January 4, 2012
Piggybacking on Students' Free WEXIS Access by Practitioners: "No can do" says Utah State Bar
It's a widespread and fairly well-known practice that one "benefit" of hiring a law student as a law clerk is access to free WEXIS legal search. However, under Westlaw's "Educational Purposes" and Lexis "Academic Purposes" licensing agreement clauses with law schools that provide student user accounts, any law student working as a law clerk who is using his or her WEXIS academic account in the workplace is violating the terms of the WEXIS license. Frankly I've got no complaint with that. A license is a license is a license.
I don't know if this issue has been addressed before in the context of state rules of professional conduct but Utah recently did. "Requiring, encouraging or even tolerating the violation of the law student’s contractual obligation to refrain from using the services for profit is also conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation that also is a violation of Rule 8.4(c) of Utah Rules of Professional Conduct." Under Utah law, the state bar also noted that this is a theft of services.
In a nutshell, and quoting from the Utah State Bar's Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee's Opinion No. 11-03 (Issued Nov. 15, 2011):
1. ISSUE: Is it a violation of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct for an attorney to ask a law student to undertake research using the law student’s free account and in breach of the student’s contract with Lexis and/or Westlaw?
2. OPINION: A lawyer who encourages or participates in a law student’s violation of the student’s contractual obligation to the electronic research service violates the Rules of Professional Conduct.
For more, see Jim Levy's Utah opinion notes "numerous" law students report employment is conditioned upon criminal misuse of free Wexis access post on Legal Skills Prof Blog. [JH]
One of the first things I tell my summer associates and any other clerks is that they may under no circumstances use their school passwords for firm research. I tell tham it is stealing, period. I'm glad it's finally come up as an issue.
Posted by: Sarah Mauldin | Jan 4, 2012 12:29:36 PM