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Conclusions

LawSource and Quicklaw

With respect to LawSource and Quicklaw, it is impossible to conclude that one is vastly superior to the other, or to advise users to subscribe to one rather than the other. Each service has strengths and weaknesses, and these should be taken into account in deciding which service to use for discrete tasks. If you intend to subscribe to only one service, then you must consider which research tasks are most important to you and evaluate how well that service does the task and at what cost.

  • LawSource is more full-featured, with better integration of primary and secondary sources, more value-added features, and more searching options. The new WestlawNext Canada platform, with its federated plain language search and folders, is modelled on a US platform that has proven to be very popular with lawyers. Time will tell whether Canadian lawyers also prefer this approach.
  • Quicklaw is much stronger in its coverage of administrative tribunals. With some exceptions, Quicklaw is also stronger for statutory research. Its journal collection and current awareness collection are superior.
  • Quicklaw is more current than LawSource for updating most legislative collections.
  • The Abridgment case digests and the CED on LawSource are paralleled by the Canada Digests and Halsbury’s Laws of England on the Quicklaw Full Service subscription. Given the recent introduction of these tools on Quicklaw, it is too early to make a comparison. However, the digest collections are very different, which suggests that users would benefit from consulting both. Taken as a whole, the Halsbury’s titles are more current than the CED titles. However, an individual CED title may be more current than the corresponding Halsbury’s title. Lawyers in Western Canada may find more comprehensive coverage of relevant case law in the CED, because of the emphasis on jurisprudence from that region in the Western edition.
  • The case citators on LawSource and Quicklaw are both good, but each is designed quite differently and users are likely to develop a preference for one over the other. The LawSource statute citator has superior features and coverage.
  • The words and phrases collections on LawSource and Quicklaw contain very different entries, and it will often be beneficial to check both. At present, the LawSource offering has a significantly superior collection of Canadian content.
  • The notional pricing on WestlawNext Canada is very different from the model previously used on Westlaw Canada. Studies done by the publisher satisfied it that the overall value assigned to a subscriber’s usage would be similar, despite the shift to federated searching and changes to the values assigned to transactions. Whether this will hold true in practice remains to be seen. The chargeback models and values on Quicklaw and LawSource are now so different that it is not possible to simply compare the notional cost assigned to a particular type of transaction.

CanLII

CanLII is not comprehensive enough to be your sole source for case law or statute research. Its case and statute citators are incomplete, and do not contain treatment codes. Case history coverage does not start until 2006. Parallel citations are limited, and discontinued after mid-2009. CanLII includes only very limited commentary. However, it is an excellent free source for finding and searching current legislation and case law from 2000, with case law coverage for most jurisdictions going back much further. It is funded and owned by the Canadian legal profession.

  • CanLII is designed for ease of use, with a simple interface and an excellent search engine that accommodates both sophisticated Boolean searches and more natural searching.
  • CanLII’s case law collections appear to be a day or two more current than Quicklaw and LawSource.
  • CanLII features such as links from case law to legislation, RSS feeds, and the ability to compare versions of legislation, make CanLII not only a less expensive alternative but also a superior alternative for some tasks.
  • Because there is no charge for using it, lawyers are likely to try more different search queries and spend more time reading cases and legislation online.
  • In taxation hearings, disbursements for obtaining cases from commercial services have been disallowed where the documents were available from free services such as CanLII and court websites.
  • Cost concerns related to researching case law and legislation can be addressed by using CanLII in conjunction with the commercial services. However, the notional pricing model on WestlawNext Canada for primary law and KeyCite results may remove some of the financial incentive to switch to CanLII for these tasks.