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Westlaw Question

My firm has a subscription to Westlaw that includes all 50 s williamcooper09/25/18
A lot of that is going to have more to do with your firm's p onehell09/25/18
I think Westlaw charges on either a per transaction or per t lolwutjobs09/25/18
Depends dude. My firm makes you put in the client code befor isthisit09/25/18
Westlaw has lots of different pricing models. Some are unli jd4hire09/26/18
What jd4hire said. Assuming you have legitimate access, W superttthero09/26/18
williamcooper (Sep 25, 2018 - 6:30 pm)

My firm has a subscription to Westlaw that includes all 50 states, federal, secondary sources, etc. A friend has asked a legal question and I was going to look up something for him. Is there a problem using WL?

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onehell (Sep 25, 2018 - 6:49 pm)

A lot of that is going to have more to do with your firm's policies than West's. West cares if you are, for example, sharing your password with some solo who should be buying his own account. If you're just doing research to come up with answers to questions, that is what the service is for in the first place. So West won't care if the person you're answering questions for isn't a client unless you're sharing your password or sending them reams of copyrighted westlaw material on a regular basis so the third party can avoid buying an account. Your firm, however, may or may not care.

You know that box you have at sign-in where you put in a client identifier? That enables the firm to allocate its research costs among clients and also could serve as an investigative tool if you were ever accused of padding hours. If they need to, the account administrator at your firm can see every search by every user and which client ID you had typed in for each log in during which such searches were run. The big question is whether they use that feature regularly, or just when people go outside the subscription.

Whether and to what extent your firm tracks that or uses that feature depends on the firm. Some probably don't care what you do as long as you stay within the subscription. Others may want to be rigid about ensuring that the research service, which they pay a lot of money for, is only used when there is a client they can tie it back to, even if any particular search does not result in extra cost.

You can probably tell from your own day-to-day. Do they instruct people to enter the right client ID, and to change the client ID every time you switch gears and are researching a different matter? If yes, it's a reasonably good bet that weird searches would be noticed and frowned upon. If not, it's a good bet that as long as you stay within the subscription they don't care.

But of course, be careful not to establish an attorney/client relationship with your friend. If you stray from giving him general information and into the realm of specifically telling him what he should or shouldn't do, you've just taken on a client outside official channels. That is probably frowned upon anywhere.

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lolwutjobs (Sep 25, 2018 - 8:14 pm)

I think Westlaw charges on either a per transaction or per time basis. If so, it matters

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isthisit (Sep 25, 2018 - 8:24 pm)

Depends dude. My firm makes you put in the client code before looking stuff up.

You get individual client numbers so you can look things up for yourself but I imagine that gets reviewed.

So the question is can you do it without it costing you with your employer?

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jd4hire (Sep 26, 2018 - 8:08 am)

Westlaw has lots of different pricing models. Some are unlimited search based on the sources you chose. That's all I've ever had. The only time I incur a charge above and beyond the monthly costs are when I try and access a document outside of the firm's plan.

You should feel comfortable enough to speak to your office manager or a partner or associate in your office to just ask "hey I wanted to research a non-work legal issue - is that a problem?"

They likely will want to make clear that you wade into risky areas by researching and giving legal advice informally and to someone who is not your client.

Ove the past 7 years, I have done this a lot and have never had issues. My westlaw accepts client codes, but that is used for my convenience to look at research history as opposed to billing expenses.

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superttthero (Sep 26, 2018 - 9:47 am)

What jd4hire said.

Assuming you have legitimate access, West won't care about you doing legal research for a client* (i.e. legal advice to someone that is coming to you for it--whether it's paid or not). They have either been paid by a subscription to certain sources which gives you unlimited searches or will be paid hourly/transaction for your searches.

I doubt your firm cares one iota if it doesn't cost them a penny. They will care if it costs money--even if you reimburse them, they may not like it.

Really, it depends on the size of your firm and your relationship with whoever is paying the bill.

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