WestlawNext and the Cost of Online Research
December 06, 2010 at 5:00 PM
Starting in January, all law students will be able to access WestlawNext, the next generation of Westlaw searching. Basically, it has an improved natural-language search combined with an improved and simplified interface. (Terms and Connectors searching will still be available.) Law students can access WestlawNext for "free," but how much will it cost in the real world of law practice?
Much more than the current version of Westlaw. WestlawNext is the next generation of Westlaw pricing. Here's an excerpt of information from WestlawNext's Pricing Guide for Commercial Plans:
|Content Category||Content Examples||Per Minute
|Cases||state and federal cases||$13.33||$13.00||$16.50||$0.05|
|Statutes and Court Rules - State||state statutory compilations||$18.33||$16.00||$16.50||$0.05|
|Statutes and Court Rules - Federal||U.S.C.A.||$20.00||$25.00||$16.50||$0.05|
|Briefs||appellate court briefs||$55.00||$85.00||$30.25||$0.05|
|Secondary Sources - Journals and Law Reviews, Practice Guides, and Jury Instructions||[self-explanatory]||$33.33||$30.00||$16.50||$0.05|
|Secondary Sources - Premium National Titles||A.L.R., C.J.S., American Jurisprucence 2d||$38.33||$42.00||$16.50||$0.05|
|Secondary Sources - Surveys||50-state surveys||$56.67||$250.00||$30.25||$0.05|
Please go to the post at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog to see more pricing details. Keep in mind that this is a pricing guide--actual prices will depend on the contract negotiated between Westlaw and each law office or firm. That said, the illustrative prices here offer an eye-popping look at how much online searching can potentially cost in the "real world."
In the real world of law practice, Westlaw and Lexis will charge you for printing (unlike the "free" printing they give you in law school). Printing is charged either per document or per line. WestlawNext also charges you to KeyCite a case--either $7.00 per case or $10.00 per minute depending on your billing plan.
WestlawNext, unlike the current version of Westlaw, has "free" searching but charges you to look at results. If you have "Transactional" billing, you get charged for each document you view (a reversal of the current Westlaw, where the Transactional charge is per search but each document viewed is free). If you have "Per Minute" billing, you get charged for every minute you look at a document in a search results list (there is also a separate $10/minute charge to browse the results list). Don't forget that you need to multiply the per minute charge by 60 to get the hourly rate!
If you want to look at cases on WestlawNext, the hourly rate works out to almost $800 per hour. The hourly rate for statutes works out to $1200 per hour. And the hourly rate for 50-state surveys is $3400 per hour!!!
(If you think this is expensive, you're right! There's a reason why the Thomson family, which owns Westlaw's parent company ThomsonReuters, is the richest family in Canada. Their net worth is $23 billion!!!)
We encourage all students to develop their electronic research skills so they can become effective and efficient searchers. Also, don't forget that print legal research sources can be more convenient to use than electronic sources; you also don't have to keep paying for print sources each time you use them after you purchase them.