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Thomson Reuters

The real cost of ‘free’ legal research

When considering any new tech solution, law firm leaders want to know what the business case for that investment is. Of course, it’s vital to have a clear understanding of the benefits of implementing a particular solution – but it’s just as important to appreciate the pitfalls of not doing so. When it comes to legal research, it would be all too easy to dismiss the need to invest in specialist tools.  

If your lawyers need to find out anything specific, they have unlimited amounts of resources available to them for free via the internet. But how reliable are these resources? Below are some of the “costs” associated with using free legal research. 

Time is money 

The reality is that, as is so often the case with ‘free’ things, there’s a cost attached to conducting a firm’s legal research on this basis – and it can be a heavy one. For a start, there’s all the time and effort involved in conducting searches manually, trawling back through filing systems (paper or digital) or scanning the vast landscape of the world wide web. Whether this is done by a lawyer, a paralegal or another member of staff, it’s a very labour-intensive process, diverting that person away from other work. When time is money, that time could be better spent elsewhere.  

But, by using a reliable legal know-how tool such as Practical Law, you will gain access to time-saving templates and practical guidance from experts to help you get it right, quicker. 

Mistakes can be costly 

Then there’s the risk of something getting missed or the chance that the information will be outdated or inaccurate in some way. Searching through disparate sources will not provide a comprehensive overview all in one place; instead, it will give you piecemeal results that then need to be evaluated on an individual basis to decide if they are reliable.  

Even once this is done, there’s no guarantee that you’ve found everything you need. If your research has got holes in it, how can you construct a watertight case or plan of action for your clients? Your findings could determine the course a matter takes, such as how to structure a transaction or whether to litigate or settle out of court. 

Even worse, what if you get something wrong? Lawyers need confidence in the information on which they are relying. Any mistakes could cost your clients (and therefore your firm) dearly, harming client relationships, potentially leading to lost work and even exposing the firm to legal liability.  

When conducting your legal research, an advanced and up-to-date legal research tool will give you confidence that you’ve found what you need. For example, by using Case Analytics on Westlaw Edge UK, you can spend less time compiling your case research and focus only on the cases that matter, with confidence that you have exhausted your research. 

A lost advantage 

Moreover, failing to invest in sophisticated research and intelligence tools could put you at a competitive disadvantage. According to the latest State of the UK Legal Market report, legal research and practical know-how tools are the second and third most used technology solutions by UK legal buyers (after e-signature solutions), with 71% of law departments using the former and 56% the latter. If clients themselves and rival firms are using innovative solutions, how will you keep up if you’re not doing so? You may lose out on an advantage if your competitors’ legal research is more efficient and effective than yours, helping them to deliver excellent value to clients, quicker.  

And if you find them on the other side of a case in court, having superior intel at their fingertips could be the difference between winning and losing. Can you afford to take that chance? 

Again, you might argue that your lawyers are the best in the business, with the know-how and experience to hold their own against anyone. But if your firm does not invest in the most modern technologies, how will it continue to attract and retain top talent? As ‘digital native’ Millennials move up the ranks and Generation Z enter the legal profession, they will expect the firms they work for to be using best-in-class tech tools. For them, this is simply par for the course. If you don’t, it could be a dealbreaker, and they’ll choose to work somewhere else. 

Weigh up the costs versus benefits 

Few things in life are truly free and that’s as true of legal research as anything else. Rather than draining your lawyer’s time and energy unnecessarily, wouldn’t it be better to put a rocket under their expertise? Investing in best-in-class research tools will give them all the information and insight they need, quickly and easily, with minimum fuss and maximum confidence. 

Investigating the pros and cons and conducting a cost/benefit analysis is a key part of any investment decision, and in this case, it certainly pays to do your homework about research tools. 

Discover more about how Practical Law and Westlaw Edge UK can deliver comprehensive and unrivalled research and know-how to your lawyers, enabling them to do their best work faster than ever before. 

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