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

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

LISA D. KINZER, University of Texas at Austin – School of Law

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 do not have what they wanted 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,
because 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 that
emerged were so striking that I wanted to share them. I found that, regardless
of whether a student is using Lexis, Westlaw, or WestlawNext, students are
overwhelmingly convinced that their resource is the easiest and the fastest to
use. I also found that students are not nearly as convinced that their resource
returns relevant material or everything they need. In addition, it seems that
students simply do not care near as much about vendor rewards programs as
vendors might have us believe. And finally, to the extent that their legal
research professors have any preference as to what resource students should use,
students are either unaware of that preference or simply unaffected by
it.

In this paper, I review the data that create these patterns, and then
try to sort out what these patterns mean, practically speaking. I will begin
with an overview of my methodology, then review the results of the survey, and
then turn to the implications and possibilities for further research.

 

Source: LSN Legal Education eJournal Vol. 8 No. 41, 07/20/2011

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

  1. The Westlaw Next advocates make a big deal about how researchers are concerned that they may have overlooked something–especialy when using traditional search platforms such as Lexis and Westlaw Classic. So their system is designed to overcome that concern (perhaps even anxiety) by providing access to EVERYTHING, all once.

    Your students appear to still express some anxiety about the fact that they may have overlooked something or not found what they need. (Based on this statement in your article: “I also found that students are not nearly as convinced that their resource returns relevant material or everything they need.”)

    Could this anxiety actually NOT be an indicator of a deficiency in the search platform, but rather students’ taking their jobs seriously? When some people believe they are NOT the best at what they do, they take extra effort to make sure they do a good job. As a result of professing their lack of expertise, they instead actually do a better-than-average job–if not a superior job.

    I had an old–and very successful–lawyer (from Gavleston) once tell me that, when he started a new case, he always started with the idea that he didn’t know anything about the law related to the case. (He actually said “I assume I don’t know nothing,” but that was part of his country-lawyer affectation.) Maybe his assumed ignorance was the secret to his success.

    Or take the example of stage fright. Anyone who doesn’t experience at least a little stage fright before a presentation is probably going to bore the audience to tears–because he or she does NOT care about the quality of the presentation.

    In short, maybe being “worried” about whether we do a good job is an indicator of quality of us as legal researchers, not an indicator of the deficiency of the search system.

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