I don’t know the best solution for computer legal research. I’ll tell you what I use and have learned over the years. Please post a comment if you have a better solution.
Since last summer I’ve used Fastcase. I pay $95 per month for state and federal law. I don’t have a contract. If I wanted to cancel for a month I could.
About the only difference I have noticed from Westlaw/Lexis is that Fastcase doesn’t use headnotes. I thought I would miss headnotes, but I don’t.
Fastcase is an integration partner with Clio case management software. This allows me to save Fastcase research into my Clio matter files. It’s a nice feature.
The best thing about Fastcase is their business practices. Unlike Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, Fastcase doesn’t have contracts.
My biggest problem with Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis is not the price ($200 per month-ish) or the contracts (1-3 years). My biggest problem is that both companies go out of their way to try to screw you on the back end.
Both Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis contracts have automatic renewals at increased monthly rates. If you are in a contract with one of these companies, you should cancel renewal now. If you enter into a contract in the future, you should cancel renewal the day you sign the contract. Do it in writing and get a confirmation from them–because you will hear from them again.
In late 2015 I signed a 1 year contract with Lexis. I cancelled renewal immediately and received a confirmation from my happy sales rep. (they clearly work on commission). The contract expired in early 2017. Lexis did not contact me trying to extend or lock down a new contract. Instead, they kept billing me even though I had stopped using the service.
I wrote the company and explained that I non-renewed at inception. Crickets for a few months other than the invoices, which continued.
Eventually a Lexis rep. started calling daily trying to collect. My sense is that he thought this was intimidating, which is a stupid thought when calling a lawyer who knows your game. He disappeared when I explained that I wasn’t under contract. But the invoices continued.
A few months later someone different emails me trying to collect all this money they say I owe Lexis. So I email back copies of my non-renewal email, the Lexis rep’s confirmation and my letter explaining the mistake. Crickets. Think they apologized? No. Think I’ve heard the last from them? Me either.
Westlaw does the same thing. Both companies would rather try to screw you on the back end of a contract than maintain business practices that generate customer loyalty. It would be like Wal Mart charging you $20 to get out of the parking lot. They’d make more money that day. Long term? Not so much.
A company like Fastcase is bad news for Westlaw and Lexis because to deal with them, is to dislike them. They have stupid business practices that are hard to understand.
Count yourself lucky if you are in a big firm or other job where you don’t have to deal with the administrative side of computer legal research. It’s a hassle.