Finals are winding down and you’re probably ready for a break. So, bookmark this page and come back to it when you’re ready – but while I’m thinking about it I want to pass on some information about cost-effective research on Westlaw and Lexis. Summer externships or jobs are when students really begin to learn about the costs associated with legal research. I tell my students that cost is always a consideration when doing legal research – especially in today’s economy – but students see it first hand during the summer. I’ve blogged before about free and low-cost legal research alternatives, but today I want to talk about the big boys, Westlaw and Lexis.

Hopefully, you were able to attend some of the cost-effective or prepare to practice trainings that the two companies put on. They are usually very helpful. In case you couldn’t attend or want more information, here are some handouts – How to Research Cost-Effectively with LexisNexis and Westlaw’s Cost-Effective Research Tips. I would suggest becoming very familiar with these tips.

When you arrive at your job this summer, make sure you find out how the firm is charged for their Westlaw/Lexis subscription and in turn how the firm charges its clients. Many firms have flat-fee contracts with Westlaw/Lexis, but this doesn’t mean you can use your ID the same way you do in Law School. Flat-fee contracts are usually limited in what they can access and most firms pass on their legal resarch costs to their clients. So, while your firm may have a flat-fee contract it may bill its clients based on a transactional basis, which means you’ll want to be as cost-effective as possible.

Also, be aware of what your law firm has in print, especially if they have treatises. Consulting a treatise or other secondary source can really help you understand the area of law you have to research. Having a good understanding of the issue before you jump on Westlaw or Lexis will help you save time and money.

I believe that the ability to be a successful and cost-effective legal researcher is a great asset in this economy. If you have any questions, let me know or stop by the reference desk.