Computer-Assisted Legal Research and the Contract Drafter

Yesterday I spent the day at West’s headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota, with a dozen or so journalists and bloggers being introduced to WestlawNext, the next generation of Westlaw. More about that next week, when WestlawNext is launched.

But kicking the tires of WestlawNext caused me to consider how computer-assisted legal research is used in contract drafting. I invite you to take the following desperately unscientific polls and post a comment on the utility of such research.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

5 thoughts on “Computer-Assisted Legal Research and the Contract Drafter”

  1. Ken:

    The only reason that I answered “sometimes” on the first one is because I am in a regulated industry. I imagine that others might do the same. I don’t look to caselaw for how to write an entire-agreement clause, for example.


  2. Ken,

    I wish there had been an “almost never” voting option. I agree with Paul. Pay sites are far too expensive, so they are a last resort. Also, like Chris, I only use pay sites when dealing in highly regulated areas of law.

    To be clear, I never use pay sites to simply get copies of opinions or the verbatim text of statutes. That material is all available for free. In extremely complex matters, however, I sometimes use pay sites to find annotated statutes.

    Also, like Chris, I use opinions and statutes to identify issues to be addressed, not for specific language on specific provisions.

    Secondary sources are another matter. I find that the most efficient way of getting “up to speed” on the key issues in an obscure area of the law is to review research published in law reviews and academic journals. These usually must be acquired from pay sites.

    Finally, while I use pay sites, I do not necessarily pay for them personally. Unless my client can afford it, I simply do not have the money. The law of my state provides that library materials purchased with public funds are available to all citizens without charge, and this includes pay sites at government and university law libraries.



  3. I think in the future solo practicers and practicers in other countries will use only free resources. Where are free resources relating to law?. Well, my selection would include Google Schoolar, SSRN, the Encyclopedia of Law (I include in the website box the url), Oxford Reference and Cornell.


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