Legal research providers have gone to great lengths to be able to overcharge their customers. They keep pricing hidden behind a sales negotiation and NDAs with their customers. This is true for the largest firms all the way down to solo practices.

The dirty secret they’re trying to hide from you: You’re probably overpaying for legal research.

What does legal research actually cost?

Since Casetext is a new legal research company challenging the old guard, we’ve investigated the question of how much legal research costs deeply.

What we found using public data and word-of-mouth (basically, people complaining publicly about the costs of legal research) was stunning. Legal research costs from the traditional providers vary dramatically, even when the subscription coverage is the same: as low as $1,200/year per attorney to as high as $14,000/year per attorney — for the same plan. (The average, as far as we can tell, is around $3,600/year per attorney.)

Pricing can even vary by 3x for the same customer. Some attorneys get their first year of service for $600, but get locked into contracts that require $2,000/year for the two years after that.

Plus, the same document can have one cost if it’s “in plan” and a totally different cost if it’s “out of plan” — we’ve all heard the horror stories of the attorneys who accidentally click on something out-of-plan, and only discover their mistake when an extra $1,500 appears on their bill.

What can you do about it?

  1. Negotiate! (You are a lawyer, after all 😉) Do your research and make sure you know which alternatives are out there, so that you can credibly tell your provider that you’ll go with another service if they aren’t willing to give you a good price.
  2. Don’t pay for things you don’t need — but be careful where you click. Find out if you can get a better deal by unbundling a subscription; for example, get your case law from one platform, and a specific treatise you rely on from another. Two things to watch out for, though:
    1. Out of plan charges if you do click on something that’s not part of your subscription (accidentally or intentionally).
    2. Unexpected handicaps. If opposing counsel might have access to 50 state case law and statutes, and the judge definitely has access to 50 state case law and statutes, do you want to be the only one in the courtroom who doesn’t? What happens if opposing counsel finds persuasive authority from another jurisdiction?
  3. Ditch your current provider. There are more options for legal research out there now than there were when you were in law school. Check out what’s out there and see if you can find something that offers the content you need at a better price. You might even find something that’s easier to use or offers new technology that could improve your research quality and give you an edge if your opposing counsel is using legacy tools.

Want some help figuring out which legal research platform is the best fit for your firm? Check out the Modern Lawyer’s Guide to Legal Research Tools for an overview of the options, including pricing and features for each platform.

Author

Jake Heller is the Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer at Casetext. Before starting Casetext, Jake practiced as a litigation associate at a big law firm, clerked for a judge, and worked as a government attorney.

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