Professional-Grade eBooks For Lawyers

Friday, May 18, 2012 - 14:48

The use of mobile technologies continues to explode within the practice of law. Tablets, particularly the iPad, are being rapidly adopted. Together with ultra-thin laptops and smartphones, it’s hard to imagine an attorney who doesn’t use one or more (or even perhaps all) of these devices in order to be more productive and be able to work from almost anywhere.

Mobile resources for online legal research, such as WestlawNext for iPad, have become increasingly commonplace. However, legal reference books, until recently, have either been largely unavailable, or at the very least, have not taken full advantage of the capabilities of today’s rapidly advancing mobile technologies.

This is partly due to the fact that many legal reference books are published using consumer eBook formats. While consumer-grade eReader devices and apps are readily available, they are simply not well suited to meet the unique needs of professionals. Consumer books tend to be read linearly: picture yourself curling up with your copy of the latest Stephen King thriller. You’ll pick up where you left off previously and continue on towards the conclusion.

In contrast, when we use a legal reference book, we are usually looking for one specific fact amidst the entire contents. We make copious notes and annotations. We need to be assured that the content is as up-to-date as possible.

To address those needs, and more, we have meticulously studied how professionals use legal reference works and incorporated these critical features into the first eReader platform specifically designed from the ground up for professional use. Thomson Reuters ProView incorporates many features that are new to eBooks. These include full-text Boolean search, word stem search to find derivations of words, links to WestlawNext to seamlessly check citations, content updating as new editions become available, and notes and annotations that transfer to new editions of each title.

For the first time, attorneys and other professionals can access, navigate and share eBook information in a way that meets their requirements. Current ProView content for lawyers includes court rules – critical information that attorneys need to have at their fingertips. Because ProView doesn’t require constant connectivity, users can know that they have the most current court rules at their disposal no matter where they are – in court, in transit, or anywhere else. Additional libraries of titles are being rolled out as well. 

We intend for ProView to be a broad-based platform that meets the information needs of a wide range of professionals around the globe. Thomson Reuters ProView is currently available in five countries: U.S., UK, Spain, Canada and Australia, and other geographies will be added in the near future. In addition, content will be expanded to other professionals beyond the legal market. And broader hardware compatibility will soon enable people to use ProView on a variety of mobile and desktop platforms.
 
In today’s increasingly mobile society, people need to be able to access information anywhere, anytime. Our goal as technology providers is to understand how people use information, and deliver the content and functionality they need to work effectively while on-the-go. As a result, many new features and innovations have been added since launch as a direct result of customer feedback. For example, customers made it clear that they wanted a scrub bar so they could navigate quickly between sections of the eBook. They requested a comprehensive history of navigation within the book, similar to how your Internet browser shows what web pages you have previously visited. They also wanted more robust tools for managing both their titles as well as their organization’s library of titles. 

In addition, many new features and innovations have been added since launch as a direct result of customer feedback. For example, customers made it clear that they wanted a scrub bar so they could navigate quickly between sections of the eBook. They requested a comprehensive history of navigation within the book, similar to how your Internet browser shows what web pages you have previously visited. They also wanted more robust tools for managing both their titles as well as their organization’s library of titles.

This is critical because the information needs of professionals continue to evolve. Lawyers are finding new uses for mobile technologies beyond what technology providers such as ourselves originally envisioned. It’s important that we listen to our customers and quickly adapt our products to meet their rapidly changing needs.

Books have been around for centuries – effective, popular tablets for only a couple of years. Finding ways to merge the best features of both is exciting and rewarding. This is true not only for ourselves as technology and content providers, but also for end-user attorneys, as they discover new ways to leverage technology to increase efficiency and productivity. We’re excited to be at the forefront of these new innovations, and we look forward to discovering what lies ahead.

Dan Bennett, Vice President, Mobile Technology, is technology leader within the mobile technology division of Thomson Reuters. In this role, Dan provides internal consultancy services alongside responsibility for investment and development in shared mobile product platforms. 

The first such platform, ProView – the Thomson Reuters eBook platform – launched in the Canadian legal market in October 2011 and is now being rolled out globally. Dan has worked in a number of technology/product leadership roles since joining the Thomson Consulting business in 1997. Most recently, he led online development for WestlawNext, directing development from initial architecture and sizing through the groundbreaking launch of the new research service in February 2010. 

A native of the UK, Dan is based out of the Thomson Reuters Eagan, MN campus and holds a BSc in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence from the University of Leeds, UK.