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Law Library News for January 16, 2001

Ann Hemmens, editor

Law Library News Archive


Looking for the Perfect Database: LEXIS & Westlaw

by Nancy McMurrer

Now is the time to build your online research skills, while you can explore without having to charge a client. Basically, online research involves choosing the best database, then designing great search queries. Let's look at that first step.

Assume that you are researching an environmental law issue. What sort of resources do these two vendors have that might be particularly helpful for research in that area of the law? Both LEXIS-NEXIS and Westlaw provide online directories of their materials. After signing on LEXIS-NEXIS,, you are taken to the Look for a Source screen. Under Option 2, you can explore the directory for environmental law materials by clicking on the Area of Law � by Topic link. Scroll down to the Environment link and then investigate the different folders under that topic.

However, suppose you have heard that the Matthew Bender book, Insurance Coverage for Environmental Claims, would be a good treatise to consult for your problem. Is that treatise on LEXIS-NEXIS? You can search for that book in the LEXIS-NEXIS directory by entering its title in the Option 1 blank. Be sure you indicate that you wish to "match terms in long names." That title search will retrieve the file containing the treatise (the file's short name is MATBEN;INSCEC).

Does Westlaw have similar aids? For sure! If you start at Westlaw's law school website,, you can investigate the Westlaw directory by clicking on the Westlaw Directory link there; you can also choose the Directory link on top right of the screen any time you are online. Once you are in the directory, click on the Topical Materials by Area of Law link and scroll down to Environmental Law. Several folders of materials relevant to that area of the law are there for you to explore.

Suppose, however, that you would like to consult Clean Air Act: Law and Practice, a book published by John Wiley & Sons. Is that treatise available on Westlaw? To search for it, select Westlaw's IDEN database and search the book's title there. IDEN contains all the Westlaw databases along with a short description of their contents. The abbreviation for the database that contains the Clean Air Act treatise is JW-CLEANAIR.

LEXIS-NEXIS and Westlaw have so much to offer that none of us can possibly keep up with it all! Their broad array of resources is one of the reasons why the two are the premier online legal research tools (with premier costs to match if you want access to everything). In addition, both add and delete materials constantly. So, remember that you can explore their online directories to find pertinent databases or you can search to locate a particular source.

Bench & Bar Files

by Barbara Swatt, Reference Intern

If you are looking for historical information on a lawyer or judge from Washington State, a good place to start is the Bench and Bar files. The Bench and Bar files are an eclectic collection of newspaper clippings, photographs, and letters relating to Washington lawyers and judges from the 1960�s and earlier. The information on the content of the files can be accessed through the Index to the Washington Bench and Bar Clippings (KF354.W3 W37 at Reserve and Reference Office). There is also a website,, where you can search the Index by last name.

The Bench and Bar files are housed with the historical collection in the basement stacks. Once you have found a file that you are interested in taking a look at, by using the Index to the Washington Bench and Bar Clippings, you can fill out a basement retrieval request at the Circulation Desk. Circulation staff retrieve items from the basement at 9am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm everyday.

If you are unable to come to the Law Library, another option for accessing the Bench and Bar files is through the Copy & Send service provided by the Library. Copy & Send staff will photocopy items from the files and send them directly to you. The charge is $15.00 per item for regular mail, and $20.00 per item for fax service. The phone number for Copy & Send is 206-616-2370; you can also e-mail requests to copysend@u.