Free vs. Paid Legal Research Tools
"Cost-conscious lawyers may ask themselves: Can we get by using only freely available research tools?"The article reminds readers that the free sources can rarely offer the added editorial value of the subscription-based commercial services (complicated noting up features, point-in-time searching, etc.).
"Chances are, the answer today is no. But free legal research tools continue to improve as new ones emerge and legal researchers everywhere are better off for them."
However, the article does point out an interesting development in the growth of professionally organized free services like CanLII (Canadian Legal Information Institute) that are rapidly coming to occupy a middle ground:
" 'The availability of a high-quality free site improves the standard of practice,' added [Catherine] Best, herself appointed by the Law Society of British Columbia as that province’s director on CanLII’s board. 'Many lawyers who practise on the margins can not afford commercial services, and many other lawyers don’t subscribe to commercial services because they don’t do much research. Others limit their use of commercial services because of the cost.' "
" 'Having something like CanLII available really can improve the standard of practice for the profession as a whole,' Best continued. "One of the reasons the law societies support CanLII is due to their competency mandate, and CanLII helps to fulfill that mandate.' "