Successful Summer Strategies: Research in the Real World: Cost Effective Research
Why Be Cost Effective (Even With a Flat Fee Contract)?
In academia, students have the luxury of free LexisNexis, Bloomberg Law and Westlaw. In the practicing world, firm economics limit the resources available to clerks and associates. While most firms pay a flat fee for Lexis and Westlaw (amount paid by the firm does not increase with usage), cost effectiveness is still important because:
- A firm may purchase only part of Lexis or Westlaw, for example, Wyoming materials, and must pay extra for off-plan materials accessed.
- Firms may bill back to the client based upon the number of searches or number of documents retrieved.
- The usage rates for the database may impact what the vendor will charge for next year's contract.
Tips for Cost Effective Legal Research
- Make a research plan before plunging into primary sources and know how to vary your strategy if your first plan isn't fruitful.
- If you are unfamiliar with the area of law, begin with background reading in a secondary source. Write down key terms for index and electronic searching.
- If you are familiar with the area of law, start with any known citations to authority and use them as entry points by locating them, reading them, consulting useful annotations or cross-references, and Shepardizing or Keyciting them.
- Know when you can use the free Internet (as opposed to Lexis and Westlaw) for legal information. Know when it is more effective to search in print.
- Find out whether photocopying, interlibrary loan, and related services are billed to clients before using such services.
- Make sure you understand your employer's billing arrangement with Lexis, Westlaw and other legal databases. See this guide for more.
- If you are bogged down or confused about the path your research is taking, check in with your assigning attorney for clarification. It's better to ask than to spend hours on the wrong track.