, especially legal language, is incredibly challenging for humans, let alone machines. That’s why we need human brainpower.”
The power of Westlaw exists for one reason: to make attorneys’ lives — at work and outside of it — easier. By listening to the voice of the customer and combining it with human and technological expertise, Westlaw Edge gives legal professionals an advantage by providing five key benefits.
“In an ever-changing environment, two things have not changed — attorneys, judges, and legal professionals need to be both efficient and accurate,” Lechtenberg said. “Failing in either of these areas is too great a risk for our customers and Thomson Reuters consistently provides products like Westlaw Edge to help them maintain their edge.”
Westlaw Edge’s Quick Check feature, for example, empowers attorneys to swiftly complete a comprehensive review of their brief — or the brief of their opponent. It securely analyzes briefs to suggest highly relevant authority that traditional research methods might have missed. That security and peace of mind can only come from Westlaw Edge.
By examining what lawyers need as they’re constructing their briefs, the developers behind Westlaw Edge continue to enhance the ways attorneys can ensure they’ve left no stone unturned.
Lindberg explains, “Finding the most relevant legal authorities and understanding how they fit together can be very challenging. But it’s the ability to zero in on that highly nuanced legal language that is so essential to understanding what the law is. Attorneys need that to be able to advise clients appropriately, so they rely on Westlaw Edge to help them get to that very complete picture of what the law actually says.”
Westlaw Edge was built and is maintained by attorneys who understand better than anyone that legal research relies on material that is accurate and up to date.
“We’re consistently more current than what you would find even on many official websites, let alone with competing products,” says David Edwards, a Principal Attorney-Editor at Thomson-Reuters. “As for accuracy, the goal we strive for — through attention to detail, application of best practices, and constant technological improvement — is to get it right every time, because that’s what our customers need and expect from us.”
In an industry that is structured in six-minute increments, small time savings add up. Efficiency was a vital consideration in the development of Westlaw Edge. Promoting ease of use and time savings was infused into every aspect of its many facets.
Quick Check, for example, uses artificial intelligence to quickly analyze an uploaded brief to check citations, verify quotation accuracy, and ensure you’ve uncovered all relevant authority for your issue. It enables more efficient research, provides a deeper level of insight into your (or your opponent’s) work, and puts precious minutes — and, in aggregate, hours — back where they can be used for higher value purposes.
Westlaw Edge improves on the strong tradition of Westlaw versions that came before by heightening the ability it gives attorneys to see around corners. For example, traditional citators pick up when a case has been explicitly invalidated by a subsequent ruling, but they don’t flag when similar cases may have also been implicitly overruled by subsequent new developments in the law.
Westlaw Edge’s KeyCite Overruling Risk marks cases that have no direct citations pointing to their invalidity, providing attorneys with the opportunity at the front end to realize when their argument may need some buttressing.
“Our firm would absolutely be at a disadvantage without Westlaw Edge”
Across the industry, leading attorneys and legal professionals have found Westlaw Edge to be an indispensable ally.
Sean Lemoine, a partner at Wick Phillips in Dallas, said he knew his firm needed to have Westlaw Edge when he realized courts were using it. Using Westlaw Edge leveled the playing field — and then some.
“Westlaw Edge is driving success at our firm because it compiles an enormous amount of data very quickly that would otherwise take hours to pull,” he said. “We can quickly identify critical issues both before filing a significant substantive briefing and when we want to see what our opponents have filed.”
“Our firm would absolutely be at a disadvantage without Westlaw Edge,” he added.
And Justine Deitz, an associate at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Washington, D.C., said she felt more assured when she developed her work product with Westlaw Edge.
“Westlaw Edge helps me conduct research quickly and efficiently and makes me feel confident that I am providing accurate information for my team,” she said.
Better, faster, more efficient
For over a century, we’ve been listening to attorneys, understanding how they work, and applying human knowledge and technology to craft a superior platform. And it’s not done yet.
“We will always be trying to figure out how can we make Westlaw better. We’ll continue to put dollars into people and technology and continue to ask where it makes sense to have more technology or more human power,” Lindberg says.
We have always been dedicated to developing first-of-its-kind research tools for legal professionals, and as the legal marketplace continues to change, so does Westlaw. The combination of our people, processes, and technology remains the foundation we rely upon to deliver customer-centric solutions — just as it was 150 years ago.