Friday, February 13, 2009

Cutting Research Costs

Earlier this week, law firm Locke Lord Liddell & Bissell announced a new cost-cutting policy in its fourteen offices: associates are now required to begin their non-billable research with Loislaw, a lower-cost and lesser-known alternative to LexisNexis and Westlaw. (See the office memorandum at Above The Law.)

Although current U.S. law students enjoy free access to LexisNexis and Westlaw, these comprehensive research services do carry a hefty price tag in legal practice. So in this economy, should we expect other law firms to follow Locke Lord’s example? And if so, what can Duke Law students do now to prepare to conduct quality legal research in a cost-conscious environment?

1. Practice cost-effective use of LexisNexis and Westlaw. Both Westlaw and LexisNexis offer tutorials to help you become familiar with their contents and functions; these can help you avoid wasting precious time on basic navigation and searching. LexisNexis even offers a tutorial specifically for “Cost-Effective Research”! In addition, our Lexis and Westlaw campus representatives present trainings in the spring which are intended to help students transition into legal practice.

2. Get to know free and low-cost alternatives in legal research. Did you know that Duke Law students, faculty and staff are actually eligible for free access to Loislaw? (See the Reference Desk for the password…especially if you plan to work at Locke Lord!) Have you tested CasemakerX, a student-oriented version of a legal research service which is used by firms in nearly 30 states? For details, check out our list of Low-Cost Alternatives in the library’s research guide to Legal Research on the Web.

3. Never be afraid to seek help. The Reference Services staff are available to help with devising search strategies in a wide variety of resources. If you find yourself stumped by a research question, don’t hesitate to Ask a Librarian.