“Innovation isn’t a goal, useful is a goal. If you can be useful and innovative, even better. But useful first.” – Jason Fried, 37 Signals
It might seem like a cop out, or a bad review, or even patronizing. But when I say Wolters Kluwer’s Intelliconnect product is useful I mean that as a high compliment. As the quote above states, one of my favorites, useful is something to aspire to.
A few weeks ago Wolters Kluwer invited myself and several other law library bloggers to New York to meet with some executives and trainers to learn some more about their Intelliconnect product. Full Disclosure: because this demo was in New York City, and I live in the New York metro area I did not accept any compensation from Wolters Kluwer, except for a lunch on the day of the demo.
We have this product at the school, but I haven’t given it much use. This training makes me think I might find a use for it, I might not otherwise had seen. Part of the problem for academic institutions is that this is really a practitioners tool. It’s really geared towards practicing attorneys who live and breathe their practice areas and the editorial content Wolters Kluwer provides for them. I could go into a lot of different aspects of this product – there is a lot to cover – but I am just going to focus on a couple of things that stood out to me.
First, Intelliconnect is not a “Wow” product. It’s not going to overwhelm you with a slick interface or fancy features. Rather it is a workhorse product, one with valuable editorial content and a serviceable online interface for accessing it.
The first thing I’m going to mention about the current version of Intelliconnect is a negative. It is optimized for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser. Browser compatibility has become a big issue for me with vendor products. In an academic institution like ours where most students are walking around with Macs, only working on IE, or not being platform or browser compatible is a big problem.
I have been able to use the product using Firefox on my Mac laptop. However, I recommend you don’t use it in Google Chrome. While you might be able to get by doing some things in Chrome once in awhile you can run into a problem where you can no longer operate in the system and have to shut down. They say they are working on cross-browser functionality, and that will be great when it arrives, for now you are limited though.
Online books or books thrown online?
There was a debate among some of those present about whether Intelliconnect is a good interface for accessing the online, traditional book content long published by CCH or if they had simply taken their print material and thrown it online without giving thought to advantages and disadvantages made possible of the internet. I am of the opinion that they have done a satisfactory job of making this material available through Intelliconnect. Part of this may be that no one seems to have gotten online law books 100% right yet, and I am not going to hold Wolters Kluwer accountable for not getting all the way there.
I think the reason I may have liked Intelliconnect more than some of the other participants is because I like browsing. Intelliconnect is really oriented towards browsing this material. Unfortunately browsing can be difficult if you subscribe to many of their subject areas. However, they have some nice features that allow you to simplify your menu. You can set your own specific practice areas or save your favorite material to a My Favorites folder.
The image to the left shows the Covenants Not to Compete treatise saved to a My Favorites folder. I think this product is really oriented towards practitioners who would operate non stop in a treatise like this one. If you had to consult this treatise or another manual over and over again, then this product is really geared towards that.
The Intelliconnect search is ok. Really the best part of their search is that you can search those important practice-specific books that may be valuable for you. Again it’s not going to knock you out like WestlawNext, but it will find the documents you are looking for. It has some nice post-search filtering options.
You can filter out results by jurisdiction, library (subject area), and document type. When you click on a result the document opens in a frame, this can be a little disorienting for some – I didn’t really have a problem navigating through it. This display can be seen below.
The real killer feature for Intelliconnect, at least the library I was looking at, is the Practice Tools. There are a few different Practice Tools available and seem to vary based on the different libraries/subject areas you subscribe to. The Labor and Employment Law State and Federal Law comparison tool I looked at was really fantastic. Essentially it allows you to create something like a 50 state survey (or however many states you select), including federal law , for various employment and labor law areas.
I tried this out on the immigration section of the comparison. This state comparison is very well done. One of the great features is that it incorporates editorial content into the comparison. It is configurable to display laws that are updated within 90 days, or even as recent as 10 days. In the image below the new Arizona immigration law is explained in a comparison with immigration-related employment law from other states. You can see that the Arizona content is highlighted in yellow.
According to the folks at Wolters Kluwer they have some updates coming where they are really going to focus on improving their search algorithm. While I applaud their investment in search I think they need to keep in mind the need to browse and navigate their practice-specific editorial material.
In addition to cross browser compatibility they also mentioned that they would be looking at enabling this content to be available on mobile devices. This would be welcome as well. They have some updates planned to help make the interface a little more intuitive or to give users a little more help when navigating the system. This is always welcome.
There are problems with the Intelliconnect interface. It is not perfect, and there is plenty I could nitpick with. But for me and reviewing a product like this I am going to go by the standard of whether or not the product is useful. Intelliconnect is not Lexis or Westlaw and comparing it to those products is unfair. Intelliconnect is a practitioners tool, a useful one. And that makes it a good one.