« Cell Phone Etiquette | Main | Fear and Anxiety in Gotham City »

I feel unclean... so unclean...

As part of Legal Writing and Research, we had to do Lexis Nexis and Westlaw training this week. I have never felt so bribed in my life. Hoping to learn something about how to look up citations, do research, or make sure my case law is up to date, I instead found myself subjected to an hour's worth of sales patter regarding Rewards Programs, Bonus Points, Redeeming Points, and advantages over "the other system." I'd expect that at a time-share condo pitch or maybe from Tesco's[1], but not from two organizations ostensibly helping me to learn about the law.

Is it too much to ask that I be expected to make my choices on legal research tools based upon the quality of information they provide and their usability? The brief and rubbish introduction I've had leads me to believe that Westlaw has the edge on usability, while Lexis owns Shepards, and so might (but I certainly couldn't tell you from the presentation) have an edge on telling me which cases are up to date. In the meantime, I've come away with a mug, a light-up pen (which will be sent to my brother for his amusement), several hundred 'bonus points' and a bad taste in my mouth.

If anything, this has convinced me further of the malign influence of money on the legal system. [2] There's just so much money sloshing about that it fosters these perversions. Think about it: OK, providing students with free access to your databases makes sense, as it means you've got a trained user base to sell to later. (I've commented before on how software producers will refrain from prosecuting students with pirated software for just this reason.) But the elaborate and lavish system of rewards, incentives, bribes, and free chocolate! (Am I the only person who found that very grade-school?) The cost for this has to be recouped somewhere, and it's in higher prices to the law offices that use these systems, and ultimately, to their clients.

Right now, a good assignment that would allow me to use either system to get some worthwhile legal research experience would be far more useful than a hundred light-up ballpoint pens. And in the meantime, if I'm going to sell my soul, it's got a higher going rate than a goddamn coffee mug.

I need a shower now.

(Entry title from The Mr. Snaffleburger Corporation Childrens Show. Motto: Conform! Consume! Obey!


[1] Please don't get me wrong: Tesco's is a sterling organization with a wonderful IT department and the kind of company from which I expect rewards patter. I have no intention of drawing it into my 'plague on both your houses' opprobrium against Westlaw and Lexis. [2] Is there a bit of irony or hypocrisy in people who are happy to support McCain-Feingold because of the obscene amount of money in politics looking forward to highly-paid jobs in law?

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.threeyearsofhell.com/cgi-user/mt/mtPleaseLinktoMe.cgi/167

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference I feel unclean... so unclean...:

» Procrastination from ambivalent imbroglio
Instead of revising my first memo, reading, working on my legal research homework, or preparing for the ADR competition tomorrow, I'm being held hostage by the web's goodness. For example, who could tear themselves away from this letter slamming the hy... [Read More]

Comments

It's largely a question of personal preference. I started using Lexis/Nexis first because prior to law school, I went to journalism school, and Nexis was the available database. So throughout law school, I used Lexis primarily, switching to Westlaw only if Lexis lacked a particular source. When I started clerking, we had both Lexis and Westlaw available, so I used Lexis again. But halfway through my first clerkship, the courts suddenly announced that we should use Westlaw whenever possible. Apparently, Westlaw gave the government a much better deal. After that, I discovered that the keynote system is a big advantage for Westlaw, in case you need to flip between CALR and the books, especially the digests.
Don't knock the promotions! True, the pens and mugs are relatively useless, but you have to watch out for the contests with the good prizes, particularly the ones that have one big prize for each law school (I've noticed they've been cutting back on these, though). Personally, I've cleared just shy of $1000 in prizes between Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw, in prizes ranging from a Palm III (back when it was still new) to gift certificates for travel and music.
At least you didn't have to get up early on a Friday morning to sit through the Westlaw 'training'. I already like Lexis better, only because they had their class at a reasonable hour. But, seriously, I thougth this type of schwag was gone when the dotcoms busted...it's pretty insulting (but oddly captivating at the same time). I got a Lexis prize certificate, but their rewards site isn't working... Oh, and the most ridiculous thing I've learned today, is that Westlaw has people at Columbia who are PAID to file your printouts for you, in a folder conveniently marked with your name. Now, I realize this is a practical necessity on some level, but it still strikes me as utterly absurd that I'm not even expected to pick up my own papers from the printer!
Damn. Back when I was in law school ('79-'82) Westlaw wasn't a factor; "computerized legal research" pretty much meant Lexis. That was even before it became "Lexis/Nexis"; I think that Mead Data Central (which owned it at the time, if my memory isn't playing tricks with me) was marketing Nexis separately from Lexis; while Mead donated the Lexis terminal and services to Northwestern, we'd have had to pay a lot extra for Nexis (hence, no Nexis). But even as recently as late '95 and early '96, when I was doing computer support for Washington University Law School (in St. Louis, MO), while both Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw were available for students, I don't recall the computer assisted legal research training being so blatantly promotional. Since entering the IT field I've spent my time as a Microsoft Certified Trainer, and even though Microsoft is (rightly, IMHO) criticized as being grasping and predatory, at least their training isn't so blatantly marketing oriented. I feel your pain, Anthony....
I think generally lawyers prefer Westlaw, but Lexis has a good following among non-lawyers because it is (or at least used to be) better for news sources and the like. Anyway, it looks like you've got a good head of righteous "anger" over the way this has been presented to you. Btw, glad to see anger take its rightful place among the 7 deadlies. Actually, I think it's good for a lawyer to get angry once in a while. It can stoke the professional fires. The trick is getting angry about the right things and channeling it in the right direction.
Alison: I feel your pain there. My course was 10 AM this morning...
Lucky you - mine was at 9.
Training = Useless. I do like the free stuff though. I did them this week also and all I could think about was the reading and LWR research I could be working on. Useless (but semi-fun) fact: If you put the Westlaw Mug in the microwave and try to heat up water in it, it keeps the water cold. I did this last night. LOL
Sing it, brother Anthony. It doesn't end with law school. You inspired me to post about what struck me as an inappropriate bribe package I got in the mail just this week from a consulting company. Do you need a sterling silver wine stopper?
Thanks for the inside view on what the law schools are doing - I posted on this shameful practice here: http://myshingle.com/article.pl?sid=03/10/03/2341208 As my post indicates, as a solo, it angers me that law schools sell out to Lexis and Nexis for several reasons. First, many solos and small firms can't afford these services - I wasn't able to until I'd been in practice for three years and by then, costs had started to come down because of competition from free providers. But I'll tell you, I'm scared to death of the day that Lexis and Westlaw drop prices enough to suck enough solos and small firms in, put the lower cost competitors out of business and raise prices again - I've seen it happen already with some of these company's per diem services. Second, because of the prevalence of Westlaw and Lexis, I can't find a law student who's willing to go to the library. I am one of those rare attorneys who LOVES the law library, paging through books, reading treatises, reliving lost youth, etc...I like to look at treatises and articles, many of which are not available on Lexis, but the law students I hire prefer to limit their research to what's online. Anyway, I really love your blog. In law school (Cornell Class '88), I ran a newspaper called the Dissent where I'd criticize law school policies like this one. Of course back in those dark ages, pre-web and pre-blog - I photocopied the Dissent at my own expense and distributed it by hand. All the professors and half the students hated me but I didn't care (perhaps to my detriment, but I won't go into that here) In any event, I am both amazed and awed by how blogs have allowed thousands of dissenting views to thrive and how dissenting views are respectfully challenged instead of ignored or ridiculed. Don't know if it would be worth it to return to law school to experience this renaissance but it's wonderful to see it blossom. Good luck (PS - your blog would make a much better and more interesting book than Scott Turow's One-L or that garbage on www.nylawyer.com where they've serialized a book about 2 obnoxious law students who never went to class)
Thanks for the inside view on what the law schools are doing - I posted on this shameful practice here: http://myshingle.com/article.pl?sid=03/10/03/2341208 As my post indicates, as a solo, it angers me that law schools sell out to Lexis and Nexis for several reasons. First, many solos and small firms can't afford these services - I wasn't able to until I'd been in practice for three years and by then, costs had started to come down because of competition from free providers. But I'll tell you, I'm scared to death of the day that Lexis and Westlaw drop prices enough to suck enough solos and small firms in, put the lower cost competitors out of business and raise prices again - I've seen it happen already with some of these company's per diem services. Second, because of the prevalence of Westlaw and Lexis, I can't find a law student who's willing to go to the library. I am one of those rare attorneys who LOVES the law library, paging through books, reading treatises, reliving lost youth, etc...I like to look at treatises and articles, many of which are not available on Lexis, but the law students I hire prefer to limit their research to what's online. Anyway, I really love your blog. In law school (Cornell Class '88), I ran a newspaper called the Dissent where I'd criticize law school policies like this one. Of course back in those dark ages, pre-web and pre-blog - I photocopied the Dissent at my own expense and distributed it by hand. All the professors and half the students hated me but I didn't care (perhaps to my detriment, but I won't go into that here) In any event, I am both amazed and awed by how blogs have allowed thousands of dissenting views to thrive and how dissenting views are respectfully challenged instead of ignored or ridiculed. Don't know if it would be worth it to return to law school to experience this renaissance but it's wonderful to see it blossom. Good luck (PS - your blog would make a much better and more interesting book than Scott Turow's One-L or that garbage on www.nylawyer.com where they've serialized a book about 2 obnoxious law students who never went to class)
See, I'm torn on this practice. On the one hand, it's (as Carolyn writes) a method akin to selling cigarettes to kids. On the other hand, my wife won $1200 in cash from Lexis in two years, which allowed us to forgo some student loans.

Post a comment

NOTICE TO SPAMMERS, COMMENT ROBOTS, TRACKBACK SPAMMERS AND OTHER NON-HUMAN VISITORS: No comment or trackback left via a robot is ever welcome at Three Years of Hell. Your interference imposes significant costs upon me and my legitimate users. The owner, user or affiliate who advertises using non-human visitors and leaves a comment or trackback on this site therefore agrees to the following: (a) they will pay fifty cents (US$0.50) to Anthony Rickey (hereinafter, the "Host") for every spam trackback or comment processed through any blogs hosted on threeyearsofhell.com, morgrave.com or housevirgo.com, irrespective of whether that comment or trackback is actually posted on the publicly-accessible site, such fees to cover Host's costs of hosting and bandwidth, time in tending to your comment or trackback and costs of enforcement; (b) if such comment or trackback is published on the publicly-accessible site, an additional fee of one dollar (US$1.00) per day per URL included in the comment or trackback for every day the comment or trackback remains publicly available, such fee to represent the value of publicity and search-engine placement advantages.

Giving The Devil His Due

Choose Stylesheet

What I'm Reading

cover
D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
cover
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Shopping

Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

Syndicated from other sites

The Columbia Continuum
Other Blogs by CLS students

De Novo
Theory and Practice
Liberal Federalism?
Good News, No Foolin'


Althouse
Nancy Pelosi covers her head and visits the head of John the Baptist.
Vlogging in from Austin.
Omikase/"American Idol"


Jeremy Blachman's Weblog: 2007
Happy Passover
Looking for Advice re: LA
Google Books


Stay of Execution
What I've Learned From This Blog, or My Yellow Underpants
The End
Mid Thirties


Legal Theory Blog
Program Announcement: Summer Programs on the Constitution at George Washington
Book Announement: Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy by Whittington
Entry Level Hiring Report


The Volokh Conspiracy
Making the Daily Show:
Civil unions pass New Hampshire House:
Profile of Yale Law Dean Harold Koh:


Crescat Sententia
Hillary II
Hillary
Politics and Principal/Agents


Law Dork
Election Approaches
Following Lewis
New Jersey High Court: 'Same Rights and Benefits'


IrishLaw
Homecoming
Surveying the revival
Birds of paradise


Half the Sins of Mankind
Cheney Has Spoken Religious conservatives who may ...
Does Ahmadinejad Know Christianity Better Than MSN...
Borders as Genocide In discussions of climate chan...


pf.org
Progress
For lovers of garden gnomes...and any China-freaks out there
We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming


Ideoblog
Does SOX explain the flight from NY?
More Litvak on SOX effect on cross-listed firms
What did the market learn from internal controls reporting?


The Yin Blog
Iowa City = Riyadh
Jeffrey Rosen's "The Supreme Court"
Geek alert -- who would win between Battlestar Galactica and the U.S.S. Enterprise?


Letters of Marque
Graduation
And there we are
Oil!


BuffaloWings&Vodka
Signing Off


Dark Bilious Vapors
Jim (The Waco Kid): Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Jim: Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on.
--"Blazing Saddles"

Technical Difficulties... please stand by....
The Onion should have gotten a patent first....


Legal Ethics Forum
Interesting new Expert DQ case
Decency, Due Care, and The Yoo-Delahunty Memorandum
Thinking About the Fired U.S. Attorneys


Ex Post
Student Symposium- Chicago!
More Hmong - Now at Law School
Good Samaritan Laws: Good For America?


Appellate Law & Practice
Those turned over documents
CA1: courts can’t help people acquitted of crimes purge the taint of acquitted conduct
CA1: restrictions on chain liquor stores in Rhode Island are STILL okay


the imbroglio
High schoolers turn in plagiarism screeners for copyright infringement
talisman
Paris to offer 20,600 bikes at 1,450 stations to rent by the end of the year


The Republic of T.
The Secret of the Snack Attack
links for 2007-04-04
Where You Link is What You Get

Distractions for stressed law students

The Other Side: Twisted AnimationsSomething Positive, a truly good webcomic

Syndicate This Site

Sitemeter

Technologies


Stop Spam Harvesters, Join Project Honey Pot