Westlaw Classic is (Almost) Dead, Long Live Westlaw Classic

Thomson Reuters has just announced that, sometime over the summer, it is sending Westlaw Classic to live on the farm. A friendly farm, where it can play in fields of casebooks and help … shepardize … ok, fine. All bad puns aside, the mainstay service is retiring sooner rather than later, so Thomson is telling its subscribers to get ready now. Lawyers are notoriously slow to change their ways in everything, and technology is no exception. Law is one of the few industries left that still uses fax machines to transmit documents across distances, and Florida’s State Bar still prohibits soliciting clients via telegraph.

Bob Ambrogi has compared Westlaw Classic’s retirement to the cancellation of New Coke, but time will tell whether its retirement is actually more similar to that of Coca-Cola. The TL;DR can be found here for you millennials. Perhaps lawyers will make the transition smoothly, perhaps not. While Westlaw has been pushing more and more people over to its new platform to ease the transition, it would not be surprising to see some type of backlash once it happens. Maybe some enterprising programmer will build a Westlaw Classic browser extension, but until then we Westlaw subscribers will have to live with the change.

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Featured image: “ Zombie hand coming out of his grave ” from Shutterstock.


  1. Avatar Lisa Solomon says:

    I haven’t heard any complaints lately about Next being substantially more expensive than Classic, as was the case when Next first launched. This may be because Thomson Reuters stopped offering new Classic contracts once Next launched (or some time since then). I don’t know that’s what TR did; it’s just a guess. Assuming there’s no cost issue, there’s really no logical reason to prefer Classic. Even apart from the WestlawNext algorithm (which I never use: boolean now, boolean forever), Next is better in every way. The Next interface is light-years ahead of Classic’s, and the ability in Next to highlight and annotate materials during the course of your research (instead of having to download them first) is a huge efficiency-booster.

    BTW, putting Westlaw Classic out to pasture isn’t a pun, it’s more along the lines of an analogy or metaphor. You’ve used TL;DR incorrectly, since what you’re really referring to is the backstory/explanation of the New Coke reference, not a summary.

  2. Avatar Cheryl Niemeier says:

    It is actually Thomson Reuters not Thompson Reuters.

  3. Avatar John Hightower says:

    Westlaw Next’s interface has many problems. I just sent the equivalent to several pages of complaints to the Westlaw Next development team. For one thing, if one tries to find a source or a database, the results appear as “autopopulation.” I never thought of autopopulation as a “result,” but as merely something that tries to help the user get what he or she wants more quickly. Nothing in the training or documentation indicates this fact.
    Another HUGE problem is that the natural language search in Westlaw Classic can quickly and easily find things that the new WLN search algorithm may never find. This means that the user is unlikely to find something in a footnote that may be exactly what one is looking for. (WLC natural language will put this at the top of the search results; WLN may NEVER have it show up as a result.)
    WLN is the classic case of the programmers fixing something that was not broken. They Amazoned the search results–giving you all sorts of junk you don’t need to see. They Googled the search results–basing the results on the number of times someone else has tried to find something. But worst of all, they Microsofted the search results. They don’t let the user search the way he or she wants to; instead the user is FORCED to conduct the search the way that Westlaw Next allows you to do so. (This is exactly they way in which most Microsoft programs work; you are forced to do it the Microsoft way, not how you may want to do it.)
    WLN will improve the research of lawyers who graduated from the blink monkey school of legal research. (Even a blind monkey can find a peanut every once in a while.)
    For people who know what they are doing when they do legal research, WLN basically gets in the way rather than speeding up things.

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