There’s a battle about to break out on your computer screen. On the third floor of West’s sprawling corporate headquarters outside Minneapolis, a veritable army of professionals has been working for nearly five years to create a revamped Westlaw. They are changing everything from the interface users see on their PC screens to all the technology that makes it work behind the scenes.
Known as WestlawNext, the new platform will debut February 1.
On its own suburban campus near Dayton, Ohio, LexisNexis—the other half of the duopoly that has ruled online legal research for almost 40 years (some call it “Wexis”)—is planning its own revamped platform. Referred to internally as New Lexis, it is slated to roll out publicly later this year on a date yet to be determined.
Both companies claim to be creating a legal research experience that will mimic the ease of use their customers have come to expect from the leading Internet search engine, Google.
The updated services come not a moment too soon, since the Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine has just gotten into the legal research business. In November, the company announced that its Scholar search engine now contains more than 80 years of U.S. case law from federal and state courts, as well as U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1791—all of it free.
Like a handful of smaller legal research companies that mostly serve solo practitioners and smaller law firms, Google built its service by aggregating the case law made available on the Internet by courts nationwide in recent years. Those companies have been slowly but surely nipping at the heels of West and LexisNexis at the low end of the market, where customers are most price-sensitive. With Google joining them, that price pressure is likely only to grow.