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Westlaw Precision: Next-Generation Legal Research With a Human Touch

Thomson Reuters Debuts Westlaw Precision

By Joan Feldman

Thomson Reuters has launched Westlaw Precision, its most dramatic update to the Westlaw research platform since Westlaw Edge in 2018. For this new version, Westlaw tackled the underlying issues that slow down legal research — namely lack of precision in search results, which leads to extra hours reviewing cases that aren’t relevant. Westlaw Precision, says the company, will help lawyers conduct research more than twice as fast while also reducing the risk of missing relevant cases.

While Westlaw Edge introduced artificial intelligence technology to Westlaw, this new version harnesses the human touch, deploying hundreds of newly hired Westlaw attorney editors over the past two years to manually review and tag a staggering amount of data.

“Our customers tell us difficult legal research can often take more than 10 hours per case,” said Mike Dahn, head of Product Management, Westlaw, Thomson Reuters. “It’s time consuming because they are often looking for something very precise, but traditional searching rarely allows for such precision. Our customers needed more precision in searching to substantially reduce research time. To do that, we made the largest-ever investment in our editorial operations, and the result is Precision Research.”

Built for Speed, Accuracy and Precision

“Editorial excellence has long been at the heart of Westlaw,“ said Leann Blanchfield, head of Primary Law, Editorial, Thomson Reuters. “To enable more precision in search, we added more than 250 new attorney editors to mark up and classify case law in more useful ways for our customers.”

These human editors manually reviewed and tagged the past 12 years of caselaw, published cases and certain older cases, covering eight topics (commercial law, federal civil procedure, federal discovery and evidence, federal remedies, federal class actions, employment, securities and antitrust).

Now, in addition to the traditional West Key Number System, Westlaw Precision is classifying cases by:

  • issue outcome
  • fact pattern
  • motion type
  • motion outcome
  • cause of action
  • party type

The editorial work, combined with the technological advances made with Westlaw Edge, improves both research speed and quality because results are more accurate; lawyers can target their searches more narrowly. This translates into more precise results from searches, delivered more quickly — meaning fewer matches to review and, thus, less time spent reading.

According to the media briefing, lawyer reviewers using Westlaw Precision’s new search tools cut hours from the research time, while new workflow tools — graphical views of history, show / hide list details, and an outlining tool — can shave more time off the research process.

Westlaw Precision Adds Six New Capabilities

This latest version of Westlaw brings six new capabilities, aimed at improving the accuracy and speed for searching, filtering and browsing.

  1. Precision Research. A new search tool allows you to use Precision Filters to look for specific attributes related to the legal issue and outcome, the fact pattern and material facts, the cause of action, motion type and outcome, party type, and area of law.

Westlaw Precision Results
  1. KeyCite Cited With. This shows related cases that have been cited together, even if neither cites the other.
  2. KeyCite Overruled in Part. A new red-striped flag in search results shows when a case has been overruled in part and lets you jump directly to that specific language in the case.
  3. Graphical View of History. With this feature, a graphical visualization of research history, mapping out each step of your research history, highlighting the searches and documents with more research interaction. (This makes it easier to remember which documents and cases you’ve already reviewed.)
  4. Keep List/Hide Details. This allows you to save cases of interest and the hide cases you decide are not relevant to current research (without removing them completely). The goal here is to provide a less-cluttered view to speed workflow.
  5. Outline Builder. Instead of copy and paste from Westlaw to Word, this new tool aims to help you organize your research within the platform — you can drag and drop text (including linked and formatted citations and KeyCite information) into a customizable outline. Then, you can export the outline when you are ready to to begin drafting a brief.

New Outline Builder aims to shave time off research and drafting.

What’s Next for Westlaw Precision

At launch time, Westlaw Precision covers 12 years of cases and eight practice areas/topics. By the year’s end, Westlaw Precision will add arbitration, insurance and real estate to its coverage and another dozen areas of law will be added in 2023. These will include personal injury,

You can learn more about Westlaw Precision from Thomson Reuters, here, along with details on upgrading from Westlaw Next and Westlaw Edge.

In addition, Bob Ambrogi at LawSites and Jean O’Grady at Dewey B Strategic offer in-depth information on the launch and a thoughtful, clear-eyed look at the legal research landscape.

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Joan Feldman Joan Feldman

Joan Feldman is Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of Attorney at Work, publishing “one really good idea every day” since 2011. She has created and steered myriad leading practice management and trade publications, including the ABA’s Law Practice magazine where she served as managing editor for a dozen years. Joan is a Fellow and Trustee of the College of Law Practice Management. Follow her @JoanHFeldman.

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