ALL-SIS Roundtable: LEXIS-WESTLAW Forum 2000

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submitted by Rosalie Sanderson, Emory University

Once again, a lively ,standing-room-only crowd showed up at the Forum. The forum is your chance to learn about the LEXIS & WESTLAW academic programs for the coming year, and to meet and ask questions of the people in both companies who are in charge of the law school programs. At the 2000 Forum , LEXIS was represented by Timothy F. List, Vice-President, Law School and Federal Courts Markets. West was represented by Gerald Johnson, Vice-president, Academic & Librarian Relations.

Timothy List joined LEXIS in early 2000. He came to LEXIS with an MBA in marketing from the University of Michigan and a lot of marketing experience for such companies as Monogram Credit Services, a joint venture of Bank One and General Electric, Campbell's Soup, Vlasic Foods, and General Mills. Gerald Johnson has been with WESTLAW for 16 years. He has a law degree from Boston University, and has worked in a variety of management positions with West during that time, focusing on law firms,as well as law schools.

A show of hands indicated that most librarians at the forum work in their law schools as coordinators of LEXIS & WESTLAW service and instruction. But law library administrators and public services librarians were also well represented. During the first part of the program Mr. List and Mr. Johnson discussed their companies' plans for the year. Then, librarians began an animated Question and Answer session.

Mr. List discussed his view of LEXIS as a partner with law schools in legal education. He highlighted specific initiatives including product enhancements, equipment upgrades, and law school support. He also described enhancements to Shepards and lexis.com. He discussed education initiatives, including virtual classroom, interactive Citation Workstation, and the Legal Research & Writing Advisory Board. Perhaps of most interest to the librarians were the equipment upgrades for the 2000-2001 academic year:

  • T-1 lines/LEXIS nodes for faster, more reliable LEXIS access
  • PC upgrades (it was unclear how many PCs were offered to which schools)
  • Printer upgrades
  • Customer support phones

Gerald Johnson of West discussed several changes including the new interface for lawschool.westlaw.com, the librarian relations program at West, and the addition of new foreign and international databases. Shelly Albaum, Senior Director for Westlaw Product Development, unveiled the new Westlaw interface. He demonstrated the use of its two-part screen and link viewers, which open windows to view linked cases or documents. The revamped lawschool.westlaw.com was a centerpiece of the program. It has been enhanced to provide easy access to TWEN, student resource pages, faculty pages, a redesigned career center, and a support page.

Gerald Johnson's announcement that Westlaw's experiment with print budgets was over disappointed the audience, but West still won points with the group for making a good faith effort to tackle the problem of unrestricted and wasteful printing.

Questions . . .

There were a variety of questions and comments from librarians. I will highlight several:

  • One librarian expressed disappointment that West had decided to drop print limits and budgeting; Mr. Johnson did not indicate that West would reconsider this decision. Mr. List suggested that Lexis was still working on this issue
  • After the forum, most librarians who commented on the end of the Westlaw print budgets were disappointed to see them end, but generously praised West for making a good faith effort to deal with the problem of wasteful student printing.
  • One librarian asked about LEXIS' distribution of PCs to some schools when the librarians thought that both companies had made it clear in years past that they were "out of the equipment business." The questioner had just bought 30 PCs, but didn't know that LEXIS was offering them to some schools.
  • During his formal presentation, List had mentioned that computer upgrades were part of the Equipment Upgrades planned by LEXIS for this academic year. This question echoed questions and comments of past years. Librarians want to know that all libraries are paying the same rates for the services (by FTE) and that any equipment or fungibles are distributed in an equitable manner. Librarians who have commented on this issue believe that it is disconcerting to learn that some schools are offered equipment and others are not, when schools are supposed to be paying the same rate for the service.
  • One librarian mentioned that students would learn about cost of electronic research if the commercial cost would appear on the screen at the end of each student session. The company representatives seemed to nod agreement.
  • Another librarian mentioned problems with the new program for summer WESTLAW access. Students received 2 free hours of use each month, but were required to call to extend the use and experienced delays in extending the use. Librarians expressed hope that that program will change before next summer.
  • Another librarian mentioned that her LEXIS account representative also worked with law firms, and the law school librarian felt that this arrangement did not serve law schools well.

RESULTS:

Hopefully, local issues raised at the forum, such as sharing account representatives with law firms or not having summer student help, will be dealt with on an individual basis by the companies. There are other issues, however, which LEXIS and WESTLAW could resolve in a way which would benefit all law schools and students. Librarians who attended the forum would be pleased if both companies would take positive action on the following issues:

  • Indicate the commercial cost of each student Lexis or Westlaw session with an indicator of what type of rate was used to arrive at the total.
  • Develop a method to limit printing effectively.
  • Provide efficient and timely summer use without the necessity for a lot of exceptions, phone calls and delays.
  • Distribute any equipment such as PCs or T-1 lines openly and fairly, and publish the criteria used for selection so that librarians understand that their schools received fair consideration in the process.

Member Input Sought for Next LEXIS-WESTLAW FORUM

What do you think would be helpful at the next forum?

  • Are you interested in having more vendors represented?
  • If so, which vendors?

Several ideas have been suggested for new formats:

  • Librarians meet the first half hour without the vendors to discuss what is going on in our schools.
  • Use large flip charts to make lists of positive and negative aspects of vendor service to share with vendors when they join the forum.

Please submit your ideas to Vendor Roundtable Committee members Rosalie Sanderson at Emory University (rsander@law.emory.edu), Nancy McMurrer at the University of Washington (mcmurrer@u.washington.edu), Gordon Russell of St. Thomas University (grussell@stu.edu), or April Schwartz of the University of Minnesota (schwa084@gold.tc.umn.edu).