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Bloomberg Law

Case Western Reserve University School of Law has added Bloomberg Law to its stable of computer-assisted legal research services (CALR), including LexisNexis, Westlaw, Loislaw, Fastcase, and Casemaker. Approximately 135 of the 225 accredited law schools have signed agreements to offer Bloomberg Law alongside LexisNexis and Westlaw, and additional agreements are under negotiation. Students who become adept in learning another CALR platform have the added incentive that they can use Bloomberg Law during the summer and for six months after graduation, even at work. (In contrast to educational-use-only restrictions imposed by Lexis and Westlaw.) Students use the same platform as practicing lawyers, and can they can access some of the proprietary Bloomberg business and financial information, once limited to Wall Street power brokers and financiers. Furthermore, Bloomberg Law provides some access to court docket information that previously may have required a small fee payment to PACER (and/or hit-or-miss searching for publicly-available documents on the internet or via Recap). (Bloomberg does not charge academic users for access to PACER documents.)

The Bloomberg representatives claim to offer a citator (BCIT) that competes with Shepard’s and KeyCite in providing full citation analysis for cases. An early “test” of the BCIT citator (in 2009) indicated some possible problems, which is not a good start for a service claiming to be on par with Shepard’s and KeyCite, though a more systematic and comprehensive test probably would be more useful than the two pre-chosen cases the reviewer tested using BCIT. Also, as January, 2013, filtering by “depth of treatment” is not yet available.

While Bloomberg Law integrated BNA headnotes, when available, BNA’s headnote coverage is far less comprehensive than either Lexis’s headnotes or Westlaw’s digest system. (Though a 2010 blog post claims that Bloomberg hired 500 lawyers to write headnotes, tag cases, and prepare a law digest.)

Bloomberg Law does not have a legal encyclopedia, nor does it have the extensive sets of topical treatises characteristic of Lexis or Westlaw. It does, however, have BNA materials, leveraging BNA’s traditional strength in areas such as health law, labor law, intellectual property, and environmental law. BLaw also offers PLI materials, selected ABA materials, BNA books, and selected Wiley publications. (See database descriptions for specific titles.)

Bloomberg Law would appeal to law students with experience in the financial sector. Though the “complete” Bloomberg business service is not available, the relevant and most useful business sources (company reports, EDGAR filings, etc.) should be readily available and accessible. Bloomberg Law’s Lou Andreozzi (formerly of LexisNexis North America), while acknowledging that the company was “several years away” from developing secondary sources for all areas of law, said that such searches of secondary sources comprised a maximum of 10% of legal research searches. Thus, a solo practitioner can run 90% of her typical searches on Bloomberg Law for a flat fee of $450 per month.

Who might benefit from learning “yet another” CALR system?

  • law students who hope to work in the financial, health, or intellectual property sectors (among others)
  • law students who want to be able to use Bloomberg Law for summer jobs or for six months after graduation
  • law student who wish to become a more skillful legal researchers
  • law students who want to better market themselves to the legal or financial sectors

Note: There will be mandatory training on Bloomberg Law for CORE II students on Jan. 28-29, 2013.