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WestlawNext Update: $3,400/Hour Legal Research Has Arrived

We (and everybody else) have previously reported on the beginnings of the rollout of WestlawNext. Part of the marketing initiative was to conduct "roadshows," where the Thomson Reuters folks could get a bunch of lawyers and/or academic users in a room and demonstrate why their new product was the proverbial greatest thing since sliced bread.

The roadshows held earlier this month, as reported by Mark Giangrande at the Law Librarian Blog, began with an announcement that no questions about pricing would be entertained. However, in the past couple of weeks, some pricing information has come to light. And it's an eye-opener. Well, the kind of eye-opener that makes you want to close them real tight again and hope the whole thing was a dream.

This post by Greg Lambert at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog reveals that certain categories of documents -- specifically, "50 State Surveys" -- can cost $3,400 per hour to view online. No, you did not read that wrong. $3,400. Appellate briefs come in a close second at $3,300. Those numbers, of course, don't appear in the pricing document that Lambert links to, which uses the much more reasonable sounding figures of $56.67 and $55 per minute.

Once the $3,400 figure hit the blawgs, there was some righteous indignation, not just about the astronomical figure, but about the continuation of the "used car sales" negotiating tactics employed by TR, a detailed example of which was posted by Lisa Solomon. Last week, Lambert got his hands on another document discussing pricing, this one a "simple chart to answer all your questions" (sarcasm in original), one page of which is shown below:


According to Joe Hodnicki, also of the Law Librarian Blog, the chart, blown up, would make "an excellent posterboard display for a project on collective psychopathy," in light of its 24 scenarios with footnoted caveats, in an atmosphere of overwhelming expressions of preference for fixed-price plans.

The $3,400/hour number is arguably hyperbole. Any well-instructed user who understands the concept of the hourly pricing model should know better than to leisurely browse a document online looking for the relevant passage. It's click-print-back to results list, lickety split, right?

Except if you're on some sort of hybrid plan where certain databases or functions are hourly and others are transaction-based, which I know existed back in my day. Then, all bets are off. Give the chart to your first-year associates and let them figure it out. By the time they get out their abacuses and calculate the most cost-efficient route to that Illinois Appellate Court brief, it'll likely be after 8:30, and they can order in some dinner.

Posted by Eric Lipman on March 31, 2010 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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