February 2000

Westlaw® Goes Global

Westlaw has crossed the Atlantic! The westlaw.comTM platform has been enhanced to meet the needs of the legal market in the United Kingdom. The result is Westlaw UK, and the Web site is http://tlrts.int.westgroup.com/application/techcomm/TechWire/TechWireArchives/2000_February/www.westlaw.co.uk.

Bringing a new online service to the United Kingdom was no small task. Here are some examples of the challenges involved:

Westlaw UK also posed other, noncultural challenges: for the first time, a new user interface was developed at the same time as the corresponding content. To develop the content, West Group's Publishing Technology area worked closely with the Sweet & Maxwell office in the U.K. village of Mytholmroyd. Sweet & Maxwell personnel acquired, keyed and converted the content data. Once the data arrived in Eagan, Publishing Technology staff added it to the Westlaw databases.

To ensure quick retrieval of the information stored in Eagan, West Group has contracted with Digital Island, a leading provider of network services for global applications. And to round out these global efforts, customized billing and customer service applications were created to handle billing in pounds sterling. These applications also report Westlaw UK revenue.

Although Westlaw UK is our first truly global project, it certainly won't be the last. Plans are already in place to take Westlaw to other markets around the world.

Legislative Processing at West Group

Legislative material has been processed electronically at West Group since 1985. During the late 1980s, the Legislative Service System (LSS) and the Bill Tracking System (BTS) were developed to help complete production work more efficiently.

LSS is an integrated tracking and text-editing system used to process legislative material, court orders, and insurance bulletins for Westlaw, CD-ROM, and Legislative Service pamphlets and bound volumes. Each year, LSS facilitates the processing of over 25,000 legislative documents for 55 jurisdictions. BTS facilitates the processing of legislative and statutory data used to compose the tables found in the Legislative Service pamphlets and statute pocket parts. It also helps the index editors create the statute and Legislative Service indexes.

Over the years, both systems have proven to be effective environments for the processing of legislative material. A once manual-intensive process has evolved into an automated process that emphasizes the electronic manipulation of data for product creation.

Why redesign two systems that are working so well? Blame it on Y2K. The original versions of LSS and BTS were both DOS-based and included components that were not Y2K compliant. So, in early 1998, it was decided that both LSS and BTS would be redeveloped into Windows-based systems. Development efforts, which used COM-based architecture along with Windows® development (Visual Basic and C++), were completed 14 months later. Production versions of the systems were released to select jurisdictions in November 1999. All jurisdictions are using the systems in 2000.

Now that they are Windows-based systems, LSS and BTS are accessible from the Windows desktop. It's no longer necessary to reboot the computer to access the systems. The systems also provide real-time processing; when a user runs a process, it's run immediately instead of via batch or overnight processing.

The amount of work done online (rather than on paper), including audits, reporting and release monitoring, has increased. Of course, standard print capabilities are provided.

Speaking of release monitoring, LSS keeps track of how long documents have been in the system. When a document has been in the system for a predefined processing interval, LSS alerts users (via a stoplight icon) when documents warrant either a warning or late notification. LSS can also handle multiple versions of the same document. Users can compare the multiple (secondary version) to the original, view the comparison report online, and replace the original document if necessary.

“The new systems are user friendly and give the Codes Publishing Centers control of the data in every aspect, from dealing with multiples (on LSS) to the manipulation of data into the many products and online systems that utilize legislative data,” says Gale Sober of the Codes Publishing Center.

Primary users of LSS and BTS are the Codes Publishing Centers (residing in Eagan and Cleveland), and Electronic Production Services (which includes Tabular, Codes & Regulations, and Codes Composition).

One aspect of the redevelopment process that was critical to its success was the continuous communication between the development teams and the Codes Publishing Centers.

“I'm very impressed with the functionality of the new systems and I'm even more impressed by the spirit of cooperation, the real partnership that was shown between the development teams and the Publishing Centers,” states Fred Gordon, Vice President of the Codes Publishing Centers. “These are systems that have come with no surprises.”

Teaming Up to Create ‘Find a Database’ Wizard

Westlaw currently offers its users nearly 15,000 databases, and the number continues to increase. This expansion has led to a growing problem—that of finding which online databases meet a user's information needs.

Traditionally, many users have attempted to locate the appropriate database through IDEN, a searchable database of plain-text profiles of the accessible collections on Westlaw. Because IDEN treats all queries the same when running them against the profiles, the resulting lists of suggested databases aren't as accurate as they could be. In fact, West Online estimates that thousands of Westlaw transactions have been lost each year because of IDEN's limited ability to match a user's search request.

To resolve this problem, West Online and Computer Science Research combined forces to develop a wizard for New westlaw.com. The Find a Database wizard, which was released in October, relies on new authority files and an arsenal of query-processing strategies to direct a user to the relevant Westlaw databases. Users can select from several query categories, such as sources and publications, courts and government agencies, legal practice and research areas, geographic locations, legal issues, definitions, and current events. Additional tasks identified by this research, such as finding documents by citation and finding information on people and companies, are handled in separate features of the New westlaw.com interface.

The Find a Database wizard, which uses WIN® Natural Language technology, recognizes and treats searches in a more focused and intelligent manner than any tool previously available on Westlaw. As a result, the precision of database selection searches has doubled, resulting in more productive research for Westlaw users.

Find a Database Wizard Development Team

Team members, from left:
Back: Jon Eveslage (WL DB Group), Tom Johnson (WL DB Group);
Middle: Jack Conrad (R&D), Nancy Hatle (Westlaw), Chad Monson (Westlaw);
Front: Laurie Dorman (Westlaw Display), Joanne Claussen (Westlaw Prod. Dev.),
            Diane Swearingen (Westlaw Display), Jane Lund (Westlaw).

New Process Reduces Keying by 90%

Cases Publication Center (CPC) staff will find themselves doing a lot less keying and working less overtime, thanks to the new Subsection Automatic Headings Generation (SSAHG) process. This process eliminates over 90 percent of the manual keying to maintain subsection heading records within the Statute Headings System. SSAHG also shortens the verification process by reducing the number of errors, thereby decreasing the time spent on correction cycles.

Subsection headings are used in the generation of Westlaw running heads and bound volume references. Running heads assist Westlaw by giving them an indication of their location within the document. Bound volume references are found in the pocket parts of jurisdictions that amend text at the subsection-level. These references refer a user to the main or bound volume to see the subsection-level text that has not changed, and is therefore not printed in the pocket part.

SSAHG was used by the Texas Codes Publishing Center staff to process their 1999 pocket part updates. The results were “excellent” as indicated by the Texas team, resulting in a saving of 700 hours of keying time and a sizeable reduction of overtime. The increased efficiencies are many. A rollout schedule is being developed for additional jurisdictions, with the Code of Federal Regulations and United States Codes Annotated® next in line to use SSAHG.

Development began during first quarter 1999 when staff from the CPC and Codes Development met to gather requirements for the system. The team took advantage of use cases (a requirements gathering/analysis technique of the Unified Modeling Language), and design patterns for the design of the system logic. The system was implemented using the Visual C++ programming language and COM (Microsoft's Component Object Model).

Furthermore, the development team was able to use some of existing software objects, thereby reducing the development time. The use of these tools and the reuse of existing software allowed the project to be released on time for the 1999 Texas pocket part update and will facilitate ease of maintenance in the future.