Confessions of a Westlaw Nerd

August 12, 2011

I am a huge nerd.  I am not saying this in any sort of a self-deprecating or offhandedly flip way. 

It is a fundamental truth of my being.  It’s okay.  I own it.  In fact, I’m proud of it.  I love being a nerd, so don’t feel sorry for me. If anything, feel sorry for my wife.  You see there are many different varietals of nerds in this wide world of ours, but there seems to be a singular characteristic common to all types, something that I like to call obsessive appreciation.  Nerds are uncontrollably compelled to collect, catalogue, and curate information relevant to a particular topic.  It is important to note that this is primarily driven by a genuine love for the subject matter.  Oftentimes, this collection accumulates in a critical mass of minutia, resulting in an exuberant and detailed diatribe.  If you happen to be in the close proximity of a nerd when this happens, I would advise you to take shelter or else learn everything you never wanted to know about how the Millennium Falcon’s hyper-drive differs from the USS Enterprise’s warp core.  Like, I said feel sorry for my wife.

Legal Research happens to be among the many subjects about which I obsess.  I was always a keen legal researcher and do believe that my prior nerdy tendencies were directly responsible for my ability to ferret out elusive legal doctrine.  I could often be found in the law library with a stack of reporters under one arm and a citator under the other, hurrying from stack to carrel and back again.  Attending law school as the world-wide web exploded, I was introduced to Westlaw and was immediately hooked.  All of the information that I could ever want or need about any case was at my fingertips.  I remember one afternoon, delving deep session notes on a particular piece of legislation on Westlaw and exclaiming, “Man, this is so cool. I could do this all day.”  My study partner shook her head and stated, “You are such a nerd, if you love it so much why don’t you work for Westlaw.  Then you could talk about Boolean searching and citing references all day long and leave me to my memo… Now, help me find this case.”  A kernel of that conversation stuck with me and when I wound up in the Twin Cities, I ended up doing just that.

Working in Westlaw Account Management gave me the ability to share my nerdy appreciation of legal research and Westlaw with our customers.  When WestlawNext launched just over a year ago, I was initially skeptical.  How dare they fool with my beloved Westlaw!  Newer is not always better and I still hadn’t recovered fully from the crushing disappointment of The Phantom Menace.  But, upon release, I was floored at how well the product fit my research compulsions and the needs of our customers.  The algorithm behind WestSearch was a work of art, pure genius.  It became clear to me that I wasn’t the only nerd at Westlaw.  The level of care and attention to detail poured into the product was so evident, that it was clear that designers and engineers behind the product loved Westlaw and legal research as much as I did.  Should, perchance, our paths happen to cross, please don’t be alarmed if I suddenly and eagerly begin discussing the ways in which cross-content searching on WestlawNext saves time.

Are you a Westlaw or legal research nerd?  Stand tall, be proud and tell us about your obessions.