For our prompt on this week's topic, we were asked to apply empathy from a law student's perspective on Westlaw's product offerings.  We were asked to come up with new strategies or product ideas that would better help Thompson Reuters connect with current and future law students.  


By: Brian Pike (@BrianCPike)

In our prompt this week, we were asked to make observations as to several ways Westlaw could utilize design principles in the delivery of its services to law school and law students.  Specifically, Westlaw has indicated that it is always interested in improving the experience law students have with its services, providers, and products.  Based on my experience with Westlaw as a law student, I believe the company could benefit from the following ideas:

“Investment” Meetings:  When law students first arrive at law school, many have no idea what legal research is or how to go about starting.  Fortunately, Westlaw already has a great program in place with its service reps to provide students access to the tools they are interested in.  Without getting it critiques about the presentation, as it differs from location to location, I believe Westlaw could enhance this presentation by applying some design empathy. 

Specifically, I believe that Westlaw should tell students about its goals as a service provider.  Westlaw should tell students that it would like to get them very acquainted with their systems as law students, because they want to equip students with the tools they need to grow as legal researchers and in their entire legal career.  But this growth is not limited to the law school process- Westlaw reps should briefly cover how their products and services can be utilized by students planning on pursuing large firm careers, government jobs, small firms, or even starting their own firm.  The focus of the presentation should be on Westlaw’s partnership with students in this first week and during their entire career.  Perhaps the presentation could highlight specific examples in each of the areas I previously mentioned, or showcase new exciting technology-based products.

The last category is an area that I believe Westlaw could really focus down on to deliver a quality, engaging, and meaningful product.  Westlaw could develop a “getting started bundle” that could walk entrepreneurial new lawyers through starting their own firm.  These tools could be free at first, or heavily discounted to help show Westlaw’s commitment to the firm.  I believe that an early partnership with these types of entrepreneurial lawyers could secure Westlaw life-long customers.

TWEN2:  As a student at Michigan State, almost all student groups and classes use TWEN as their primary virtual “meeting” location.  I believe that this experience could be enhanced (perhaps early on with the free reward points that law students crave?)  Specifically, I believe that allowing students to create a profile, one that pulls from a social media site such as Facebook or LinkedIn would make the experience more personable.

Beyond that, I believe that TWEN could be integrated with a platform such as LinkedIn to suggest possible interest groups law students might want to join while in school. 

Student Investment:  With a growing interest in law schools around legal technology and the application of tools and principles (such as design thinking) that have been successful in other industries, I believe Westlaw could capture this student interest.  This could be done through free webinars, article distributions, or Westlaw sponsored legal “hackathons” around a specific legal issue.

If Westlaw were to equip and cultivate excitement in these types of interests, I believe it would allow the company to continue its theme of investing in the future of law students during their entire career.

Bluebook It:  As many law students, practitioners, and even judges  have indicated, mastering the Bluebook is a lifetime skills full of frustration.  This is amplified in a law student’s first year, where many students are inundated with a new workload before being asked to unlearn other citation styles and master an entirely new system.  This friction could be addressed by a new Westlaw product.

This product could take a quote from within WestlawNext, or even (at the more advanced level) an internet citation and provide the closest proper citation in Bluebook format.  Minimally, this would at least allow a law student to identify a close way to cite their thought or quote.  Perhaps it could identify the rules utilized to generate that citation?

I believe a product offering such as this would allow Westlaw to reduce a friction that many law students struggle with