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West aggressively pursues electronic publishing market.

Not since Volkswagens, hoola-hoops, or roller blades has a company geared up to produce a product line like West Publishing's new Desktop Practice Systems. Texas Family Law Practice Forms, Federal Jury Instructions, California Litigation - Pleadings, and Minnesota Rules of Court - State and Federal are just a few of the over 150 new titles that West has produced since the beginning of 1993.

For many companies the development of new products is at the very least a slow and cautious process. There are questions about customer interest, the market, the costs of producing and promoting the product, and then the obvious problem of actually creating the product.

When the product involves technology, the concerns and production process become doubly complex. Even though market information indicates there is a need for products like these, few companies are willing to risk the resources to develop them. Not to West Publishing.

One hundred and fifty new titles in less than a year is by any publisher's standards prolific. And when each of these new titles involves a new kind of information technology, the industry begins to take note.

"Attorneys are ready to put personal computers to practical use," explains Vance Opperman, West Publishing's new president, "but most publishers have not yet produced any practical software. West is the only company offering an entire line of compatible disk products to automate forms and document drafting. These and the hundreds that are planned for future release will make law firm practice more efficient, more profitable and more convenient."

West is particularly well suited to pursue this business. For over 100 years they have been a legal publisher, growing to what has become one of the world's largest. The company has plenty of experience publishing law books, and legal information, and they have a wide variety of different source titles.

West is also enjoying one of the most technologically innovative periods in their history. In 1992 they introduced Westlaw is Natural (WIN), a new natural language search engine that was virtually unlike anything else in the industry. The new search engine has won universal acclaim, with West's competitors scrambling to come up with something similar of their own.

Over the last year West has also begun to aggressively pursue the CD-ROM market, publishing over a dozen new titles in just the past six months, with many more scheduled for publication in the next year. And they have produced these products in much the same manner as they have pursued other products, developing them in-house.

PREMISE, the CD-ROM engine that drives West's CD-ROM products, was initially the product of a joint venture between Wang Laboratories and West Publishing. A couple of years ago West took over the entire project, and now PREMISE joins a growing list of proprietary West software.

So one of the largest legal publishers in the world is an innovator in producing good, marketable products and services based on new technology. West's Desktop Practice Systems consist of document assembly applications, \FAST (Fast Access Searchable Text) disks, and Express Forms.

Curious about these new titles, Information Today examined the electronic version of West's new Federal Jury Instructions, one of their document assembly applications. We found a product that was easy to install, easy to use, and manageable for just about any kind of PC.

Many of these products involve the value added process of producing existing West manual titles or information in electronic form. This process has two benefits: information is extremely manageable, and codes, rules and forms are available without having to be re-keyed. With respect to the \FAST disk products the manageability factor involves a variety of features that makes the information contained in these titles phenomenally easier to use.

Some of these features include:

* A table of contents. This enables you to browse their title in the same way you would a book (also available with West's new document assembly applications, and Express Forms).

* HyperText jumping. If after viewing the table of contents you identified a section to which you wanted to turn, you can jump, or electronically turn to it with the stroke of a key. HyperText links also exist within the text of some of these titles.

* Multiple search features. Some of the search features include easy menu-assisted searches (walking you through the process), Westlaw searching (these titles can be searched just like West's online service), wild card searching, field searching, and you can save your most frequently used searches into a personal directory of queries (PDQ). The PDQ feature, also available on Westlaw, allows you to save your query so the next time you wish to run it you won't have to re-key it.

* A phonetic thesaurus - to help you find alternate words and phrases.

* Copy and paste features.

* An instant notepad.

* And connectibility and integration with any other West Desktop Practice Systems (also available with West's new document assembly applications, and Express Forms). [See the list at the end of this article for just a few of the titles available in West's Desktop Practice Systems library.]

Part of the beauty of these products is their ability to be used on just about any version of PC. If you still have an old PC/XT sitting around, you can use these products. The basic system requirements include: an IBM PC, AT, PS/2 or 100 percent compatible machine, MS-DOS 2.0 or greater, MS-DOS 3.0 or greater for networks, 512 minimum RAM, a disk drive (5.25", or 3.5"), and some hard disk space (differs with each title).

The User's Guide describes the installation process on a standalone PC using DOS or Windows, or on a network. Since I use Windows I turned to their Windows installation procedure and installed it according to the directions. [It should be noted though this is a DOS-based product, not a Windows-based product.]

Because of the need to offer these products to the widest available audience, West has chosen just about the lowest denominator for their system requirements. But "Chapter 7 - Customization Reference" of their User's Guide contains a complete and thorough discussion of the nuances of using this product in several different environments (including Windows 3.1), and with a variety of word processors. The word processors covered include: DisplayWrite, Multimate, Microsoft Word, Q&A Write, Wang IWP, Wang WP Plus, WordPerfect, and XyWrite.

The different titles comprising West's Desktop Practice Systems have different purposes. Many of them are document assembly programs. Document assembly programs enable attorneys to answer basic questions, make basic selections, and the computer will assemble the document based on a library of boilerplate language.

After installing West's Federal Jury Instructions I wanted to create some instructions involving the credibility of expert witnesses. West's product walked me through the process using a variety of pull-down menus. First, I selected the civil jury instructions for the 11th Circuit. Then I was prompted with several specific options. I checked (by striking the insert key) the subject areas the instructions should include. For this particular example I wanted the computer assembled document to include the following:

* A "Face Page - Introduction"

* "Credibility of Witnesses" (in general)

* "Expert Witnesses - General Instructions"

* "Expert Witnesses - When an Expert Witness' Fees Represent a Significant Portion of the Witness' Income"

Once instructions have been selected, you have a number of options. In my case, I had the computer assemble the document. You can, however, review and revise each of the sections before the document is assembled, or do it after the entire document is assembled. You can also revise and save your own version of boilerplate instructions along side those that come with the program.

As mentioned before, these Desktop products work with several different types of word processors. Once the document has been assembled, you can save the document and pull it into your word processor for further revision, or simply print it off.

This program was simple to install and use. It also produced a product (detailed jury instructions for the 11th Circuit involving expert witnesses) with basically the touch of a key.

Products like these are revolutionizing the practice of law. Using this particular example, the creation and generation of civil jury instructions took less than 5 minutes. In the past, without document assembly programs like West's, these instructions could have easily taken an hour.

I have only three minor criticisms of West's products: create an automatic install program for Windows users (there are more and more of us); create a Windows-based product; incorporate the use of a mouse.

West's new Desktop Practice Systems titles cross many jurisdictions and subject areas. A selected list of some of their new titles includes the following: Bankruptcy Bankruptcy Code, Rules and

Forms\FAST Bankruptcy Practice Forms and Commentary\FAST Chapters 7, 11, 12, 13 [bankruptcy filing

program] Black's Black's Law Dictionary - Electronic Edition Black's Legal Speller - Electronic Edition California BAJI Forms on Disk [civil jury instructions] CALJIC Forms on Disk [criminal jury instructions] California Civil Code Compact\FAST California Code of Civil Procedure

Compact\FAST California Commercial Code

Compact\FAST California Corporations Code

Compact\FAST California Evidence Code

Compact\FAST California Family Laws and Court

Rules\FAST California Judicial Council Forms - Family

Law California Judicial Council Forms - General

Litigation California Judicial Council Forms - Probate California Juvenile Laws and Court

Rules\FAST California Litigation by the Numbers - Electronic

Edition California Litigation Practice

Forms\FAST California Penal Code Compact\FAST California Rules of Court - Federal California Rules of Court - State California Secured Transaction

Forms\FAST Employee Benefits Defined Contribution Plans [Volume

Submitter Approved] Defined and Target Benefit Plans [Volume

Submitter Approved] Fringe and Welfare Plans Qualified Retirement plans Express Forms Bankruptcy California Litigation Massachusetts Criminal Defense Motions Federal Federal Civil Judicial Procedure and

Rules 1992\FAST Federal Criminal Code and Rules

1992\FAST Federal Jury Instructions [Devitt and

Blackmar] Illinois Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions - Civil Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions - Criminal Illinois Statues Conversion Table\FAST Illinois Statutes General Index\FAST Massachusetts Massachusetts Criminal Defense

Motions\FAST Missouri Missouri Approved Jury Instructions
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Title Annotation:West Publishing
Author:Griffith, Cary
Publication:Information Today
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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