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Starting a Law Practice

Selecting an Electronic Research Service

  • Consider the scope of coverage of the service.  Do you need historical coverage?  Do you need multiple jurisdictions?  Will just one state and current content be enough for you to start out in practice?
  • Consider the cost of the service.  Are they quoting you monthly rates, annual rates, or transactional rates?  Most vendors are moving towards rate plans but sometimes they are based on your use of the database from the previous year.  If you use the database a lot the first year, the rates may increase substantially the next time you negotiate the contract.
  • Consider using free online resources. See Federal Law and Ohio Law Library Guides for free government resources.
  • Look for special offers for bar association members.
  • Look for special offers for new attorneys just starting out. Westlaw and Lexis both offer great rates for new attorneys!
  • Don't depend on the vendor's website.  Call the company's customer service number and ask for special discounts for new attorneys.  Some offer lower prices initially and then slowly raise the price year-by-year.  These special offers are not listed on their website.
  • Consider what type of legal practice you plan on doing and then choose a legal vendor that matches your needs.
  • See this Legal Research Databases Library Guide for a description of the major legal research databases- Lexis, Westlaw, Fastcase, Decisis and Bloomberg Law
  • Local law school libraries have many databases available to walk-in patrons.  
  • County law libraries are available to attorneys and may have legal databases you can use.

Web Resources

Recovering the cost of legal research

How will you recover the cost of conducting legal research?  You must make this decision for yourself.  Here are some options:

  • Charge your clients. Cost incorporated into hourly rate.
  • Only charge your clients for materials accessed outside of the research vendor's flat rate plan.
  • Cost incorporated into negotiated client rate.  Sometimes a client wants to negotiate their bill and this may include research costs.  To keep the client you may have to be flexible on this point.
  • Bill clients at discounted cost.  Especially when you are first starting out and you have to do extensive research to develop knowledge in your profession.
  • Don't bill clients for online legal research.  Treat it as overhead.