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Quicklaw for Microsoft Office

Introduction

This description and comments are based on QLMO as it operated on January 25, 2013.

QLMO is a Quicklaw add-in to Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. QLMO facilitates access to Quicklaw and open web content while working on documents within the Outlook and Word programs. For visual examples, see the Quicklaw for Microsoft Office product literature.

Background search

The Background feature runs a search on the active document against LexisNexis databases and open web sources, and builds links in the document to particular categories of LexisNexis content. The user can set preferences to select which databases will be accessed. The choices include:

  • companies and organizations – these are searched in the LexisNexis Corporate Affiliations database; QL case law; LexisNexis news content; and through Lexis Web (a portal to free legally-oriented sites) with the further option to search the web using Google or Bing
  • legal terms of art – these are searched in Barron’s Canadian Law Dictionary; QL cases, legislation and commentary databases; and through Lexis Web with the further option to search the web using Google or Bing
  • selecting the jurisdictions in which to search case law and legislation – the options include searching all Canadian jurisdictions, selecting an individual province, or selecting a province together with federal content.

The Background search looks for legal citations to legislation and jurisprudence and builds links to that content on LexisNexis. A citation signal for the authority is inserted beside the link.

Clicking on a link creates a split screen and opens a panel showing the LexisNexis content. The links inserted in your document will disappear when the document is closed.

Check Cited Docs

This feature is similar to Background, in that it builds links in your document. However, this feature restricts the links to cases and legislation. This is an efficient way to check the judicial treatment of the cited authorities, based on QL citation signals.

Unlike the American product, QLMO does not check for correct citation format, check the text of quotations for accuracy, or enable the automated building of a table of authorities.

The pane that opens when you click on a link will display the full text of the authority, and if requested the QuickCite results.

  • Remember that citing authorities should be reviewed, rather than relying entirely on citation signals to ascertain judicial treatment.
  • Although all legislation citations will be linked, only those links to legislation that is available on Quicklaw will actually retrieve a document. For most jurisdictions, this means the current revision.
  • Links to legislative citations will not go directly to the cited section unless the section number appears immediately after the year and chapter number in your document.

Get Cited Docs

This feature creates links to cited authorities and legislation, and provides options that facilitate review of the cited content.

  • You can restrict your view by citation signal.
  • You can view each authority in sequence.
  • You can generate a list of cited authorities, and select which ones to review.

The last viewing option is called List with Keywords. It is very slow to open, and sometimes doesn’t open at all. For cases, it contains the keyword portion from the case headnote. This can be useful in deciding whether to review a case.

The List with Keywords option also lists legislation. Depending on how the legislative citation appears in your document, this feature may link to the whole Act, which means there will be a separate entry for each section in the Act (potentially in both English and French). Given the technical problems with this feature, it is best to avoid it unless you really need to see the caselaw keyword information.

Searching

Options for keyword searching

You can launch your own keyword search from within the LexisNexis ribbon that searches any or all of:

  • Quicklaw (cases, legislation, commentary)
  • your computer (using Windows desktop search)
  • the open web (using Lexis Web, Bing or Google).

In addition, at any point you can open the Quicklaw Browser using the icon on the LexisNexis ribbon. A separate window opens, and you search in QL as you normally would.

QLMO also offers various options for searching small selected blocks of content. These are described below.

Searching selected text

Suggest

To use this feature, select a small block of text (under 400 characters) from the active document and click on Suggest. QLMO will search QL content (cases, legislation and commentary) and Lexis Web content, using QLMO’s natural language search engine. The relevancy of the results is very dependent on the nature of the selected text.

Cases

This type of search is similar to Suggest, but it searches only the case law collection. Results can be sorted in a variety of ways, or filtered by jurisdiction.

Forms & Precedents

This icon initiates a search, based on a selected block of text, in QL’s Canadian Forms & Precedents database. At the same time, it searches the open web using Lexis Web, Bing and Google.

The search engine

In legal research, retrieving a few relevant documents is not enough. The researcher needs to be confident that the most relevant and authoritative documents have been retrieved. It is therefore important to know how your search query is being processed.

When searching from the Search Box in the LexisNexis ribbon, QLMO will identify whether you intend the search to be a natural language or a terms and connectors search. For more control over your search, enter a search string with the usual QL search syntax. If you prefer using the natural language search method, with no connectors, then simply enter a string of words.

The benefit of a natural language search is that you don’t need to use any connectors or technical search commands. If a natural language search engine is very good, the search results can be impressive and even seem like magic.

zap2However, if the natural language search engine is less sophisticated, your search results may not retrieve the most relevant documents. If they are retrieved, they may be far down the result list. Unfortunately, the natural language search engine used in QLMO does not incorporate automatic word-stemming, and documents that were highly relevant often did not appear near the top of the results. This occurred most often when using the “selected text” type of searches.

The best natural language results obtained using this type of search were in searches of QL Commentary, and Canadian Forms & Precedents. Search results from Lexis Web were also quite good for retrieving current commentary from law firm websites and blogs.

The searches in QLMO where the user selects a small block of text and runs an automated search – such as Suggest, Cases, and Forms and Precedents – are all run using a natural language search.

  • Although it is easy to do this, and you will get some relevant results, consider whether better results would be obtained by opening the Quicklaw Browser and searching in the usual way.
  • You can do this from within QLMO, by clicking on the Quicklaw Browser icon.
  • If you have two monitors, you can drag the Quicklaw Browser to the second monitor and continue working on your document as you conduct your search.

Another problem with the selected text searches is that there is no easy way to quickly determine the relevance of a long document retrieved by such a search. That is because almost every word from the selected text that appears in the retrieved document is highlighted – even words such as “of” or “if”. You cannot go directly to the passage with the highest concentration of search terms, and proceeding through by locating hits is unhelpful. One option in this situation is to use the “Narrow search” box near the top right to find a sub-set of your results containing the terms you are most interested in.

A researcher who is familiar with QL search syntax may obtain better results in QLMO with a terms and connectors search run in the Search area of the ribbon at the far left.

Working with results

Relevant search results can be downloaded, emailed, or printed. In addition, individual documents retrieved during a search can be “pinned” to the active document in Word or Outlook. Once that is done, the list of “pinned” search documents will be retrieved when the Word or Outlook document is next opened. After retrieving a list of pinned search documents, the user can email a list of links to selected search documents, or download a PDF copy of selected search documents.

A history map is created showing the steps taken and documents accessed during the QLMO research process. It can be saved as a PNG file.

PDF conversion to Word

If a document or email attachment is in unprotected PDF format, convert it into Word using the PDF Import feature on the LexisNexis ribbon. Then searches can be run on the contents of the document, using the features described above.

Notional and actual cost

QLMO is a separate add-on product to an existing Quicklaw subscription. Lawyers subscribing to it will pay an additional flat-rate amount.

QLMO results in the running of many searches and finds in multiple databases. The “notional” value of these searches is computed based on the usual QL transactional costs. It is not always clear when activity is treated as a search (which carries a notional charge to run the search, but then any retrieved documents can be viewed without additional notional charges) or a “find” (where there is no search charge but each link clicked on is treated as a “find”).

money1As a flat-rate subscriber, perhaps on auto-renewal, this may not concern you. However, if you bill out QL usage to clients the notional value assigned to using QLMO could be quite high. This is, in part, because multiple databases are often being searched. You will need to monitor this and adjust your billing to ensure that clients are receiving value for these disbursements. You can also consider changing your Preferences to limit the databases being searched, where appropriate.

Technical comments

Installation

Installation requires pre-installation of Microsoft files that are required for QLMO to install and work properly. Then the QLMO program and the PDF converter are installed.

Impact on Word and Outlook

After installation, a new tab for LexisNexis appears in the ribbons in Word and Outlook. The tabs themselves don’t take much space, and the full LexisNexis ribbon only appears when the tab is selected. However, each time Word or Outlook are opened the QLMO add-in must be loaded. This adds about 3-4 seconds to the programs’ start time.

Glitches

Often it is necessary to click more than once before the desired action initiates. Searching tends to be much slower through this program than when using the regular QL interface. On various occasions the program got stuck while trying to retrieve results from LexisNexis.

References

Quicklaw for Microsoft Office Product Literature