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Author Topic: how does westlaw work?  (Read 4859 times)

RootBrewskies

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how does westlaw work?
« on: March 27, 2006, 02:40:25 PM »
so i've looked around a little bit and found some people talking about WestLaw and saying that it costs so much to use.  I guess it doesnt matter to me now but I was wondering if people knew how schools and law firms use this and how they pay for it.  Do schools get some type of discount using the service?  also how do firms control the cost of their employees searches.

i'm just used to getting familar with computer systems by trial and error and simply using them for a good while until i understand the ins and outs of them.  however, now that ive heard that westlaw searches can cost hundred(s) of dollars for a single search i doubt that i will be permitted to simply spend some time getting familar with the system.


how exactly does it work?

J D

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Re: how does westlaw work?
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2006, 03:02:58 PM »
Schools, courts, and most other government agencies typically pay a flat yearly rate for unlimited use.  Other firms negotiate contracts with Westlaw or Lexis on an individual basis, and there are a variety of ways of paying for it.  Some of the more popular approaches are the transaction-based agreement (i.e., you get charged based on the type and number of searches you run, for Shephardizing and KeyCiting, and for every document you retrieve, not for just sitting around on-line), or the time-based agreement (you get charged a certain fee per unit of time signed in, regardless of what you do with that time, whether its productive or not).

As you suspected, the typical "shotgun" method of research (trial and error, run enough searches and you'll find something) we tend to use in our everyday lives is NOT what you want to do at a firm who's paying a lot of money for the service.  Fortunately, the two services offer numerous free training classes in law school to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness in using the service for research, enabling you to find what you need faster and more directly, and thus for less of the firm's dime.
"I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough."--Albert Einstein

RootBrewskies

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Re: how does westlaw work?
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2006, 03:20:17 PM »
how is it possible that west law and lexis are still in business?  doesnt it seem like there would be a company out there that could offer the same service as them for free?  if you look at the online databases that are available now for free im sure that a legal search engine would not be so much larger than them that it would make it impossible to run without charging 100 dollars a search. 

is there some reason for this?  doesnt it just seem like west law or lexis could operate just like any other online database that is free, and just have a few adds on it?  i mean if every lawyer and law student across the country is accessing the site, that is an enourmous amount of people that would be viewing adds. 

obviously my logic is off or there would be a free service, but why is it that there is not?

QUAKER OATS

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Re: how does westlaw work?
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2006, 05:24:50 PM »
1) Schools either get it for free or for a very, very cheap rate to entice students to use them and become dependant on them for later business.  I think law schools get free access.

2) Do you understand the amount of work goes into reading EVERY SINGLE case in the American judicial system.  Each must be perfectly briefed and key cited.  And each must be perfectly cross-referenced.  I'm not sure I believe it costs $100/search but the amount of labor going into this site is enormous.

J D

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Re: how does westlaw work?
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2006, 05:54:45 PM »
Based on what my Lexis and Westlaw reps have told me, the law school pays a flat rate for the year, but they still have to pay.
"I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough."--Albert Einstein

RootBrewskies

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Re: how does westlaw work?
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2006, 12:16:14 AM »
i understand that the number of cases is huge and the accuracy of each case would be vital to a successful free website but the fact of the matter is that cases are out there for anyone to read.  they can easily be published on the internet just like any reference tools. 

as far as i know, cases arent copyrighted so there is no infringement occurring if you post it on the internet and dont charge for it.  so i dont understand why there isnt a quality website out there that is posting this stuff for free.


oh, and the $100 dollars a seach i got off some other post on this board.  it said certain searches cost 63 and others cost 93, then it said there were even more specific searches that could cost over 100 dollars.  it just seems crazy expensive.  i realize the flat rate deal is in effect so it wouldnt really matter, but it also said they renegotiate the price for the flat rate every year based on how much it was used in the previous year(s).  so even with a flat rate people arent allowed to just search their little hearts away, they still have to use discretion, unless of course they have some grudge against their job. 

lawschoolpro

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Re: how does westlaw work?
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2006, 12:40:35 PM »
Carolyn Elefant looks at some of the legal fees billed for in the Delta and Northwest bankruptcies, pointing out $183,000 for online research done for Northwest.

giraffe205

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Re: how does westlaw work?
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2006, 02:15:39 AM »
There are three different ways that Westlaw and LexisNexis bill practitioners. The first is an hourly rate. The second is called transactional. It charges you by the type of transaction you do. If you just enter in the citation, it is "relatively" cheap. If you perform a search, a search on a broader/more national database will be more expensive than just your state database. And like someone else already mentioned, they will also charge extra when you Shepardize or KeyCite a case. Just remember to download and print.

The third way is a yearly flat fee. While you can perform unlimited research for the same charge, Westlaw and Lexis re-negotiate this flat fee every year depending on rising costs and usuage of the firm. For instance, if a firm doubles in size from 60 to 120 attorneys in one year (and some have done this), they are going to be performing a lot more searches and Westlaw and Lexis want a cut. Thus, the firm won't be able to pay the same rate that it paid in the previous year b/c Westlaw and Lexis will demand more. Similarly, if usuage drops, the firm has a better argument to reduce the flat fee. Bottomline: your usuage counts regardless of which billing system the firm uses. Sure if it's a flat fee, your three additional searches won't make a difference but 3 per day * 7 days per week * 50 weeks per year, makes a huge difference.

LoverOfWomen

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Re: how does westlaw work?
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2006, 02:44:38 AM »
There are three different ways that Westlaw and LexisNexis bill practitioners. The first is an hourly rate. The second is called transactional. It charges you by the type of transaction you do. If you just enter in the citation, it is "relatively" cheap. If you perform a search, a search on a broader/more national database will be more expensive than just your state database. And like someone else already mentioned, they will also charge extra when you Shepardize or KeyCite a case. Just remember to download and print.

The third way is a yearly flat fee. While you can perform unlimited research for the same charge, Westlaw and Lexis re-negotiate this flat fee every year depending on rising costs and usuage of the firm. For instance, if a firm doubles in size from 60 to 120 attorneys in one year (and some have done this), they are going to be performing a lot more searches and Westlaw and Lexis want a cut. Thus, the firm won't be able to pay the same rate that it paid in the previous year b/c Westlaw and Lexis will demand more. Similarly, if usuage drops, the firm has a better argument to reduce the flat fee. Bottomline: your usuage counts regardless of which billing system the firm uses. Sure if it's a flat fee, your three additional searches won't make a difference but 3 per day * 7 days per week * 50 weeks per year, makes a huge difference.

Where can I get more info on this?

sdlaw

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Re: how does westlaw work?
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2006, 10:51:27 AM »
There are info packets on cost effective research available at your legal research center, or from your westlaw and lexis reps.  They do not really point out the specific costs of research as those do change from firm to firm.  The real key to keeping costs down is to learn how to search using proper connectors and keeping the search limited to cases that are important (thus limiting districts and time).  The most important advise I can say is do not use natural language searches, they cost more and do not work as well. Also when doing document review for a firm, the programs use the same type of connection terms.