In our attempt to keep overhead low, we have used mostly free resources so far. With the exception of our practice management software and fax service, we don’t pay for any online accounts. I’ve been a strong advocate of Google Scholar this entire time. But now I’ve seen the light, and we are spending some money.
It isn’t difficult to use free legal research software. In fact, the Pennsylvania Bar Association gives us limited access to Lexis. But you can’t use it to Shepardize or get annotated statutes. Nor can you access secondary sources and treatises, which are a great place to start legal research. A week or so ago I spent almost an hour trying to find a case. Finally I shlepped down to the law library and used their Westlaw account. I had the case in about thirty seconds.
I knew it was time for a change in heart.
I contacted a Westlaw sales representative via their website, and heard back within three hours. So far I was impressed. I laid out for the representative what my needs were, and he got back to me the next day with a few different packages and a price breakdown. We spent about twenty minutes on the phone going over the different packages to figure out exactly what my partner and I needed. I told him we would review it and get back to him.
About two minutes after we got off the phone, he called back and lowered the price and added some incentives. He didn’t know it at the time, but we had already decided to sign up. The phone call definitely sweetened the deal though.
So how much does it cost? We have access to PA and federal caselaw, as well as select secondary sources, treatises, and online forms. For two usernames with unlimited searching the monthly bill is under three hundred dollars. Frankly, I was surprised. I was expecting a figure between five hundred and a thousand dollars a month.
Although we have only been using the service for about a week, it has already proved extremely beneficial. The secondary sources are a great way to get research rolling. The treatises have been helpful in instructing us on things we don’t know much about yet.
Most importantly, we can do extremely fast and extremely efficient legal research. We can annotate statutes. We can see if cases have been overturned with one quick glance.
We had to add something to our monthly expenses, which we are very cautious to do. But when it helps provide quality legal representation, and makes our lives much easier, I would say it’s worth it.
Read the next post in this series: "The Guilt of Representation."