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April 27, 2010
"It has come to our attention that we are charging off considerable Westlaw costs due to Westlaw searches that can be run more efficiently..."
Greg Lambert reports about a BigLaw memo sent out to all associates mandating any associate that "utilizes or intends to utilize Westlaw" to attend a training session to learn the firm's "Best Practices" at Inefficient Westlaw Searches Causes One National Firm to Hold Mandatory Training for Associates. Unfortunately the firm's "Best Practices" are not identified but most law librarians have a very good idea. Greg writes
I'm actually glad to see that a firm has stepped up and created a "Best Practices" manual for using resources like Westlaw, and is using the professional staff in the library to do the training (rather than having the Westlaw rep come in and do it for them.)
Training is "supposed" to be an ongoing event for the firm, especially on a product like Westlaw that can be one of the biggest expenses for the firm. But, let's be honest... how many associates attend the weekly or monthly training sessions held in the library? Probably very few. What firms are left with then are self-taught associates that probably do not understand the difference between an in-contract search versus an out-of-contract search... or how cost recovery even works.
The need to attend training sessions could be reinforced by billing partners' phone calls to associates who just racked up huge Westlaw (and Lexis) search charges that had to be written off.
You Don't Want to be Called into the Billing Partner's Office Because of This Online Legal Search Session. Cost-efficient legal search instruction needs to start in law school. See Patrick Meyer's Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys, 101 Law Library Journal 297 (2009) [reported on LLB here]. Meyer's article reports on the findings of his 2007 survey of law firm librarians which identifies the most important law firm research tasks and the proper format or formats in which those tasks should be performed so that advanced legal research courses could be designed to prepare new law firm attorneys. Unfortunately it is almost utterly impossible for legal research instructors in the legal academy to demonstrate the actual cost of WEXIS searches to students but they certainly can provide detailed instruction about potential costs in the real world.
Some local law firm librarians can provide redacted copies of pricing schedules for lectures on WEXIS licensing practices and may even be willing, eager in fact, to present a guest lecture on WEXIS costs and client push-back on billing WEXIS search charges. More than a few law firm librarian guest lecturers probably have horrors stories to tell they can illustrate in Powerpoint presentations. No doubt some guest lecturers can start their presentation off by saying "you don't want to be called into the billing partner's office because of the cost of this online legal search session." [JH]