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Column No. 31, September 1997

Copyright 1997 Robert J. Ambrogi

Lexis, West Unveil Major Internet Services

By Robert J. Ambrogi

Even as the Internet has evolved into a sophisticated tool for legal research, it has remained a David in the shadow of the electronic-research Goliaths, Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw.

And even as its growth came from so many small academic and law-firm sites, it was only a matter of time before the giants stepped in, changing its landscape forever.

Thus come Lexis-Nexis and West, both of which recently took the wraps off major new Internet services for lawyers.

The most far reaching of the two is Xchange, from Lexis-Nexis, a soup-to-nuts Internet service that promises to become the most comprehensive site for lawyers on the Internet, offering everything from legal research to daily news to secure document delivery.

From West comes KeyCite, a new case citator and cite-checker that West claims is more current and comprehensive than Shepard’s – and that is without doubt easier to use.

Virtual Community

Xchange evolved as Lexis-Nexis’ answer to Counsel Connect, the online service from American Lawyer Media ( Until two years ago, CC was known as Lexis Counsel Connect, but after the two companies parted ways, Lexis looked to develop its own "virtual community."

The result is a service that will allow legal professionals to create personalized Web pages from which they can obtain the latest legal and general news, send documents, conduct research, and network with their peers.

Demonstrated at the recent American Bar Association annual meeting, Xchange is slated for a controlled release beginning mid-September and continuing as more features are added through December. It will be available on the Web at

Access will be free to many Xchange services, including daily news, practice-area updates and discussion forums. Fees will be charged for online research, document delivery, and other services. As of press time, Lexis-Nexis had not announced prices.

Among the features of Xchange:

You need not be a Lexis-Nexis subscriber to use Xchange, but first-time visitors will be required to register. Registration is open only to legal professionals – lawyers, law librarians, paralegals and law students.

Secure Document Delivery

A key component of Xchange – and a first of its kind for lawyers on the Internet – is the secure document exchange service.

It will allow lawyers to send confidential, secure documents across the Internet from the Xchange site. Using technology developed jointly by Lexis-Nexis and NetDox Inc., an offshoot of Deloitte & Touche, Xchange will provide an audit trail so that the user can verify that the document was received, when it was received and that it was opened only by the intended recipient.

Double layers of encryption will protect the confidentiality of both the document and the headers used to deliver it to its destination. Digital certificates and digital notarization will ensure that documents are opened only by the intended addressee and verify the time when documents are opened.

The service has an easy-to-use interface that will even keep track of billing the delivery to the appropriate client.

The security of the process is audited by Deloitte & Touche and each document is insured.

Pricing was not final as of this writing, but the cost of sending a document will be roughly half that of using Federal Express, or about $5 or $6 for up to 1.4 megabytes.

Initially, users will be required to obtain proprietary software from NetDox, but the service will be available through the Web beginning in October or November.

West’s KeyCite

Sometimes a product becomes so intimately associated with its purpose that we begin to use its trade name as a verb. We Xerox a document, then Fed Ex it to our co-counsel.

So it is for lawyers with Shepard’s. Rarely do we check citations in a brief; rather, we "Shepardize" it. Until now, Shepard’s and cite checking have been synonymous.

Well, watch out for Key-Citing, because that is what lawyers may be calling it after they try the new citator service from West Group.

KeyCite appeared on the Internet early in August, where West will offer it free until Nov. 30 ( It is also offered through the dial-in Westlaw research service.

It is, West claims, more current and more comprehensive than Shepard’s. As soon as a case appears on Westlaw, it is covered in KeyCite. And KeyCite includes more than 1 million unpublished cases.

Graphical Interface

Key Cite uses graphical symbols and hypertext links to make cite checking as painless as possible.

This begins with the case you are reading. All cases in Westlaw that have subsequent history will be flagged. If a case has a red flag at the top, it means it is no longer good law, having been reversed, vacated, superseded, overruled or abrogated. If there is a yellow flag, it means the case has some negative history short of being reversed or overruled. A blue "H" indicates some other history, such as affirmed or certiorari denied.

Another graphical feature Key Cite uses is stars. When a case has been cited by another case, stars tell you the depth of treatment. Four stars signify extended discussion of the cited case, usually more than a page long; three stars signify a substantial discussion; two stars indicate some discussion; and one star says there was only a brief reference, usually in a string citation.

KeyCite also uses purple quotation marks to indicate whether your case was quoted in the citing case. Click on the mark and jump to the quoted text within the citing case.

Uses Key Numbers

KeyCite fully integrates West’s key-number system, enabling users to display citations by topic and key number. Key numbers link to the full text of the headnote, unlike in Shepard’s. And once you find a headnote using KeyCite, you can then jump to the Key Number Service on Westlaw to locate similar cases.

This allows you to focus your research on particular points of law. A "control panel" on the left of the KeyCite display lists all of the headnotes in the case. Select only the ones you are interested in to filter citing cases. Select the Topics button and you can sort by Topic, each of which includes all relevant headnotes.

Another feature of KeyCite is the ability to restrict citing references to a specific jurisdiction or West Reporter, to cases from a jurisdiction’s highest court or lower courts, to include or exclude ALR citations or law review articles, to cases decided before or after a given date, or to one or more depth of treatment star categories.

Another feature is the citation counter, designed on the premise that cases cited more frequently tend to be more important. You can use this feature to tally the total citing references and the citing references by topic and headnote. It even compares how often a case is cited with the average for cases from the same year and jurisdiction.

KeyCite’s Table of Authorities feature lets you instantly get a list of every case cited within a given case, complete with flags and stars. This, says West, is a quick way to analyze cases your opponent is relying on, revealing cases of diminished value as precedent.

KeyCite covers all cases on Westlaw, whether reported or unreported, as well as ALR annotations, law reviews and other secondary sources.

Most citation information is added to a case within 2-4 hours of its appearance on Westlaw, although negative history other than overrulings can sometimes take 1-5 days.

Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of, a monthly newsletter about the Internet ( He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (978) 546-7898.