Jun
07

Why I Am Firing Westlaw And Thompson-West

My office manager has been given clear instructions: Do whatever it takes to avoid doing any further business with Thompson-West. If a new book arrives, return it. If a contract needs renewal, cancel it. If we can get out of existing contracts, do so. If we must honor contracts in place, count the days until they expire.

But above all, sever my relationship with Thompson-West and Westlaw.

I've been hooked on Westlaw and related products for decades. It started in law school, when free passwords were given out. I was a kid in a candy store, looking up all manner of stuff for free. Westlaw was the drug dealer giving spiked candy to kids: "Get 'em hooked, and then gouge 'em. Once they need us, we own them." Once law school was in the rearview mirror, the free ride stopped. First I let an employer pay my tab. Then a partner and I split the costs. I've had enough.

The drug dealer's motto may well be Westlaw's and Thompson-West's creed. When it comes to customer service, getting a straight answer from them is akin to petitioning the Kremlin for a weekend pass out of some faraway gulag.

I shudder to think of how much money my firm spends on their products each year. We use Westlaw computer research. We purchase books, whether statutes or practice aids. We subscribed to a couple newsletters. I am an information junkie and Thompson-West is always ready at hand with a quick fix. I spend enough to hire a young lawyer each year on what I pay them.

In response to these payments I am treated like a low-rent junkie. The company, based in Minnesota, has billing practices that are indecipherable. My office manager has spent hours each year trying to get straight what they are billing us for any why. The bills keep coming. We're not sure what they are for and often believe we've already paid them when they get here. But we can't get straight answers from anyone.

Instead, we get dunning notices the moment a bill is late.

I've spoken to a customer service representative here in Connecticut. He has spoken to his boss here in the Northeast. We've been patched through to folks in Minnesota. All are pleasant enough in a Stepford kind of way. But still we endure predatory billing we do not understand, and still we are without answers. I decided this weekend we have wasted enough time on Westlaw and Thompson-West.

So we are done. We'll find another way to get the information we need. There are plenty of sources out there. Perhaps one of them knows how to treat customers and will do something other than stick its hand in my face each month demanding money for things we may or may not have paid for already.

Let Westlaw take some other sucker for granted. I am done.
Comments (28)
Posted on January 29, 2014 at 10:18 am by Jeff
West overcharges
I stopped using westlaw due to overcharging and exhorbitant rates. 12 year client n they treat me like a criminal if I dispute their charges

Posted on July 12, 2010 at 5:48 pm by Anonymous
IN MY OPINION, WESTLAW IS TERRIBLE! The billing, ...
IN MY OPINION, WESTLAW IS TERRIBLE! The billing, pricing and even the product itself is not worth the headache. I avoided Lexis in law school, opting for Westlaw. What a mistake! If only I had become familiar with lexis originally, I would have discovered that it is more user-friendly. I must admit, however, the extent to which the database is or isn't user-friendly is not the main basis for my dissatisfaction. West/ Thompson- West's billing practices are unconscionable. I was overcharged and given the run-around. After hours of phone calls to different people and various levels, the charge would be corrected. Such problems persisted throughout the entire duration of my three-year contract. Additionally, in the last three months of the contract, I attempted to negotiate an early exit/ termination (because I hadn't used the service in months and no longer had a need for it), West would not even consider my loyal patronage and timely payments despite their inadequate service and errors. (Although a contract is a contract is a contract --from a service side, a good business that is worth dealing with usually looks at each situation and makes a good business decision that necessarily considers the creation of a loyal, long term relationship for prospective future business). Subsequently, I used LexisNexis while working for the Court and, what a difference! I highly recommend LexisNexis, and although I can't speak as to its billing practices, LexisNexis, in my opinion, is a superior product for legal research.

Posted on July 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm by Anonymous
The Connecticut Bar has Casemaker available. It do...
The Connecticut Bar has Casemaker available. It doesnt have all the bells and whistles but is painless to use.

Posted on June 17, 2010 at 6:18 am by Anonymous
And it isn't just that they are expensive and abus...
And it isn't just that they are expensive and abusive, which they certainly are. What is most troubling to me is that the ability to search Westlaw is so limited. Sure, if you know exactly what database the information you are looking for is contained in, then Westlaw is reasonably searchable. However, if you want to search the boundaries of your subscription to find out if there are any treatises on a topic, or forms,then you may as well be a wide eyed 10 year old standing at the card catalogue laboring over the finer points of the Dewey Decimal System. Google has shown us all how antiquated Westlaws search algorithms. And Westlaw realizes this.....they modernize their system in the form of WestlawNext....and then have the audacity to make it available at an additional expense to their current longtime subscribers. That was the final straw for me. As for me and my firm, we are counting the days, and it happens in December this year.

That said, Thompson West does produce quality publications. You just have to be prepared to send back a stack of updates every year.

Posted on June 15, 2010 at 7:35 pm by Alex
Doing the same as you in Hood River, Oregon.
Doing the same as you in Hood River, Oregon.

Posted on June 14, 2010 at 7:46 pm by Anonymous
Well, now let's not leave LexisNexis out of the pa...
Well, now let's not leave LexisNexis out of the party. Like another poster stated, I, too, went out of business in my first year as a lawyer because of the exorbitant and impenetrable billing of a research firm - LexisNexis. Not only did they refuse to let me out of one nearly completed contract, but also their agent told me that she "could save the practice" if I let her try for three months to bump up my internet exposure. Funny thing is she just can't recall making that statement. She phoned in her recollections for the judge and said I had agreed to the normal term of a LexisNexis contract and some BS about the research side being separate from the internet side and she only spoke with me about the research side. The upshot is I have no business AND now there is a judgment against me based on LEXISNEXIS' fraud and perjury. DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH LEXIS NEXIS UNLESS YOU WISH TO GIVE THEM YOUR FIRSTBORN.

Posted on June 14, 2010 at 7:53 am by James Hart
Look to see if your state offers a service for fre...
Look to see if your state offers a service for free or reduced cost. I am a Florida Bar member - we get Fastcase for free (Florida Fed and State cases) and $95/year buys us the rest of the 50 states. Not a bad deal.

I'm also a member of the NC Bar - and we get Casemaker for free - but I like Fastcase better.

Posted on June 11, 2010 at 6:46 am by Anonymous
Our small firm switched to Lexis a year ago. The ...
Our small firm switched to Lexis a year ago. The interface takes some getting used to, and the switch has been difficult for some, but we have access to everything we need for 1/2 the price of Westlaw. We are considering returning to Westlaw if they can offer competitive pricing, but it's very hard to just get a quote for the basic package we need. Westlaw can't seem to grasp that smaller firms do not want to pay for things they don't need. We were told last year that the price didn't matter because we can just pass the cost along to our clients!

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 2:39 pm by Jasmine Jonell
I get Fastcase for free through the MN Bar Associa...
I get Fastcase for free through the MN Bar Association. This is just one of many benefits of being a member of the MN bar. It is huge. I am a solo attorney, and could not afford Lexis or Westlaw. There is a small fee to Shepardize, but I am also open to going to the law library!! I actually like written material versus electronic.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 1:12 pm by Phyllis Towzey
I'm also a former big-firm lawyer. I set up my ow...
I'm also a former big-firm lawyer. I set up my own practice in 2003, and paid WAY more than I should have for a fancy Westlaw package. Now I use FastCase which has an amazing inexpensive plan through the Florida Bar. Gives me pretty much everything I need for a federal and state court practice. On the rare occasion that I need an unpublished opinion, I just go a la cart on Westlaw with a credit card. I am saving thousands of dollars per year, and no longer have expensive research costs to pass on to my clients.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 12:02 pm by Anonymous
I am a former big-firm lawyer setting up a private...
I am a former big-firm lawyer setting up a private practice. I always liked Westlaw's features but never had to deal with their billing. We were JUST ABOUT to sign up for a subscription, but this post (and especially the comments) will make us look harder at the alternatives.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 11:22 am by ndavis
AGREED! Everytime I ask that we NOT receive autom...
AGREED! Everytime I ask that we NOT receive automatic updates the operator tells us that we are confirmed not to receive automatic updates, miraculously, we RECEIVE ALL automatic updates and sometimes are told we have to pay shipping to return it. Whatever. IN Washington, if they dont' pay to return it, we can keep it if it was unsolicited! I'm no fan of Westlaw, for sure!

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 9:23 am by Anonymous
To their credit they did let me out of my contract...
To their credit they did let me out of my contract when things hit rock bottom and I had no legal work to bill.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 8:59 am by Anonymous
theLaw.net.
theLaw.net.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 8:58 am by Marc
I was with Lexis. I have been with Westlaw. I we...
I was with Lexis. I have been with Westlaw. I went with FastCase and may take the next step to TheLaw.net. Both of the larger services are not helpful and expensive. FastCase servers are a little slow, but that's in part due to impatience on my part. My FastCase expanded subscription is $196 PER YEAR for all national databases and unlimited printing. I would have to buy a lot of a la carte Shepherd's to make up the price difference. Goodbye monolithic search providers.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 8:47 am by Anonymous
Having had once upon a time worked at West, it was...
Having had once upon a time worked at West, it was no different...even for the employees. We where provided the same level of treatment as our customers. I have witnessed poor service both as a customer in my own firm, and as a employee attempting to help. I thought that nowing the problems I had experienced as a lawyer using West, I could help other attorneys once inside the beast. Wrong. I was not allowed to do so. The left hand never knew what the right had was doing. Silos kept employyes in the dark. Customers are ingnored...unless the bills don't get paid or there is an upsell opportunity. Billing errors? They don't care...just pay it. There is no way to ever fix it much less find out what it happens all the time. I would personally NEVER do business with this worthless organization again in any fashion. That is my opinion.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 7:46 am by Anonymous
I am going out of business due to the economy and ...
I am going out of business due to the economy and Westlaw has elected not to let me out of my contract even though I have explained to them my circumstances. Westlaw has made more money in the bills I have been able to pay than I have this year. I can't pay anymore and they threatened to sue. Lovely company!

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 7:40 am by Anonymous
I am with Norm all the way. I have been a West cu...
I am with Norm all the way. I have been a West customer for over 20 years. West' downfall was when it was bought out some years ago. As most lawyers home the same problem, the economy is very bad for lawyers. After 20+ years of payments of thousands of dollars my law practice feel on hard times. I got behind on my payments and with no sympathy West's position was to pay up of get cut off. I got cut off. No more Westlaw and I don't care. It all business to them and the bottom line. Their billing procedure is a nightmare. You can't figure out what they are charging you for. Advice, don't get behind on your payments if you want to continue using West. They will drop you like a hot potato.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 7:10 am by Anonymous
Our firm went off Westlaw this year. Though in my...
Our firm went off Westlaw this year. Though in my opinion Lexis is not as good as westlaw in all respects, is a third of the cost for a long term plan. More and more of our coroprate clients refuse to be billed for westlaw or lexis. So, instead of reacting to the realitiy of their customers (that reality being that as lawyers we are eating an increasing percentage of their charge as "overhead") they raised the price on us. We told our WL rep that he was in a contest with Lexis. We asked him for a "best and final" bid -- the best price he could give a 35 lawyer firm. The Westlaw best and final bid was to increase our plan cost by close to 5% instead of increasing it by 10% as they originally proposed. Westlaw doesn't understand the marketplace for their service -- and will soon be the better but less used service among small to mid sized firms.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 6:14 am by Anonymous
I HATE WESTLAW! Well, let me rephrase: I hate West...
I HATE WESTLAW! Well, let me rephrase: I hate Westlaw's publications practices. They send new versions without orders and then act like bullies for payment. Seems to me James Publishing was sued in a class action case and had to repay and change their "automatic renewal" system to one of "renew if requested". Maybe it's time for Westlaw to take a hit.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 6:03 am by Anonymous
Abandoning Westlaw or TR Legal print materials alt...
Abandoning Westlaw or TR Legal print materials altogether may not work if one's firm handles a really complex range of issues, and needs a wide range of resources to be accessible, whether in print or online. The library keeps comprehensive spreadsheets showing all invoices paid by vendor and with the specific title update noted, so that we do not have duplicate billing. We do a lot of preliminary cost research in preparation for our contract negotiations to get the best possible deal. We do a lot of training on cost-effective research techniques and direct people to alternate free or low cost resources in lieu of Westlaw or Lexis research.

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 5:52 am by John Day
I too am looking at canceling Westlaw. Our 5-lawy...
I too am looking at canceling Westlaw. Our 5-lawyer firm pays almost $25,000 per year for the service, plus extra charges for databases that are out-of-contract. I am starting to come to the conclusion that we would be far better off looking to one of the low-cost services and simplying purchasing the Restatements that we use from time to time in our practice.

Posted on June 9, 2010 at 4:38 pm by Charlie Cruise
I certainly agree with Jeena and Ray. The Arizona...
I certainly agree with Jeena and Ray. The Arizona Bar has free basic findlaw.com, I am getting pretty good with it, but I haven't the courage to cancel my basic westlaw, since that's my portal to the Restatement and instant Shepardizing. I run a free legal clinic in a small town in Northern Arizona. As a looooooon-term subscriber (30+years) I asked Westlaw to donate a cheap set of AZ statutes to the library where I hold the clinics. At first they ignored me. Then when I became a pest, they declined in their best "Stepford" manner. Please help me break the habit.

Posted on June 9, 2010 at 2:11 pm by aeraduns
I've been complaining about their billing practice...
I've been complaining about their billing practices for years.

Posted on June 7, 2010 at 2:37 pm by Mike
Their pricing is deliberately complex. It's easy ...
Their pricing is deliberately complex. It's easy to cheat people when you bill in micro-seconds and micro-searches and micro-databases.

Posted on June 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm by Ray Sipsa
I am addicted to Westlaw and the way it works. I ...
I am addicted to Westlaw and the way it works. I tried Lexis for a month, but went back to Westlaw.

This does not mean that I love the company. In fact I occasionally find mistakes, which I report to Westlaw. Seems to me that if you find a mistake you should get a free year of Westlaw. But Nope. They used to send me e-mails thanking me. Now it's more like "how dare you."

Posted on June 7, 2010 at 7:09 am by erwiest
Include me in (except as to paperbound rule books)...
Include me in (except as to paperbound rule books). An inside salesperson's response to my observation I would do better with Westlaw a la carte rather than my current plan was to offer me a scaled down plan with fewer databases, forfeiting access to WestlawNext as part of the "bargain". I like key numbers--but Google Scholar is looking better and better.

Posted on June 7, 2010 at 5:38 am by Jeena
Norm, please let us know which service you end up ...
Norm, please let us know which service you end up choosing. I am planning to unsub from Westlaw at the end of summer. I just don't know if Lexis is any better.
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Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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