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Extras - Legal Research To Go: Westlaw Wireless

By Sarah Reneker Andeen, Published on May 15, 2002

Sarah Reneker Andeen is the Phoenix office librarian for Greenberg Traurig. Prior to working for the firm, she worked at the Superior Court Law Library in Maricopa County. She spend 8 months in the West Bank on an ALA/USIS Fellowship working with librarians there to help them connect to electronic resources.

Wireless is definitely “in.” From maps to stock prices to email, wireless promises instant delivery. Access to the Internet via wireless PDA's is becoming more common with most of the major manufacturers of PDA's such as Palm, Handspring, Jordana, BlackBerry and Sony now offering the ability to connect to the Internet via a wireless modem. Such access requires a special service contract, and there are limitations on how much information can be viewed on the screen, but now you can check the Internet on the run. Since bandwidth is limited, some content providers have created pared down versions of their products that you can access via these devices. One such service is Westlaw Wireless. By using this service you can now start getting cases and other materials from Westlaw while you are on the go.

How can Westlaw Wireless help you? Imagine sitting in a courtroom and having your opponent mention a case you had not heard of before and being able to pull up that case and KeyCite it while still in the Courtroom. Or imagine you are sitting in the airport on the way to meet with a client and want to read a little bit more about their business. Westlaw Wireless will allow you to access all this information and more.

Westlaw Wireless

Westlaw Wireless uses your standard Westlaw account and password.

To access Westlaw Wireless, type this URL into the browser software on your PDA: http://wl-w.com/ or http://wireless.westlaw.com

On this screen you have several choices including:

Find a Document

To Find a Document simply enter in the citation or one or both of the party names, your Westlaw ID and a client number if your firm requires one. The search will be run in the allcases database. If you search by party name and there is more than one case with that name, a list of cases matching that criteria will be displayed. Simply select the link to bring up the case you wish to view and the full text will be displayed on your screen.

If none of the cases are correct you can select the Edit Search link which will allow you to change the database and enter new search terms. To select the database you can either enter the Westlaw Database ID if you know it, or select one from the drop down list of major databases. Choose your search method (Natural Language or Terms and Connectors), enter your new terms, and select go. Your username and client ID were saved for you from your previous search. Each search is a billed as a transaction, so you do not have to be worried about the time spent downloading or reading.

All documents retrieved by WestlawWireless are displayed in 5K increments since larger documents can take some time to download on a wireless connection.

You may e-mail the case to someone else or print it to the Westlaw Printer tied to your ID. You can e-mail the result to multiple recipients by separating the addresses with a semicolon(;) or a comma(,). One thing to note about e-mailing documents from Westlaw Wireless is that they cannot be mailed as an attachment. The cases come in the body of the e-mail.

Find and Print

The Find and Print option is for those times that you have a specific citation. You can enter the citation, select what materials you wish to have delivered (full-text; KeyCite, or both), enter in e-mail address(es) or choose the Standalone Printer option - which will send it to print back at your office if you have a Westlaw printer. The KeyCite option allows you to check a citation and obtain the Full History, Negative History, or Citations to the Case.


Search Westlaw

The Search Westlaw feature works the same way as the Edit Search option from Find and Print. From this link you can choose a database from the drop down list which includes such databases as All Cases, Supreme Court, AmJur, The US Code, All State Statutes, Text and Periodicals, and American Law Reports. If the database you want to search is not listed you can enter the Westlaw database ID in the box provided. Then select Terms and Connectors or Natural Language searching, enter your terms, your Westlaw ID and client number and select "go" to run the search. This will retrieve a list of citations. Simply select the link to view the document.


West Legal Directory

This option allows you to search the West Legal Directory for an Attorney, Law Firm, Courthouse, or Legal Vendor. Simply select what kind of entity you wish to search for, enter as much or as little of the data requested as you know, and select the go button. This section of Westlaw Wireless does not require a password as this service is offered free on Westlaw Wireless.

Summary

Westlaw Wireless has some very nice features including the ability to edit your search, the option to choose from a list of databases or to enter the database ID of your choice, and the ability to quickly retrieve cases and KeyCites by citation. However, there are some limitations such as the inability to e-mail documents as attachments. But overall this is a nice service that will allow you to get legal information even when you are on the road.