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Successful Summer Strategies: Research in the Real World: All About Pricing

Research in the Real World Starts Here. Use this guide to orient yourself to the world and research environment.

Westlaw and Lexis Advance Pricing

There are a variety of pricing plans for law firms.  A common plan would be a flat rate plan in which firms pay a flat rate for whatever content package they purchase.  For example, a firm may purchase a Wyoming-only package, and material from other states is outside the firm's plan.  The firm has unlimited use of materials in the plan during the duration of the contract, without additional charge.

If an attorney gets a search result which is outside of the plan, the system will generate a warning that the document is outside their plan.  If the attorney decides to access that document, charges are assessed for that out-of-plan document.  Some of these out-of-plan documents may be accessed on the Internet for free, or from a lower cost database.

Note that a document delivery charge for downloading/printing may apply in addition to the cost of viewing the document.  Providers give the option of hourly (charged by the amount of time you are on the document) or transactional (charged per document fee). 

Pricing Terminology

Flat rate – Firms usually have a fixed rate contract negotiated with the vendor depending on firm past or predicted use.  Some of the databases may be outside the contract and incur additional fees for access.

Transactional – You incur a charge for each search.  The price per search depends on the file you select – the larger the file, the higher the fee.

Hourly – The hourly fee for searching each file depends on its size and complexity. Start with the smallest file you need, print off a cite list, and view your results offline.

There may be an additional document delivery cost (printing/downloading/email).  You can choose per document or per line billing.

Cost Recovery: What the firm charges to a client.  Not all firms bill research costs to clients.  Some firms include research costs as part of overhead, or only pass along the out-of-plan costs.

Cost Recovery vs. Actual Cost to the Firm - Even if a firm has a flat rate plan, the firm may still bill clients per transaction or hourly. Ask how clients are billed so you can keep the costs down.