Legal information services: free versus paid

When you are looking for legal information, you want to get a strong return on your investment. In difficult times, you want to reduce costs, but you don’t want to sacrifice quality for the bottom line. It is important to get the information you need, but at a cost that makes the most sense for your business and your clients.

Weighing the benefits of paid legal information services against the cost is important for every lawyer’s practice. But what makes for a strong legal information supplier? What is the return you can expect? How do you justify the cost when you need to ensure that ends meet?

What are legal information services?

Legal information services encompass a wide range of services provided by companies, law firms, courts, or government. It can refer to the services you provide as a lawyer or information from courts. Most commonly, however, it refers to databases of case law, legislation, regulations, legal documents, and secondary sources.

There are a wide variety of service suppliers available, and the costs vary widely. It is important to review all of your options to determine the best solution for your business.

The risks of free information services

There is only one consistent benefit to free legal information: the lack of a cost. That benefit, however, can be far outweighed by the potential risk to your clients and your business—and end up costing you dearly.

Many suppliers of free legal information lack the resources to ensure information is up to date. They also lack to depth and breadth of information, which means that you may need to waste time using several free services to get all of the information you need.

When reviewing free suppliers of legal information, take a close look at where they get their information; how frequently it is updated; and, who is updating the material. You want to ensure that the information you are using is accurate, so you do not put your clients or your practice at risk.

The benefits of paid legal information services

Whilst every paid supplier has unique features and benefits, there are some key benefits you should look for and expect. These include:

  • Faster research: Not all search engines are created equal. Free services often have difficult-to-use search functionality. Paid suppliers have the resources to invest in a quality search experience that can help you find information quickly. This can save you time doing research.
  • Reliable information: When choosing a supplier, look to see when information was updated and if they can show you changes in the law over time. You want to be confident that the information you have is accurate and updated regularly. Free services often don’t have the funding to ensure all information is up to date.
  • Expert insights: In addition to the text of statutes, regulations, and cases, a paid supplier will often give you case summaries and notes to aid in your research.

When weighing the pros and cons of various legal information services, think about what the cost will mean for your business. The features and benefits of a paid supplier can far outweigh the benefit of no-cost alternatives.

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