The idea of a joint project with one of the major legal publishers had been under consideration by the Law Society Library team for some time before the actual project kicked off in January 2007. Over the following 12 months the joint project team of Law Society Library staff and LexisNexis met on a weekly basis to define the scope of the project and then work through each stage in the creation of the new legal information website geared to the needs of solicitors.

What the project has delivered

Law Society Library Online was launched on 28 January 2008. The web platform is the result of the expertise of LexisNexis and offers a combination of LexisNexis and Law Society content in a fully searchable database. It is designed as a membership benefit for all Law Society members. The smaller legal practices and in-house legal departments are likely to find Law Society Library Online particularly relevant, simply because in general they can afford fewer subscription-based information resources. However, those who do subscribe to LexisNexis online services will find that citations to case reports or legislation in Law Society Library Online will link directly to the relevant document provided via their LexisNexis subscription.

The advantages of Law Society Library Online are a unique mix of content; a platform designed for ease of use; and speed of searching.

The main elements of LexisNexis content are:

  • An updated feed of substantial legal current awareness articles providing a searchable database of 12 months’ worth of material. This resource includes case digests, interviews on major topics and coverage of selected new legislation.
  • A monthly e-alerter which includes news items added over the previous month by LexisNexis and also Law Society material selected by the Library team to appear in the alerter.
  • An index to articles in over 120 legal journals with brief summaries and standardised subject terms.

So far as Law Society Library content is concerned, the LexisNexis web platform has given us a great opportunity to take the content from our library catalogue database and to present it to full advantage. In addition we are now able to differentiate clearly between two important categories of data: the bibliographic information on our holdings and value-added information which is the result of daily indexing and abstracting activity by our Library team. The library holdings information can be searched by everyone but the value-added information along with the LexisNexis content is only available to registered users.

Here is a full list of Law Society library content:

  • The Books and Journals and Law Reports options allow any visitor to the website to search the bibliographic records of our holdings. The book records are having chapter headings and details of precedents contained in the textbooks added to them. We hope this additional content will enable members to identify useful material before visiting or requesting extracts from published material through our document delivery service.
  • The QED database is a unique resource, which contains information on sources for specialised precedents and answers to many varied legal information requests which the librarians have addressed over time. These records are regularly checked and added to by library staff.
  • An index of commencement orders to all UK statutes going back to 1974, with links to the full text where freely available on the internet.
  • Summaries of significant EU legislative developments with links to relevant full text documents on the internet. Our EU Librarian regularly updates and adds to this content.
  • An index of English newspaper case reports, with links to free full-text transcripts where available in sources such as BAILII. Fully comprehensive from 1990, it goes back to 1975, and includes information on selected unreported cases.
  • A list of over 200 selected websites offering significant free legal information on the internet. This can be accessed by registered users if they select the “More external links” option.

Search options for registered users

The site offers two levels of searching: near the top of the front page a “quick search” searches across all the available sources, although a pull-down menu can be used to narrow the search. Below that, for those who want to drill down into specialised content, there is a list of specific categories, such as “EU developments” and “LexisNexis current awareness”. These links enable registered users to perform a more detailed search when looking for content within a particular category.

The convenience of this is that if, for example you know that you are looking at the state of play of an EU proposal, you can search EU developments separately. If you know that you want to track down journal articles on, say, HIPs or public procurement then you can go straight to the LexisNexis journals index. If you want to check the commencement details of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 then you can select the Commencement Order Index. Generally speaking this approach is to be recommended as the most effective way of searching, in circumstances where you can define the type of information required.

This is a useful tip when searching for information on specific cases: by entering the name of a case in the quick search box, such as “Bowman and Fels” you will often be able to retrieve both Law Society and LexisNexis information with for example, the correct citation, references to a full case report and perhaps references to journal articles and a link to the transcript of the judgment on Bailii, or links to full text LexisNexis reports if you subscribe to the relevant online service.

Non registered users are limited to searching the library’s holding under “Books” and “Journals and law reports” as they do not have access to the other categories of data.

Google users beware!

Law Society Library Online defaults to phrase searching, so entering a recognised subject term such as “Conditional fee agreements” will retrieve records where that precise phrase appears. Entering a string of related terms which do not form a meaningful phrase, such as “Transfer Undertakings TUPE” or “home information packs energy performance” is an approach you may well use in Google or other similar search engines, but for Library Online the appropriate method is phrase searching which can be combined with the use of Boolean connectors, for example:

TUPE or transfer of undertakings

Home information packs and energy performance

Terrorism w/6 laundering (searches for both terms within 6 words of each other)

Of course a search on Home and Energy or transfer and undertakings will also work but may retrieve more records that you expect!

The future

In September we completed our first round of small enhancements and improvements. A short survey to gather opinions on this service will appear on the site shortly and your participation would be very useful. We welcome any comments you may have on the service, with a view to planning further developments.

Chris Holland has been Librarian and Head of Information Services at the Law Society since 2001, with responsibility for the Library and the Practice Advice Service helpline. Prior to that he was Librarian at a large City law firm.

Email chris.holland@lawsociety.org.uk.

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