Easy Does It: Examining First-Year Law Student Impressions of the Online Resources They Use Most Often

16 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2011 Last revised: 4 Feb 2015

Date Written: July 14, 2011


You’ve got what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

It’s a mantra heard in households across the country when kids sit down at the kitchen table and realize they're not getting what they want for dinner. A few weeks ago, I had a “you’ve got what you get” moment as I was looking over data I had collected from first-year J.D. students at the University of Texas School of Law.

The data, as it turned out, were not what I wanted. I had asked students to name the online resource they use most often, and then to answer a series of brief questions about that resource. I had intended to (1) measure student use of WestlawNext, and (2) get a sense of what students think of WestlawNext. But in retrospect I realized I had not accomplished my second goal, as I had failed to collect any information about WestlawNext from students who do not use it. It is not particularly useful to hear about a resource from its fans, without also hearing from individuals who are perhaps not as enamored with that resource. So I could not use the data to write anything very interesting about WestlawNext.

However, some of the data patterns were so striking that I want to share them. I found that students overwhelmingly choose whichever resource -- Lexis, Westlaw Classic, or Westlaw Next -- they deem easiest to use. Yet students are uncertain whether that resource returns relevant material or everything they need. In addition, it appears students are unaffected by vendor rewards programs and by any resource preference on the part of their legal writing professor.

In this paper, I review the data that create these patterns and consider the practical implications thereof. I will begin with an overview of my methodology, then review the results of the survey, and then turn to the implications and suggestions for further research.

Note: This paper is still working, and all data are subject to final verification.

Keywords: Lexis, Lexis Advance, Westlaw, WestlawNext, Westlaw Next, Law Students, Legal Research, Surveys

Suggested Citation

Kinzer, Lisa D., Easy Does It: Examining First-Year Law Student Impressions of the Online Resources They Use Most Often (July 14, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1885524 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1885524

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