GPSOLO June 2010
West eLearning Center
If you ever wanted to learn more about a particular Westlaw option but didn’t want to schedule a training session with a Westlaw representative, the West eLearning Center ( www.westelearning.com) is the place for you. This free website (registration required) can teach you how to better use Westlaw and its various features—all at your own pace and schedule.
For example, you may have heard about Westlaw-Next and wanted to know more, but you didn’t want to schedule a telephone call with a Westlaw representative. By going to the West eLearning Center, you can view an eight-minute audio/slide show that provides you with an overview of WestlawNext and its many improvements over Westlaw. Or if you want practical, “nuts-and-bolts” tips for using Westlaw, you can go to the Westlaw for Paralegals section of the West eLearning Center. (I would note that there is much in Westlaw for Paralegals that is useful to practicing attorneys as well.) There are many Westlaw features and products you can learn about, including PeopleMap; West Case Notebook; tax, bankruptcy, and litigation resources; document drafting; and medical issues and experts. Indeed, it is worth perusing the site just to see all of the various products available. I’ve been using Westlaw for 24 years and consider myself to be fluent in its use, but while reviewing the West eLearning Center, I managed to learn some new things about Westlaw.
Using the West eLearning Center is fairly intuitive. The home page lists general subjects; click on one of them, and a new window opens, giving you a list of lessons to choose from. Most of the lessons are under ten minutes in length. Across the top of this window are additional tabs that you can choose to see further lessons. For example, clicking on the “Resources for Litigation” subject on the home page opens a window listing lessons under a tab for “Parties/Witnesses”; but there are also other tabs, such as one for “Attorneys/Judges,” leading to lists of related lessons.
If you want more in-depth information to improve your computerized legal researching ability, there are also free 20- to 30-minute “webinars” available on a scheduled basis. The webinars cover a variety of topics and are offered at several different times and dates so that you can fit them into your schedule. The webinars appear to be geared more toward hands-on learning, whereas the shorter lessons tend to give more information about what particular features can offer to the user.
There are more than 220 lessons available throughout the site. West is adding more on a regular basis, so it is well worth returning every now and then to see what’s new.
The site is user-friendly; however, there are a few changes that I would recommend to improve it, particularly for less technically adept users. In order to make full use of the site, you need to enable cookies on your browser and set the text size to “small.” This information is found at the “System Requirements” link at the bottom of the home page—where few users will see it. Adding a “For Best Results” link displayed prominently on the home page might be a better approach. A link to a “Help” page would be useful, too. I had difficulty getting the audio to work on some of the lessons, and it would have been nice to be able to go to a help page to troubleshoot the issue. Finally, when navigating within the lessons, there are frequently instructions to click on a particular part of the screen. I felt that these instructions, although highlighted in red, were not readily apparent—they should be made a bit more obvious.
Such suggestions for improvements would only strengthen an already robust product. I heartily recommend the West eLearning Center. It’s free and will help you use Westlaw more effectively. It’s hard to criticize that.
Note: West, a Thomson Reuters business, is a corporate sponsor of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division; this article appears in connection with the Division's sponsorship agreement with West. Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services.
Andrew C. Simpson owns his own litigation firm, Andrew C. Simpson, PC, in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. He is a frequent contributor to GPSolo and regularly writes and speaks on technology topics. He may be reached at email@example.com.