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Column No. 43, September 1998
Copyright 1998 Robert J. Ambrogi
For Research Services, It's A Horse Race
By Robert J. Ambrogi
You've heard, no doubt, about the browser battles; now stay tuned for the research races.
The two major legal-research services, Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, successfully completed the qualifying heat when they made their databases fully accessible via the Web using any standard browser.
Now the two are running neck and neck as they strive to enhance their Internet offerings and integrate them more closely with the lawyer's desktop. The competition is sometimes so close that it almost seems as if they share the same jockey.
If it is a race, its most recent forums were the summer's annual conventions -- the Triple Crown of legal marketing. At meetings of the American Bar Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, and others, Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis unveiled a number of new features -- some surprisingly similar.
Meanwhile, another mainstay of legal publishing, Martindale-Hubbell, introduced Lawyers.com, a consumer-oriented service that builds upon its directory of lawyers.
West Group and Lexis-Nexis each announced features designed to simplify use of their online research services directly from law firm or corporate Intranets. And both said they have longer-term plans to develop more products linking customer Intranets with Internet research.
The more sophisticated of the two is West's Intranet Toolkit, which allows a firm to configure its Intranet to provide direct access to common Westlaw tasks.
The Toolkit provides templates and aids that allow a firm to add research pages tailored to its practice areas and the research tools its lawyers most commonly use. Specifically, the Toolkit provides:
The new service from Lexis-Nexis likewise helps law firms customize the links on their Intranets to provide more immediate access to frequently used resources and databases. It also provides a similar feature for delivery of news customized by practice area.
But where West's toolkit provides various templates and an automated link builder to simplify the process, Lexis-Nexis requires the user to cut and paste HTML code from a Web page to the Intranet in order to set up the links.
Lexis-Nexis support personnel will provide technical assistance with building the necessary links. In addition, the firm can include in its Intranet direct e-mail links and telephone numbers for the firm's Lexis-Nexis representatives.
The links are available at: http://www.lexis.com/enterprise.
Both companies also unveiled "clipping" services allowing customers to receive automatic updates based on a preconfigured search.
Lexis-Nexis calls its service Eclipse. It allows the user to predefine a search and then receive daily, weekly or monthly updates via e-mail of new articles or legal information.
West's new service, called WestClip, similarly stores and automatically runs a query on a regular basis. Queries can run in any database, including news services and magazines. Results are delivered to your choice of e-mail, fax or printer, and at a frequency you select.
Other Lexis News
Lexis-Nexis announced various other enhancements to its Web-based service:
West Adds Cases
Meanwhile, West announced the addition of more than half a million cases to its database, extending its coverage to the beginning of the National Reporter system.
Both Westlaw and KeyCite now include all pre-1945 cases from the National Reporters. West said that its database now includes some 5 million cases.
Westlaw is on the Web at: http://www.westlaw.com.
Lexis-Nexis is at: http://www.lexis.com.
Martindale-Hubbell says its consumer-oriented Web site, Lawyers.com, http://www.lawyers.com, will help law firms leverage the marketing power of the Internet and increase their exposure to consumers and small businesses.
The site allows potential clients to search a database of more than 400,000 lawyers and law firms using criteria such as location, name, areas of practice and fluency in a particular language.
In conjunction with this site, Martindale-Hubbell unveiled Lawyer HomePages, a service by which small-firm lawyers can create inexpensive Web sites linked to the Lawyers.com directory.
Available only to firms of five or fewer lawyers, the service provides templates and hosting services to simplify the creation of a Web site and then links the site to Lawyers.com.
In order to be listed in the Lawyers.com database or to be eligible to purchase a Web site through Lawyer HomePages, a lawyer or firm must have purchased a paid listing -- or "Professional Biography" -- in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. Prices of these listings vary.
This is unlike the company's Lawyer Locator (http://www.martindale.com), which includes the names of all listed lawyers, not just those who purchased enhanced listings.
Low Cost Web Sites
For law firms that qualify, Lawyer HomePages will enable them to set up a site of up to 10 pages at an annual cost of $195 for 1-2 lawyers and $295 for 3-5 lawyers.
This price requires the firm to build its own site, but the service provides a variety of design templates and tools to simplify the task. For an additional $300, Martindale-Hubbell will create the site.
The service includes a personalized Web address in the form of an extension to the Lawyers.com domain name. Thus, the firm's Web address would be: http://www.lawyers.com/firm_name.
The price includes hosting of the site on Martindale-Hubbell's servers and unlimited access for changes and updates.
Firms that purchase sites will receive preferred placement near the top of a consumer's search results page, along with a link to bring the consumer directly to the firm's Lawyer HomePage site, the company guarantees.
The main attraction, of course, is Lawyers.com, which both helps consumers find a lawyer and tutors them on the basics of law. It does this through five sections:
Martindale-Hubbell is a corporate cousin of Lexis-Nexis, both of which are owned by Reed Elsevier plc.
Robert J. Ambrogi (firstname.lastname@example.org), a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of the Internet newsletter legal.online, http://www.legalonline.com. Past installments of this column are archived at: http://www.legaline.com.