REVIEW: It’s All About the Money: Rethinking the Way We Teach Cost Effective Legal Research

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Presenters: Kathleen Darvil, Coordinator, Brooklyn Law School Library; Sara Kasai Gras, Mediator, Brooklyn Law School Library;  Caren Biberman, Speaker, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP; Mark A. Gediman, Speaker,  Best Best & Kriger LLP; Connie Smith, Speaker, Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Cheryl Lynn Niemeier, Speaker, Bose, McKinney & Evans LLP.

Four words: Mo Money, Mo Problems. Though the Notorious B.I.G. didn’t appear as a hologram to share these sage words of advice to attendees, I couldn’t help but feel this should be this program’s anthem as I listened to Ms. Gras moderate the discourse by Ms. Biberman, Mr. Gediman, Ms. Smith and Ms. Niemeier. The takeaway from this presentation was research must be conducted efficiently in a law firm environment. This means knowing the costs of conducting your research versus the speed and comprehension needed. The major concern of all the presenters was that newer associates may learn cost effective research techniques in law school but they do not have the proper grasp of the recovery of research costs. In 2011, Lexis conducted a cost recovery survey that showed only 37% of those polled incorporate cost-recovery in their research classes.

Each presenter shared their law firm library’s role in cost recovery as well as teaching cost effective and cost recovery consciousness researchers. This was more of a show-and-tell type presentation then what I had originally expected. Sometimes it was unclear if the presenters discussed their practices with each other before sharing them with us. Though useful to learn of others’ methodology and the level of success each firm may have experienced with teaching their own associates, as an academic law librarian, I felt the directives on how to teach such topics weren’t as strong. Rather we learned of general descriptions or methodology each law librarian may use to train their associates. Some had Westlaw and Lexis reps practically on-call to give trainings, often with incentives for associates to attend. Others shared tips to their attorneys to help them improve their research or required meetings with new hires. However, it was interesting to learn of the individual pricing plans and law firm practices.

This program gave me many concrete examples to utilize for my own class instruction purposes as each librarian presented very different cost recovery models. Ms. Biberman’s firm charges clients only for Westlaw and Lexis, which includes the exact cost as well as vendor discounts. On the other hand, Mr. Gediman’s firm has its own undisclosed formula to create a flat per search fee which results in predictable costs. Ms. Smith’s firm has an hourly rate based on the firm’s usage history while Ms. Niemeier’s firm was not at all concerned with cost recovery but focuses on utilizing an attorney’s time efficiently.

Another take-away from this program was the shared concern of the librarians over the current Google age and how law firms can reach out to students before they begin practicing. By Google age, I mean students have this “just Google it” mentality that translates into their research practices as new attorneys. According to the presenters, law schools should emphasize the research process, offer a multitude of courses, and stress precision for researching to help curb this Google mindset. As to students and law firm interactions, the presenters encouraged law schools to collaborate with firms by inviting a panel of local law firm librarians to your school or inviting law firm librarians to your classroom. Basically, the sooner our students begin to understand the value of the research dollar and how that translates to both their employer and their client, the better it will be for everyone involved and law firm librarians are willing to help us make that happen! 

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