"For the first time, I had a student write in my Advanced Legal Research class that they wished that Lexis and Westlaw could be more like Google. I had heard other librarians moan about this but had just not run across it til now. It really gave me pause to have it in hand. And it made me think, it challenged me. Why should this student not get her wish? If I sat down with this young woman and had a conversation, what would I say about why I disagreed? There must be more than just a knee-jerk revulsion against the transformation. What would be my reasoned argument to her?"
The blogger, Betsy McKenzie, suggested that Google 'flattens' information from the web and is not so good at discriminating sources (and reliability) of legal information and went on to discuss some of the critical thinking that students may not undertake if they rely too much upon Google search results.
This week, news from the BIALL blog tells me that Google have indeed launched themselves into the world of legal research with a range of US case law being made available. My first thoughts were that we already have BAILII in the UK, and other Legal Information Institutes elsewhere with vast repositories of open-access documents - the Google Blog does acknowledge these pioneers in their launch statement.
There is already a lengthy list of other bloggers who have reported on this, I read some about the advanced search functions, and whether it will give Lexis a run for it's money (probably not, for now).
For those who are well able to use Lexis or Westlaw, this may come as no particular benefit but as Google seems to be increasingly the search engine of choice for students, there is merit in that the cases are available freely. I have to agree with Betsy McKenzie in that Google have flatten that value of "cited by xxx" as there is no discimination in this (potentially) long list - but then is can encourage the critical thinking skills - and for this type of research, there's always the subscription services!
At the moment, it does mean that I can provide some quick and easy VLE links to US cases without the hassle of an additonal login.