As a quick follow-up to my earlier post titled 10,000 documents: Is there a flaw in West Search? (March 20, 2017), it appears that a West reference attorney has confirmed my conclusion that Westlaw does not offer as comprehensive a searching capability as Lexis.
In reading Mary Whisner’s (Reference librarian, Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington School of Law) research paper Comparing Case Law Retrievals, Mid-1990s and Today, Appendix B records an exchange between Whisner and a West reference attorney. Here’s the pertinent parts:
11/18/2016 01:14:35PM Agent (Anna Wiles): “Those searches seem to be maxing out.”
11/18/2016 01:14:51PM Agent (Anna Wiles): “Sometimes, the algorithm will cut off before 10,000.”
11/18/2016 01:23:26PM Agent (Anna Wiles): “If you run the search in all states and all federal, it will max out because it is a broad search.”
11/18/2016 01:23:53PM Agent (Anna Wiles): “If you narrow by a jurisdiction, the results will not max out.”
But Whisner was attempting to perform a fairly comprehensive search. Note that West Search sometimes will max out at under 10,000 documents too according to the West staffer.
More evidence that in an attempt to find the Holy Grail of legal research — the uber precise search result — West Search may have sacrificed comprehensiveness. — Joe