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Find It Friday – ABA’s New Search Engine; Westlaw Poised To Release ‘Cobalt’

It’s been a few weeks since my last installment of “Find It Friday.”  With the holidays, my schedule always seems to be a little askew, and this year, the “Find It Friday” installment for Cyber-Esq. was the victim.  So, this week, I thought I would get back up on the bandwagon with a new installment, and just in the nick of time.  2010 is already proving to be the year of big changes on the legal research front.

The first significant development of 2010 is the ABA’s new search engine for law reviews and journals.  The Law Librarian Blog reported yesterday about the new search engine, writing:

The ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center has launched a free search engine for researching the free full-text of over 300 online law reviews and law journals, as well as document repositories hosting academic papers such as SSRN and bepress, and related publications such as Congressional Research Service reports. The SE launch page also provides each resource’s URL and lists law reviews, law journals and document repositories which have free full-text available online, but which must be searched or browsed manually. Suggestions for free full-text law review/journal and related sites to add are welcome.

Some researchers like to incorporate a lot of law review/law journal research into their work, some do not.  I have always been on the side of those that prefer to include these works, particularly if I am embarking upon a project with which I have little prior familiarity.  If you are like me, then you should check out the new ABA search engine, which you can link to here.

But the big changes in legal research are coming from Westlaw, or Thomson Reuters Westlaw as they are now referred (I am sorry, they will always be Westlaw to me).  This year, Westlaw will release an entirely new research platform dubbed “Cobalt.”  This platform promises to be an entire overhaul of the way legal research is done, including:

  • Improved search engines;
  • Easy to use (one article says think “Google-esque” which you can read here.)
  • Something the developers are calling “community insights,” which may hint as social networking searches or incorporating blawgs as part of legal research.
  • Goodbye boolean searches, hello Natural Language Processing.

These are but a few of the many changes Cobalt will bring, and quite frankly, I am excited about this development.  If you are old enough to know the company just as Westlaw, then you can remember the “good old days” of mainframe research and pre-NLP research queries.  Westlaw has come a long way since then, and Cobalt promises to open an entirely new chapter in the company’s history.

Stay tuned, as I am sure there will be much more to report on Cobalt as its features become more well-known.  The new product is set to be released in February, according to the company.  In the meantime, you can link to additional articles discussing Cobalt here and here.

DISCLAIMER:  This blog post was prepared without any input from anyone at the ABA or Westlaw, or any of their affiliates, companies, or subdivisions.  I was not promised anything of value for this blog post or its contents.  I do not anticipate receiving anything of value either; however, I should disclose that I am a die-hard Westlaw guy and use their current service every day.  I am also a member of the ABA, as I have been since long before the idea of blogging even existed.

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