February 7, 2006
Law Firm Survey: Federal Reporter and Federal Supplement Retention and Retrieval Practices
More and more law firms are facing space issues and budget constraints. This year our firm discussed the reduction or elimination of our Federal Reporter and Federal Supplement series as one possible option to address this issue. We are all aware of the amount of space these sets consume and their annual expense. To make an informed decision, we decided to conduct a quick survey of other firms and see how they are addressing this situation. The survey I sent consisted of four questions that focused on the retention of hard copy reporters, how the costs for retrieval of decisions via WEXIS are handled (overhead or client charged) and if use of “free” resources are encouraged. I also asked for comments.
Forty-two firm librarians responded. The majority provided insight as how their firms are dealing with this situation. Fourteen respondents have gone completely electronic. Eighteen have retained partial sets and ten continue to maintain full sets. An overall lack of space was the predominant response from those who have moved to partial sets or have gone completely electronic. A few firms commented that there was some initial resistance from older attorneys regarding the elimination of the hard copy. Several responses included comments indicating that few attorneys use the hard copy reporters.
The next set of questions revolved around cost recovery. Those who retained full sets rarely used WEXIS to obtain copies of decisions found within these reporters. Those who did, indicate that it was often when books were off the shelf and then those retrieval costs were charged directly to the client if appropriate. The majority of the firms that have retained partial sets, charge the client when using WEXIS to retrieve decisions. The complete opposite is true for those who have gone completely electronic. Most consider WEXIS retrieval costs as overhead. Many commented that due to flat rate contracts using WEXIS was a logic option. There were statements indicating that the cost of obtaining a case via WEXIS was less expensive than manually copying it. Obtain a case instantaneously for $6 -$10 versus the time/cost it takes to stand at a copier.
The relationship between hard copy retention and charging for copying is quite eye opening. Clearly, the majority of the firms who have gone electronic view the use of WEXIS as overhead. Few firms expounded on this decision, but it appears to be due to flat fee agreements, cost savings due to no hard copies, etc.
The final question of the survey pertained to using “free” sources when obtaining decisions. “Free” was correctly interpreted to mean a variety of sources ranging from court websites, to annual subscription type services, to PACER. A small percentage indicated that they encouraged the use of these types of sources. There was an even distribution of responses between relying on WEXIS for retrieval due to editorial enhancements and choosing a source based on attorney preference. Many firms indicated that they relied on “free” sources for current awareness, preliminary research or single case retrieval.
The survey provoked a variety of thoughts regarding the future of Federal Reporter and Federal Supplement retention. Space limitation was the primary reason for canceling the hard copy. The data collected will assist our law firm in making an educated decision regarding the future of our reporters. I hope this information will help your firm if you are facing the same situation. The overall statistics of the survey follow this summary. Please contact me if you have any further questions regarding the information provided.
Beverly G. Butula, Davis & Kuelthau, email@example.com
|Has your firm retained full sets of the Federal Reporter (2nd, 3d) and Federal Supps?|
|If you have gone to partial retention, when obtaining a copy not available in hardcopy...|
|Several people who have full sets, responded here if they needed to go online for an electronic copy.|
|If you have gone completely electronic, when obtaining a copy of a case|
|Do you try to obtain the cases via "free" sources|
|Encourage Free Sources||6||16%|
|Depends on Preference||16||42%|
|Use WEXIS Headnotes||16||42%|
|Those who had full sets often did not answer this question, as not necessarily relevant|
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