Monday, June 18, 2012

Preview of LexisNexis Red

A week after I dutifully filled in my request via the LexisNexis website for a trial subscription to Ritchie's Uniform Civil Procedure NSW on the new digital Red platform (formally known as LegalPad, and still known as LegalPad in some of the website URLs), I finally received notification that my trial had been activated (unfortunately I didn't receive my password, which I tried to reset through the app but was told my account didn't exist. Thankfully someone on the helpline was able to reset it for me).

Those delays aside, I've now had an opportunity to put the app through its paces. As always, I have played with it without doing any official training in order to assess its intuitiveness, and to see the extent to which it does what I want it to do straight out of the box. So to the extent I have described a limited functionality, I accept it may be that I couldn't find it.

I should say up front that I am testing the Red platform in its iPad incarnation. It is available for Windows PCs as well, which I have not tested, for two reasons. Firstly, I have a Mac. And yes, Mac users have once again been left out in the cold. Secondly, if you want this thing on two devices, you'll need to get two licences. I haven't seen any pricing for these products yet, so I don't know whether this is another cynical act of price-gouging on the part of a near-monopolist publisher of NSW's main procedure loose leaf.

The main utility LexisNexis Red is that it makes the hard copy of Ritchie's available in tablet format. To that extent, it serves a very useful function of having the whole of the text available in a convenient, and portable, format. Thankfully, the paragraph numbering corresponds with that in the hard copy, so referencing Ritchie's remains medium neutral.

As occurred with the online version of Ritchie's, however, the translation to electronic format is somewhat lazy. Click in the Table of Contents on Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 and you get a sub-table with two items that read "Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005" and "UNIFORM CIVIL PROCEDURE RULES 2005". The former brings up a numerical table, followed by an alphabetical table, of the parts of the UCPR. The latter brings up the UCPR itself. It thus replicates the same lazy nesting that features in the online version. One wonders why you need either a numeric table of parts or an alphabetical table of parts in an electronic version of the publication. OK...I can think of one reason, but those tables are only useful if they link to something. Which they don't. If you know you want to go to Part 21, or you know you want to go to the part dealing with Discovery, those tables should help you navigate there...but they're not hyperlinked. Which means they are as useful as a supernumerary nipple.

While I have a head of steam up about hyperlinking, let me say a few more things about how ordinary it is.

If you have a bright-blue hyperlink that says 5.12, it helps if when you click on it it takes you to 5.12. It doesn't. It takes you to 5.1 instead. All of the hyperlinks to individual rules, or paragraphs in the commentary, take you to the beginning of the relevant Part or, in some cases, the beginning of the Division within that Part in which the particular rule or paragraph of the commentary appears. It doesn't take you to the rule or paragraph itself.

In some cases, the hyperlinking is not apparent at all...sometimes ordinary black text is in fact hyperlinked (in the Table of Contents for example).

The hyperlinking in the Index is quite ordinary. Looking for "Abridgment of Time" tells you to see "Time", which is hyperlinked. But it hyperlinks to the Ta section of the Index, not the Ti section (although the Ti tab itself if highlighted). And of course when you eventually find the reference to Abridgment of Time, it hyperlinks you to rule 1.12...except it actually takes you to rule 1.11 because that is the first rule in Division 2 of Part 1.

Heaven forbid you should need to read Rule 1.1. In a further lazy transposition into the digital age, Part 1 commences not with Rule 1 but with the Table of Amendments to the whole of the UCPR. Why? Because that's where it appears in the lazy transposition of the hard copy to the online version. Want to see a definition in the Civil Procedure Act? That's in section 3, so you'll have to scroll through the Table of Amendments to that Act first.

There is some hyperlinking between the UCPR and other legislation referred to therein, but it is pretty hit-and-miss. For example, provisions of the Corporations Act are referred to, but click on that bright blue hyperlink and it brings up an error telling you to get in touch with Customer Support. Presumably, this is because Ritchie's itself does not contain the Corporations Act. It does, however, contain relevant parts of the Legal Profession Act relating to costs, but for some reason the parts of the UCPR referring to those costs provisions are not hyperlinked to them.

Sorry to say, Ritchie's does not link to any of the caselaw services, so all those cases that are referred to in the commentary (usually accurately) remain unavailable in any convenient form from within Red itself.

Being a slavish electronic version of the hard copy/online version, the Court Forms are also available. They are available via hyperlink in a Word version of the form, should you so desire. It is not apparent why anyone would so desire, because you can't actually do anything with it: edit, save, email, Tweet, upload to Facebook, Pinterest etc etc.

Navigating is not the easiest thing to do. There is no easy way to keep track of where you've been and where you're going. While you can go back to where you came from, you cannot immediately go forward again. You can go back to your opening home screen where there is a list of recent places, but that seems an overly cumbersome way of navigating.

There is no apparent way of creating a list of favourite places that you frequent often, although you could highlight certain text and use the list of highlights as, in effect, a set of bookmarks. There is the capacity to annotate the text, but its functionality is fairly limited. The note itself does not indicate the text that is being annotated, so that notes to bits of text that are in close proximity, or that overlap, can be impossible to distinguish. Notes cannot be synced between the iPad and (if you've forked out for the additional licence) a PC version of Ritchie's on Red.

Searching can be slow if you're searching for a commonly occurring phrase. There's no indication of how many hits have been found. The only context provided is the name of the Part or Division in which the hit occurs, which more often than not is not very helpful. You canot search a phrase: quotation marks don't work, and the phrase by itself seems to be treated as individual search terms with the AND operator between them. Once you click on one of the results, there is no apparent way to return to the results list, or move to the next hit.

Someone rings you up to ask you about a particular rule? Forget it. You can't search by rule number. The numerical table of parts is not hyperlinked. So the only way is to go back to the table of contents, and browse through the relevant Parts and Divisions until you get there. Thankfully, however, the Table of Contents actually works pretty well, although the inconsistency between the way that upper and lower case is used, and the inconsistency in the way Parts or Divisions are labelled with the range of rules/sections, are bugbears.

I could go on, but I think you get the drift. LexisNexis Red seems to be a souped-up eReader with fairly limited functionality. While it adds the convenience of carrying a 3-volume loose leaf around on your iPad, it adds very little else. I could not find any pricing on the website, so it's impossible to say whether it is value for money. But if I were to answer the question legal publishers are so fond of asking (ie how much would you be prepared to pay on top of your loose leaf subscription for this product) the answer would be: not very much.

5 comments:

  1. Well said. This product is rubbish.

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  2. Hi Law Geek Down Under,

    Thanks for the detailed review of LexisNexis Red. There’s a lot of food for thought. As a matter of disclosure, I am the Product Manager responsible for LexisNexis Red and I thought a bit of background for this project might help explain what we’re trying to achieve.

    LexisNexis Red is designed locally (mostly in our Sydney and Auckland offices) for lawyers working in Australia and New Zealand. It’s a very exciting opportunity to pit our local ingenuity against global competition. I think we’ve done a pretty good job for our first release and we’re already working hard to address the various issues raised above.

    We are aiming to build a reference tool that meets the unique requirements of lawyers rather than just another eReader. That means we’ve spent a lot of effort coming up with innovative ways to access the content efficiently. For example, the Table of Contents is designed to make it easy to rapidly navigate the content (I’m delighted to hear we’re close to the mark on this feature). The Index is fully hyperlinked to individual pages. Annotations can be referenced easily, and LexisNexis Red generates an automatic record of every page you’ve viewed recently to facilitate quick back-and-forth revision (perfect for on-the-fly research in a high pressure court room). Much of the heavy lifting is hidden in the background - all the updates for loose-leaf titles are handled automatically by the software, which means no more filing and no more missed updates.

    Right now we’re working to improve on these ideas and I’m hopeful you’ll review our next release and let us know if we’re getting closer to the mark.

    Kind regards,

    Matthew Lawrence

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  3. This is really a bad product.Nice read

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  4. Glad to see some discussion of the slack innovation going on in legal publishing. Lexis is just interested in profits, thats why you have to buy so many licenses for the same product. Plus its ongoing costs just keep skyrocketing. What a joke !

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  5. My first impression was this product was at ß level. Seems I was wrong, it is not so advanced. I have no quarrel with Lexis being interested just in profits; if they come up with better products, I might be happier to add to their profits.

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