When it comes to legal research, small law firms are at a disadvantage.
If you’re a solo or small firm practitioner—and you’re not living under a rock—you’re aware of the hefty expense of legal research services, as well as the two entrenched providers that dominate the market: LexisNexis and Westlaw.
The cost of legal research has long skewed the legal playing field, creating a disadvantage for practitioners who represent clients of more modest means—small businesses, nonprofits, and regular folks.
Legal research providers like LexisNexis and Westlaw have gone to great lengths to overcharge customers. They keep pricing hidden behind a sales negotiation and NDAs. This is true for the largest firms all the way down to solo practices.
What do legal research services like LexisNexis and Westlaw really cost?
Since Casetext is a new legal research company challenging the old guard, we’ve thoroughly investigated the question of how much legal research actually costs.
Pricing with traditional providers vary dramatically, even when the subscription coverage is the same: as low as $1,200/year per attorney to as high as $14,000/year per attorney — for the same plan.
Plus, the same document can have one cost if it’s “in plan” and a totally different cost if it’s “out of plan.” We’ve all heard horror stories of attorneys who accidentally click on something out-of-plan, only to discover their mistake when an extra $1,500 appears on their bill.
Think a free case law database or free legal advice is a dream? Think again.
Modern technologies have made way for new, more affordable access to legal research, including artificial intelligence case law and AI legal research. New entrants providing innovative solutions are shifting market dynamics with significantly reduced fees, and open and transparent pricing.
Not only are up-and-coming legal research providers offering near no-cost options for small law firms and solo practitioners, they’re pushing traditional providers like LexisNexis and Westlaw to open up their own pricing rates and terms.
The marketplace for legal research is changing, and anyone practicing law today stands to gain from a little comparison shopping.
Not free legal advice, or a free case law database, but darn near close.
Whether you push your current provider for better rates, or switch to one of the new, more affordable legal research options—like Casetext, Fastcase, and Casemaker—here are a few suggestions for small law firms and solo practitioners looking to save:
- Negotiate! (You are a lawyer, after all ) Do your research and make sure you know which alternatives are out there, so that you can credibly tell your provider that you’ll go with another service if they aren’t willing to give you a good price.
- Don’t pay for things you don’t need — but be careful where you click. Find out if you can get a better deal by unbundling a subscription; for example, get your case law from one platform, and a specific treatise you rely on from another. Two things to watch out for, though:
- Out-of-plan charges if you do click on something that’s not part of your subscription (accidentally or intentionally).
- Unexpected handicaps. If opposing counsel—and the judge—has access to 50 state case law and statutes, do you want to be the only one in the courtroom who doesn’t? Make sure you’ve got the legal database coverage you need.
- Ditch your current provider. There are more options for legal research out there now than there were when you were in law school. A quick Google search will probably turn up something that’s cheaper, easier to use, and offers new technology that could give you an edge if your opposing counsel is using legacy tools.
Affordable Legal Research for Solo Practitioners and Small Law Firms
Small law firms and solo practitioners would do well to investigate their options for affordable legal research. Thanks to disruptive technology like artificial intelligence case law and AI legal research, legal research newcomers like Casetext, Fastcase, and Casemaker are offering affordability and accessibility previously unheard of in the marketplace.
If you need help figuring out which legal research platform is the best fit for your firm, check out the Modern Lawyer’s Guide to Legal Research Tools for an overview of the options, including pricing and features for each platform.
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