Perusing the News: A Review of Thomson Reuter’s Westlaw Today

Guest Post by Emma Wood

I work in an academic setting, and faculty members often ask for ways to keep current on legal topics.  They want to stay informed in their areas of interest and for their courses.  My approach to this request is typically to set up alerts for caselaw in Lexis or Westlaw on their behalf or to call upon Google News Alerts or Law360.  Recently I added Westlaw Today to my toolkit which is Westlaw’s counterpart to the Law360 product, a news database that provides a user-friendly homepage with browsable headlines and topical newsletters by email.  Users can select from a list of practice areas such as immigration and antitrust to sign up for a compiled list of news updates delivered daily to their email inbox.  Multiple topics can be applied to the daily update so, for example, your newsletter could include both bankruptcy and data privacy articles.  My newsletter usually consists of about 20 articles for each topic I select.  The practice areas are somewhat limited.  The service could be improved by expanding the topics or including more granular headings within each.

The sources of Westlaw Today’s articles are popular blogs and publications such as JD Supra and The Hill.  They also solicit article contributions from attorneys and legal professions using a submission button on their homepage.  Depending on your selected practice area, you will also receive articles from more specialized outlets such as Interpreter Releases Daily for Immigration and CQ Roll Call Washington Immigration Briefing.  I am not sure of the criteria determining which news sources are prioritized in the newsletters, but I see a lot of the same publications each day, thus it seems to be a relevance ranking which pulls from the most popular or widely-used sources.

The Westlaw Today link is somewhat hidden in an expandable drop-down menu in the upper half of the screen.  It takes an extra click or two to access.  The standard news link on Westlaw’s homepage (under the “specialty areas” heading) is still available for a traditional search through Westlaw’s news sources.  I’m pleased to know Westlaw maintained this separate news section because I use it frequently for quick research on current events.  The difference is that the Westlaw Today section reads and functions more like the front page of a newspaper with its images, headlines, featured columnists, and “most viewed articles.”  This new product appeals to those browsing the news rather than conducting research.

Unlike Westlaw’s “alerts” feature, Westlaw Today cannot be customized by frequency.  The newsletter must be received daily, and this may be drawback for those who are already inundated with email and might prefer a weekly update.  It does also lack customization in allowing the user to select publications, add search terms, or otherwise submit their delivery preference.  This critique may be driven by the researcher in me though, who is always seeking to improve search results and unearth a finite piece of information.  The focus for Westlaw Today is on casual reading.  It succeeds as an easy news resource because largely its articles are intended to find you rather than you finding them.

About malikahhalllibrarian

Malikah Hall is a Reference Librarian and Instructional Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University. She was previously the Diversity Fellow, Research Services Librarian, and Lecturer in Law at Cornell University. Malikah is very active in AALL where she is the current RIPS Law Librarian Blog editor, Immediate Past Chair of PEGA-SIS, a member of the AALL Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and a member of the AALL Legal Research Competencies Review Special Committee. Malikah graduated from North Carolina Central University with a J.D./M.L.S. joint degree. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her sweet dog and anything true crime related.
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