Is there a better way to do (legal) research?

Mary Abraham at the Above and Beyond KM blog has suggested that there might be a better way for fee-earners to undertake research on Lexis and Westlaw. From her blog post;


"With the benefit of hindsight, it seems obvious that the current approach to legal research is fundamentally flawed. Lexis and and Westlaw have created these enormous databases of case law that cannot be completely mastered unless you have world class research skills. In fact, what they’ve created is a frustrating game of “find the needle in the haystack.” The problem is that the people who need the cases aren’t always the best equipped at finding the cases, and the people who are expert at finding cases aren’t the best equipped to analyze and use them"

There is no denying that fee-earners generally aren't the best at undertaking Legal Research although in my experience some trainees have excelled at finding and using content from Lexis and Westlaw. It's also true to say that Law Librarians or Researcher aren't necessarily best equipped to analyse the information we find from Lexis and Westlaw. Law Librarians certainly aren't paid to do this and in fact to do so borders on the downright dangerous.
So what is Mary suggesting Lexis and Westlaw should do, well it's quite an interesting proposal.;

"...instead of forcing lawyers to come up with appropriate search queries, Lexis and Westlaw should ask lawyers questions to elicit information about the case at hand. In other words, the role of the lawyer searching for precedent would be to analyze their own case and strategy and provide that information to Lexis and Westlaw: what are the pertinent facts of the case, what jurisdiction, what procedural approaches is the lawyer considering. Then, Lexis and Westlaw would deliver to you links to groups of cases that match your facts within your jurisdiction..."

What's great about this proposal is that fee-earners would no longer need to know complicated boolean search techniques or how to construct the perfect search. What's not so great is the role of the previously mentioned Law Librarian? Isn't if part of their role to elict information about the case in hand as part of a reference request and to guide and assist the fee-earner with finding the most pertinent results?
The 3 Geeks and a Law blog also have some thoughts on Mary's post, which are well worth reading.