LexisNexis South Africa has released a new enterprise search engine for their popular and widely used LexisNexis online research platform. We spoke with Chris Uniacke - the Technical Director at LexisNexis to find out more about the changes and how the market has taken to this update.
The LexisNexis online research service has some 12,000 users subscribing to over 30,000 products. LexisNexis products have been available online since the mid 90's, however its only in recent years, as bandwidth and technology has improved that its client base has started taking this medium seriously.
Migration from print and CD is now happening at a rapid pace and a large number of attorney firms are using the LexisNexis online to do research through the web site www.mylexisnexis.co.za. Nothing about the look and feel has changed until you start a search using the "New Lexis Search", then the changes become apparent, as Chris says, "It does not look like a lot has changed, but the linking, indexing and logic that has gone into the New Search has been absolutely huge."
The change to me seems more about performing the search across all the services to which you subscribe and then the new filters allow you to drill down to the exact area of relevance. A subtle change, but I can imagine the amount of work it took behind the scenes!
LexisNexis have been kind enough to give me full access to the system and I did a bit of searching to get familiar with the system before my interview with Chris - a nice touch as it meant I could ask relevant questions without wasting our time.
Tech4Law: What has been the response from the market on the new search module if I may call it that?
Chris Uniacke: The feedback has been awesome; the first exposure in the controlled release gave us a great opportunity to get constructive feedback which we used to fine tune the search module, which is now available. Again, we want to say thank you to the customers involved in the feedback, the success of the released solution is a result of your assistance.
Tech4Law: What sort of market research was done before the changes were made to the search module?
Chris Uniacke: We got a number of volume user clients in and consulted with them on what our thoughts were and how they saw the new search working. Thereafter we stayed in contact and had numerous teleconferences with the users over the 3 months during development to ensure we were always on the right track. At our controlled beta release we had addressed 95% of the user's requests and before the live launch date we had addressed the remaining 5%. Of course ideas keep rolling in and we will address as we go forward.
Tech4law: Is the new Lexis search limited to certain versions or flavours of internet browsers?
Chris Uniacke: From all of our testing we seem to be good with all current browsers, although we have had an issue with Microsoft Internet Explorer running on an Apple Mac.
Tech4Law: It always happens with browsers, but I must admit that such a combination is quite unique - I'm sure the user understands.
Tech4Law: Surely Google would also be a good place to find South African legal information?
Chris Uniacke: We will be incorporating a Google search option, which will give the users the option of searching LexisNexis content and Google from a single search.
Tech4Law: LexisNexis have a couple of subscribers still using the CD publication services, how much longer will these still be supported?
Chris Uniacke: Although we are tolerant of a number of mediums, we do believe that the CD technology is dated and support to us from the CD search vendor is in question, which causes issues for information providers like ourselves. We would like to see support for our CD publications tapering off with all users migrating to the web by mid-2011.
Tech4Law: How long will the old search in LexisNexis Online be available before it is removed from the site?
Chris Uniacke: The old search, we will probably turn off in the next couple of weeks. The interface is the same and way you conduct your search is the same, the only real difference is when you get your results back, because it now allows you to customise and filter your information to pinpoint the relevant information very quickly and easily. Before you got hundreds of results and had to filter through them yourself, now the filters make this extremely simple.
What is also possible is when you have the content returned from a search, you can see related content from numerous LexisNexis publications and this is a huge time saver and a great benefit to the users as straight away they can view a further opinion on a reported case, or a bit of legislation.
It is still possible to do a focused search which will limit you to searching in a certain search area. That will remain with the new search.
Tech4Law: So is the filter the main change in the "New Search"?
Chris Uniacke: Well we call them filters, but it's not just filters, it is the way the content has been indexed and categorised and classified. This required a big investment in making our data sources richer.
Tech4Law: Something I noticed and liked was the fact that if I switched my PC off and came back the next day, LexisNexis Online came straight back to where I left it last time.
Chris Uniacke: The session keeps you "logged in" and active as soon as it detects the connection from the same PC, this is part of the "Single Sign-on" system we have implemented at LexisNexis. So the system will get you back to where you left off as soon as you resume the connection. There is also a very comprehensive history of your searches, so if you go and look at your search history it will tell you what you searched for, what date you searched and what results you got back from the system.
Tech4Law: With the CiteIT folders where you can save the CiteIT content, is it possible to share the saved folders with other people in your office or network?
Chris Uniacke: The folders are limited to you and your login; as yet we have not had any requests for that facility.
Tech4Law: Currently there are two major suppliers of law reports to the legal market, LexisNexis being one and Juta being the other. Are there times when a law report may appear in one but not there other?
Chris Uniacke: Yes, very possible. Before 1995 they should be the same, but thereafter the cases reported will vary depending on the respective reporters who are reporting from the courts. But if you want a full list of cases have a look at the LexisNexis Judgments Online Law report series, which includes all judgments emanating from the major courts.
Tech4Law: What services are being ear marked for inclusion into LexisNexis Online?
Chris Uniacke: Well if you look back at what we have done for the last couple of years, we sourced all the Law Reports back data, so that users could search and link on reports back to 1947. The fruits of this investment was passed onto our clients at no extra charge. We have a number of exciting major content projects currently in progress, and .we are investing heavily in sourcing new data, as well as existing data, especially in finding ways to make our data richer in intelligence and therefore improving and enhancing the user experience..
Tech4Law: What about training on the product, how will people learn to use this system?
Chris Uniacke: This is very important to us, we see it as a big issue - the better the client is trained, the better they can take advantage of the value add from the product. Training is not charged for and is available face to face, via telephone by the call centre and via remote desktop view or control. Our LexisNexis international connections are a big plus for us as we get a lot of feedback on best practices that are working in other countries. We have also been extremely careful with our selection of helpdesk and customer service staff to ensure top quality professional service as quickly as possible.
Tech4Law: Final comments Chris?
Chris Uniacke: We are extremely excited about the new LexisNexis search, it is game changing in the way that people are able to pinpoint the exact information they are seeking. What we have developed so far is of great benefit to the client, but this is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what online research can offer in the future.
Thank you to Chris Uniacke for run down on the new search product, we look forward to new and exciting content from this application in the future.