The attached insert was featured in the December 2008 issue of GPSolo.
The attached article was featured in the October/November 2008 issue of GPSolo. Joan Burda outlines the results of the membership survey conducted in April 2008 and a few other considerations.
Keith McLennan, GP|Solo Past Chair
Terese Thilgen, West, a Thomson Reuters Business
The ABA GP|Solo Division surveyed the membership to learn more about the current practices and challenges for billing clients online legal research costs. We learned members want to recover legal research costs, but did not know how to manage charges back to clients for online legal research in a “reasonable and fair” way. Learn the tools and resources to begin or improve your cost recovery practice in compliance with your state’s guidelines.
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The Cost Recovery: 50 State Survey collects and delineates which states have statutes, regulations, cases, ethics/ bar opinions, trial court orders, and attorney general decisions discussing the recovery of costs for computerized legal research. In addition, the survey identifies secondary sources, trial court documents, and appellate briefs that provide insight and guidance relevant to the recovery of the aforementioned costs. In particular, these documents disclose the various arguments made by counsel and the amounts sought to be recovered (everything from $3.00 to in excess of $100,000) for computer assisted legal research (CALR or CAR). This survey specifically focuses on recovery of the expenses of computerized legal research. The practitioner is reminded to consult the statutes and/or court rules addressing "costs", attorney's fees, and or recovery of litigation expenses. While recovery of computerized legal research is based upon such statutes and/or rules, this survey is concerned with legal authority specifically addressing whether computerized legal research expenses may be recovered and whether in general, they are permitted as a component of "costs" or attorney's fees.
Approximately 585 GPSolo members responded to the survey regarding their online research costs. The survey revealed that the recovery of these costs is evenly split: 50 percent of respondents recover all or part of their costs, and 50 percent of respondents do not. This research was intended to gather information to better understand current cost recovery practices and challenges in small law firms. The objectives of the research were to:
- Identify which components of cost recovery costs are recovered
- Understand which costs are not recovered
- Determine who at the firm is involved in the recovery process
- Identify tools and products used to recover online research costs
- Discover what aspects of the cost recovery process are difficult
Recognizing that many small firms have the need for an improved cost-recovery strategy and the means to effect it, West, a Thomson Reuters Business, commissioned an independent legal research firm, Legal Research Center, Inc. (LRC), to conduct an interview-based study of the current methodologies employed by small firms with successful cost-recovery programs. Although other studies exist on this topic, none has approached the subject matter solely from a small firm perspective. Small firms are in perhaps the best position to enjoy substantial gains from an effective cost recovery program, since most do not have law libraries on the premises. For these firms, traditionaland time consuming research exercises may include hours poring over law books, making photocopies, and commuting to and from the law library. Moreover, many small firms do not have the working capital to fund a subscription with an online legal research provider unless steps are taken to minimize the out-of-pocket impact of such expenses.
This study, therefore, involved interviews with attorneys and other legal research professionals4 at a representative cross-section of small law firms throughout the United States, geared toward gathering information regarding:
- The reasons for and motivations behind a small law firms implementation of an online legal research cost-recovery program
- The firms basic cost-recovery strategy
- The firms best cost-recovery practices
- The benefits of an effective online research cost-recovery program
- Online research cost recovery reduces a small firms out-of-pocket costs and thereby increases revenues and overall profitability.
- Online research cost recovery enhances the quality of legal representation by encouraging comprehensive research.
In December 1993, the American Bar Association Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility decided to address several practices that are the subject of frequent inquiry, with the goal of helping the profession adhere to its ethical obligations to its clients despite economic pressures. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct provide important principles applicable to the billing of clients.
QuickView+® is a free Westlaw® cost-recovery and reporting service designed exclusively for Westlaw customers.