15 February 2004


And certainly not on Survivor Island. (As one of the three people in the Western world who has never seen an entire episode of Seinfeld or of Survivor, I can vouch for that.)

I have just a few sarcastic remarks on the intelligence (or lack thereof) of some major computer-information vendors. Consider, for example, the disdain for footnotes and their proper treatment. For example, Lexis pulls footnotes out into separate paragraphs, with the notes for each paragraph at the end of the paragraph and really funky margins. Nonetheless, Lexis insists on defaulting to "two-column" printing and file downloads whereever possible, even when downloading the documents in a word-processing format that includes native handling of footnotes! To say the least, this is very difficult to read, particularly on screen. The programming to correct this is trivial, but a serious annoyance, because determining which version of any program to run requires human intervention (there are too many inconsistencies in Lexis formatting). Sadly, WestLaw is worse, with its insertion of the usually inept keynotes into the document.

Continuing to rag on Lexis for a moment, the LexisOne service is worth exactly what one pays for it: nothing. There is no internal pagination in the documents, and about half the footnotes have missing text. Given that one of the mandatory rules of legal citation (BlueBook or otherwise) is that references must pinpoint at least the exact page number of the material, this is rather dumb—especially since LexisOne is merely a subset of the actual Lexis service, using the same databases with different transforms for display. In other words, the information is already in the files, and LexisOne merely takes more computer power to strip out useful information.

While we're at it, let's hear it for journals that tout their "full text online" features and don't include everything. It's one thing for Lexis and Westlaw to miss out on graphics; but there's been no excuse since the early 1990s for line graphics being absent on the journal's own website, if the journal is offering access to full text. If there's a copyright issue with a particular photograph, that's one thing; but universal absence implies that the graphic was meaningless in the first place. This is not limited to law journals by any means. The phrase "bait and switch" comes to mind.