Cost-Effective Legal Research

The librarians at Brooklyn Law School have long promoted cost-effective legal research to patrons and to students in their Advanced Legal Research classes. In academia, students enjoy free access to Westlaw, LexisNexis and Bloomberg databases to facilitate their research. That changes when law school students start their first clerking positions and when graduates start as firm associates. In the practicing world, firm economics limit the resources available to clerks and associates. Learning about the firm’s pricing plans for its LexisNexis or Westlaw subscriptions, as well as the firm culture for use of either service is important. Pricing plans involve these components

• Transactional or per search charges depend on the file you select – the larger the file, the higher the fee. Start with the smallest file that you need, then conduct a broad search, using Focus or Locate commands to narrow results within search results to avoid a new search charge.
• Hourly fees for searching each file depends on its size and complexity. Start with the smallest file needed, print off a cite list, and view results offline.
• Flat rate – Some of the databases may be outside the contract and incur additional fees for access. Be sure to understand the applicable restrictions and firm policies for searching.
• Printing and Retrieval – Both services assess additional fees for printing and downloading (per document or per line) as well as retrieving using the Get A Document or Find commands, and conducting Shepard’s or KeyCite searches.

Pricing changes for legal databases are likely now that Westlaw is offering its new interface, WestlawNext, and LexisNexis is planning its own revamped platform, New Lexis. The promise of new and improved searching on legal databases may require more thought about cost-effective techniques according to Three Geeks and a Law Blog’s post, WestlawNext Pricing – Up To $3400 Per Hour!! WestlawNext’s results are comprehensive and come from all of the WestlawNext databases, whether or not they are in the firm’s contract. If a user clicks on one of those results and views a document that is out of contract, ancillary charges are assessed. A first-year associate that clicks on a 50-State Survey and reads it online for an hour or two will likely incur hefty charges that will draw unwanted attention from superiors. Thomson Reuters document “WestlawNext: Pricing Guide for Commercial Plans” has generic pricing from February 8, the launch date of the new product and is subject to change. The importance of becoming educated on cost is paramount especially with new products such as WestlawNext.