The Legal Research Tools Lawyers Are Using in 2020 and Beyond

There’s a lot of great technology out there for lawyers. No doubt you already use some of it in your law firm. After all, investing in legal technology tools is one of the most cost-effective ways to streamline your law firm and increase efficiency. But you already know that.

Even so, with all the interest in the latest and greatest legal software, you might be forgetting about one of the more basic tools in your law firm’s legal technology arsenal: legal research systems. When was the last time you thought about reconsidering your law firm’s legal research choices? If it’s been a while, then there’s no better time than now to re-visit your law firm’s legal research platforms, since there are most affordable and powerful tools available than ever before.

One way to scope out the market is to take a look at the systems other law firms are using. A great place to obtain this information is the ABA’s annual Legal Technology Survey Report. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the most recent statistics from the Report on the legal research tools lawyers are using.

For starters, it’s clear that legal research takes up a good amount of time in lawyers’ days. According to the survey results, lawyers spend an average of 17% of their time at work conducting legal research, with that percentage increasing to 18% for lawyers in small firms with 2-9 lawyers.

Also of interest is that only 16% of lawyers surveyed reported that they regularly requested that other lawyers or law clerks conduct legal research for them, with lawyers from firms with 10-49 lawyers leading the way at 32%. 10% of lawyers surveyed shared that they asked paralegals to perform research, and 4% asked law librarians to do so.

Free legal research tools were the most popular, with 65% reporting that they frequently used them, and 25% sharing that they occasionally used them. Next up were fee-based services, with 57% regularly using them, and 17% occasionally using them. Print materials were next, with 44% reporting that they used them regularly, and 32% using them occasionally, And finally, and notably, a decent number of respondents still use CD-ROMs and other removal media to conduct legal research, with 6% regularly doing so, and 17% occasionally using them.

Not surprisingly, older lawyers were more likely to use more traditional methods for legal research. For example, lawyers over 60 were the most likely to use print materials regularly (53%) compared to 21% of lawyers between the ages of 40-49.

Lawyers were most likely to use free online resources (as opposed to fee-based) to research the following topics or issues:1) General news (81%) 2) Legal news (74%), 3) Other lawyers (76%), 4) Companies and corporations (70%), 4) Public Records (70%), 5) Case dockets (48%), and 6) Federal administrative/regulatory/executive (45%).

The top websites/tools used by lawyers for free legal research (in some cases the platforms were accessed for free via bar association memberships) are: 1) Findlaw (20%), 2) Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (18%), 3) Fastcase (18%), 4) agovernment website 15%, 5) Google Scholar (13%), and 6) Casemaker (8%).

Westlaw and Westlaw  Edge were by far the most popular fee-based legal research tools, with 49% of lawyers reporting that they preferred them. Coming in way ahead of the rest in second place was Lexis Advance at 28%. Other tools used included Lexis Practice Advisor (4%), RIA Checkpoint (3%), Bloomberg Law (3%), Fastcase (3%), Practical Law (PLC) (2%), Casemaker (2%), CCH (1%), Casetext (1%), and HeinOnline (.3%).

Finally, you might wonder which devices lawyers use to conduct legal research while on the go. 57% reported regularly using laptops for legal research purposes when not in the office. Next up were mobile phones at 26%, followed by tablets at  21%. Only 2% shared that they regularly used e-book readers for legal research while away from the office.

Do any of these statistics surprise you? How do your legal research habits compare?

Finally, if you’re in the market for a new legal research tool for your law firm but still aren’t sure where to start then make sure to download our FREE guide “Choosing the Right Legal Research Tool for Your Firm.”

Editor’s Note: This article published with permission of the author, with first publication on the blog, MyCase.

Posted in: CD ROM, KM, Legal Research, Legal Technology, Search Engines, Technology Trends