Law students should strive for proficiency in all legal research platforms. It's difficult to predict which platform a prospective employer may license, so having expertise in all systems increases your skills and attractiveness as a prospective employee.
This guide is designed to help users easily switch these platforms.
Old Lexis & Westlaw vs. New Lexis & Westlaw?
LexisNexis and Westlaw have new systems, known as Lexis Advance and WestlawNext. The older legacy platforms, known as Westlaw Classic and Lexis.com are still in use by some law firms and government employers. Students have access to these older legacy systems, as well as the new systems. (To get to Lexis.com, log in to Lexis Advance, click the red Research tab at the top and select Lexis.com. For Classic Westlaw, click on the Westlaw link instead of WestlawNext after you sign in to Westlaw). Please note Westlaw Classic service is no longer available to law students, faculty and staff as of July 1, 2014.
The new systems search everything at once with a Google-like search box. The old systems require selecting a database in which to search. The natural language capabilities on the older systems are not as sophisticated as on the newer systems.
Law School instruction concentrates on the new systems.
Bloomberg, Lexis and Westlaw Compared
There are three major legal databases:
- Bloomberg Law
What is the difference between Lexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg? In a nutshell:
- All three systems are similar because they contain cases, statutes, regulations, law review articles, legal books and practice materials, and news. However, the books and practice materials are different publications by different authors on each system. At the moment, Lexis and Westlaw contain more books and practice materials than Bloomberg. The systems mostly contain the same cases, but there may be a case that is on one system and not the others.
- Lexis and Westlaw have some editorial features to aid legal research which Bloomberg does not. Lexis and Westlaw have annotated statutes and more cases have headnotes. However, Bloomberg will show cases that cited the statute.
- Bloomberg is better for searching court dockets, and has great news coverage.
- Students may use Bloomberg for employment purposes. Lexis and Westlaw are for academic use only, with some exceptions. For example, from May through August, 2013, students may use Lexis Advance for any purpose, including employment.
- All of the platforms allow for terms and connectors searching (and, or, phrase and proximity searching). Bloomberg Law does not have natural language, Google-like searching, while the other two platforms do. The terms and connectors (search language) used by each system vary.
- All these systems have a means to check and see if a case is still good law - Shepard's on Lexis, Keycite on Westlaw and Bcite on Bloomberg.
- All three services have an all-in-one search box, ability to post notes on cases and other documents, ability to save documents in folders, and alert searches. (This applies to the new systems - WestlawNext and Lexis Advance, as well as Bloomberg).
- Each system has different features or "whistles and bells".
Lexis Advance and WestlawNext being more similar to each other than Bloomberg, we prepared a summary of the Differences Between Lexis Advance and WestlawNext.