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Lexis and Westlaw Pricing and Subscription Options: What's Best for You?

Magazine article Information Today

Lexis and Westlaw Pricing and Subscription Options: What's Best for You?

Article excerpt

Beginning last month, the world's two largest providers of computer assisted legal research began increasing their rates. For most subscribers these changes will result in only a slight increase in the costs of using Lexis or Westlaw. What can they do about it? Not much. But subscribers do have some options.

Lexis and Westlaw offer a variety of subscriber agreements. These agreements are an effort to address the differing needs of users in the marketplace. Regardless of a subscriber's current billing structure, he or she can change it. A review of those options is not only proper, but in some instances a change in the way Lexis and Westlaw subscribers are charged for research services may save them money.

In a letter to subscribers dated August 31, 1992 Mead Data Central said, "This letter is to announce price changes and to remind you about pricing options available with the Lexis/Nexis services." A similar letter was mailed by West Publishing to their Westlaw subscribers, highlighting price changes that "reflect recent adjustments to West's cost to supply this information."

The current increases in Lexis costs are not significant. The changes involve search charges, connect time, and online citator services. The search charges for 176 Lexis files will increase. These files, according to Mead's letter, comprise less than 2 percent of the entire service. Connect time charges will increase from $32.00 to $33.00 per hour. Checking citations on Auto-Cite and Shepard's Citator Services will increase from $2.50/ citation to $2.75/citation.

Westlaw price increases are also not significant, and have more to do with Dialog on Westlaw prices, rather than Westlaw itself. As of October 1, 1992, Dialog on Westlaw prices will, according to their letter, "either increase or decrease," while certain Westlaw databases will also experience price changes.

Both letters included a detailed break-down of their price increases. The Lexis letter also referenced some subscription options. Today, Lexis subscribers can choose from four different subscription (and pricing) options.

The Pricing Options

The Lexis letter also indicated that they were the "only computer-assisted legal research provider to offer three separate, but complementary price structures to meet the needs of our subscribers." The three price plan options are referred to as the hourly, transactional, and zero connect plans. And although it wasn't mentioned in their literature, for some subscribers Lexis also offers a fourth, fixed rate plan, a fifth Membership Groups plan, and a sixth Maximum Value Products (MVP) plan. These latter two plans are aimed to solo practitioners and/or small law firms.

The hourly plan offers Lexis subscribers the same kind of pricing structure available with the majority of other computer assisted research services, most notably Westlaw. The hourly plan charges Lexis users for the amount of time they're online. The hourly rates billed for Lexis research in legal materials can be anywhere from $90.00/hour to $4445.00/hour, depending upon which file(s) are searched. According to Mead's documentation, under this plan research in most legal materials will cost $185.00/hour. Researching non-legal or international materials will cost anywhere from $97.00/hour to $428.00/hour, again depending upon the file(s) searched.

In addition to the file time-based charge, subscribers will also pay a fixed $32.00/hour in connect charges, and anywhere from $13.00-$21.00/hour for telecommunications charges, depending upon the service used. Citator services (Auto-Cite, Shepard's Lexsee and Lexstat) are charged at $185/hour, while print charges range from $.02-$.25/line, depending upon the information being printed.

The traditional Lexis subscription has always been the transactional plan. Transactional pricing involves search-based charges of form $16.00 to $88.00 per search (there is no charge for FOCUS searches, or search modifications). …

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