November 16, 2008 at 8:51 pm | Posted in law school, the firm | 1 Comment
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For those few readers who, fortunately for them, are not lawyers, here is some background:  Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw the two legal research services out there.  It’s hard to overstate how much you use them (and it’s difficult to comprehend the time when they weren’t on line — you had to go to the library and look up cases or subjects in an index and then cross-reference them in huge binders. Actually, I’m not even really sure what you had to do since, fortunately, I was in the law school section with the legal research professor who eschewed teaching us the “old-fashioned” way, as some professors still did. On a side note: my father always swore that it was his idea to put Lexis online but that he just never knew how to get it done. That would have been nice for us, no?)

Anyway, in law school, access to both of these services is free.  You can search as much as you want for as long as you want. In addition, each service has representatives at every law school in the country, who set up tables almost daily in the lunch room or the student center, passing out water bottles, highlighters, and candy, or who lure you to free “training sessions” replete with pizza or Thai food. And when you’re a poor law student you tend to hit a lot of those trainings…

And now, as I sit here conducting a search which is getting me nowhere — so I know I need to both redefine my search terms and Shepardize anything I find (a little trick by which you look up cases that have themselves cited to the case you’re looking at) — I realize that Lexis and Westlaw are crack. They’re doled out for free in law school, along with all sorts of other fun gifts, in order to attract your loyalty to one brand or another (I’m a Lexis girl. In part because it’s Lexis-Nexis — Nexis is the journalistic equivalent of Lexis, to which every reporter becomes addicted, so I was indoctrinated a long time ago…). So then you’re hooked, and you search and search, and you get used to the high of always finding exactly what you’re looking for because you can go back and hone your search terms, and hit that “Shepardize” button. And then you get to your firm and learn that every search costs like $225 and every time you Shepardize it’s like another $85. So you sit at your keyboard, almost physically shaking from the withdrawal as you waiver: “Do I just do the search? Will the client get mad? I need that search! I NEED it!” And then you feel slightly guilty, but oh, so satisfied when you find your case…


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  1. Every search costs $225???? Man, and I thought they screwed the journalism side… (yes, my former employer refused to pay the $10,000 a year or whatever to get the whole newsroom access).

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